The Pagan Blog Project: F is for Fiction
I’ve mentioned before that a lot of my personal beliefs are based around cycles. While this is true, this is certainly not the only thing I can pinpoint as significant to my practices and observances. Cycles seem to make that logical side of me happy that needs to know what to expect next. But there’s also that happy tingling feeling you get when something doesn’t just seem important in your head, it actually feels that way.
Creative inspiration is the main source for that sensation in my life, and that is brought to light most often through fiction. You know how when you’re reading along in a story and then suddenly something just jumps out at you? Maybe it’s not even something that seems imperative to the story, it just struck you at that moment for whatever reason. It’s like that. And fiction works similarly to how meditation works for many. Because your brain is able to let go with a really great distraction, suddenly other things are able to work on you.
I feel as if fictional stories can be as powerful as myths that have been circulating for centuries, and even as powerful as history. This is because, to me, all literature is made up of the same stuff. There’s a really good quote from Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor:
You say stories grow out of other stories. But Sacajawea was real.
As a matter of fact, she was, but from our point of view, it doesn’t really matter. History is story, too. You don’t encounter her directly, you’ve only heard of her through narrative of one sort or another. She is a literary as well as a historical character, as much a piece of the American myth as Huck Finn or Jay Gatsby, and very nearly as unreal. And what all this is about, finally, is myth. Which brings us to the big secret.
Here it is: there’s only one story. There, I said it and I can’t very well take it back. There is only one story. Ever. One. It’s always been going on and it’s everywhere around us and every story you’ve ever read or heard or watched is part of it. The Thousand and One Nights. Beloved. ”Jack and the Beanstalk.” The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Story of O. The Simpsons.
Are not the myths many pagans follow brought up in a similar way? Aren’t many actually traces of history that formed into legend and are left to us as myth? And if fiction (which is about so many things, but here’s one) is largely about the author trying to understand the world, or paint the world so that the reader understands it, isn’t it still very much a part of reality? I can imagine the reconstructionists scowling at this and others rolling their eyes and brushing this off as fluffy nonsense. I’m not saying this, however, to suggest that history is fiction, or that Kemeticism is just like Heathenry with different names (because lolno it’s not). I’m saying that I agree with this statement in that we are all human beings, and while our experiences and backgrounds are vastly different, we all hold a piece of a much larger story. To me, that is what makes fiction real.
Fiction also has the added bonus of helping you see your own life from a different perspective. Just how you as a reader can identify moments that are going to matter later on, when you are used to seeing those signs in books and stories, you start to recognize when they appear around you in your regular life. This is very helpful for headblind people who do not communicate directly with spirits, etc. By reading the signs around you, you can start to see a little bit more of your own story.
If you take that a step farther and look at the subject of fiction as a writer, a whole world of possibility opens up. Consider magic. One of the more believed magical theories is that like attracts like. So, let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. Beyond the mundane things you should do anyway, there’s also a wealth of spells and potions out there that could help with this. But what if you could just write a story in which the main character (insert, you) lost 20 pounds, and then went on to tell a story about how that affected her life positively? As a writer, it’s so easy to get completely wrapped up in your stories and characters, that they very much are real. Could you not use this to change your reality?
I haven’t tried something exactly like this. However, one of my favorite books pretty much follows a similar plot. Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series is about someone who can make something real by reading it out loud. When you pair that ability with a talented writer, shenanigans ensue. I love this series, and see in it much more than even this idea behind magic. For example, there are somewhat archetypical characters in these stories, but they are often changed from what you would traditionally expect to see. A reluctant mage, a powerful fool, a subtle trickster; this book definitely inspired me more than any other at the time in my life which I read it.
Which brings me to my parting thought. It’s really okay if fiction speaks to you more than traditional means for spiritual fulfillment. One may be surprised to find a large number of fiction books on my pagan-centric Goodreads account. Why would those be included among books about performing magic, religious history, and scholarly mythology? Because for me these books changed my life. They pointed a piece of “the truth” to me in such a way that I could not ignore them or consider them simple entertainment. In some cases, these books saved me.
So next time you pick up a book, pay attention for those moments that ring with significance. And pay attention for similar moments as you play out your own story.