Fictional Pagans

Over the years I’ve read all sorts of Pagan fiction – including material sent for consideration to publishers. One of the things I find curious is how popular the wheel of eight festivals often are in Pagan novels. In all kinds of different scenarios, historical, fantastical and futuristic, I’ve seen fictional people default to a kind of Paganism that has these eight festivals, and no others.

My understanding of Pagan history (patchy, I grant you) is that the eight festivals are a 20th century thing, and that there’s no real evidence of people anywhere celebrating all eight in the past. The eight are by no means all of the Pagan festivals available – every people, every pantheon has celebrations in addition to this. If you’re keen, you can celebrate a Pagan festival pretty much every day. There’s an incredible wealth of celebration out there to draw on.

Then there’s the local festivals for local people. Those aren’t always ritualistic exactly, but I can’t see cheese rolling without thinking of the sacrifice of human ankles… Local rituals mark significant local seasonal events, local history and provide celebration of your specific community. Not only are they a great way to add colour to the lives of your fictional Pagans, but they’re an excellent way of slipping in some elegant world building without having to give us a history lesson. For actual, living Pagans, local events and customs should be part of the wheel of the year because they ground you in your landscape and connect you to your ancestors of place.

One thing that can be said with confidence of Pagans historical and contemporary, is that we like to celebrate. We’re the people of the wine and the mead and the beer and the cider…. Feasting is part of our culture. We’re earthly, fleshy creatures and having a good time is intrinsic to who we are and what we do. This is not a spirituality based on the idea that life is full of temptations we have to resist. Paganism is joyful, life embracing and convivial. Think about how much we actually celebrate as the wheel of the year turns – cultural festivals, personal festivals, other people’s festivals… why would fictional Pagans be any different?

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Fictional Pagans

  • bish

    Culture in the UK has been overwritten by two thousand years of Christianity. Some of that tradition is a melange of the desert religion and British heritage lore, but we have no clear understanding of how annual rituals really were apart from the writings of those who were victorious over us such as the Romans, and history is after all written by the victors. I think probabilities stand up for winter solstice as a key marker, and the rest is fairly ambiguous and locally determined by first snow, first leaf fall etc.

  • poetthatlikesvellum

    Gosh, if plot writers actually learned what is meant by destructive magick life would make more sense.

  • Sam J Harris

    Great points made here. I feel that paganism suffers lots of damage from other cultures because of purposeful miseducation. Until the Exeter codexes are released into public domain (currently held by the church) and deciphered all we have, as others pointed out, is other people’s word for our history. Until then we can feel it and gleam small parts through the songs and writings of others.

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