What makes fiction Pagan?

Nov 22nd, 2015 | By | Category: Articles

jhp519e0f6cc9404By Nimue Brown

It’s easy to identify Pagan non-fiction. Written by Pagans, for Pagans, about some aspect of Paganism, we might argue over whether any given book is good, useful, accurate or in line with our own world views, but the Pagan-ness is seldom open to debate.

Pagan fiction is a whole other can of worms. Does the author need to be Pagan? A lot of Pagans love and read Terry Pratchett, attracted by his representation of witchcraft.

If the characters aren’t Pagan, does that matter? I’ve written a Steampunk novel with some Pagan elements to it (and comedy Druids) but I wouldn’t call it Pagan fiction because the main characters aren’t consciously Pagan. But then, not all of the characters in Robin Herne’s short story collection ‘A Dangerous Place’ are Pagan either. Perhaps enough of them are. Perhaps the core idea of genius loci is Pagan enough to carry the theme. It’s a fantastic book, at any rate.

jhp54f743a60d1fbHow much magical realism do we need? Or perhaps more accurately, how much magic, and how much realism? How much actual flying about on broomsticks can you have before it’s a fantasy novel with pagan sympathies? Can you have Pagans doing entirely non-magical things and still consider it to be a Pagan novel? How much should we be turning to literature to answer our desire for the Pagan past we want to have existed, in whatever form that takes?

I raise these questions in no small part because I can’t answer them. Pagan fiction is not a big genre, it doesn’t have the clear rules and boundaries of other genres. It draws influence from all kinds of places that are not consciously Pagan. (Here a nod to Rebecca Beattie’s Nature Mystics seems in order).

jhp5592779660b64Sheena Cundy’s The Madness and the Magic is definitely a Pagan novel. written by a Pagan, about Pagans, for Pagans. The main characters are Pagans, they undertake magical activities but they live in the real world. Their real world is informed by Pagan sensibilities. And it’s a very good read.

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