Druid Thoughts: Pagan Author, Christian Characters

I had a really interesting review come in recently that assumed that, because I’m a Druid, I would want to mock and ridicule Christians. Of course when you start from that assumption, it’s all too easy to read in what you fear is true.

The book in question is Hopeless Maine Vol 2. It’s a gothic graphic novel; there’s a witch in it, and some New England old-style Christianity. Mostly the Christianity is based on reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, because he’s the nearest thing I’ve got to a period source.

It’s an interesting issue as an author. Most of the last 2000 years of western history have been informed, and often dominated, by Christianity. There’s only so many stories a person can tell about secret Pagan families and the only wisewoman in the village… As a Pagan and as an author, my interests are wider than the Pagan experience, and I want an audience that goes beyond you lovely, lovely Pagan readers. Pagan fiction is not a very big market, compared to Steampunk, or graphic novels. So I write what I love, and I write what interests me, I write about other times and other places and other people, and I feel it would be wrong to ignore the Christians.

What is gothic New England without its Puritan Reverend? What is Victorian England without the tension between Christianity and science? What is our modern culture without the vast influence of Christianity upon all of our arts? I’m not going to dishonour my Christian ancestors by writing them out.

I do, I will confess, take the piss out of everyone, sooner or later. There’s a lot of comedy in my work, and I take the piss out of Druids more mercilessly than any other group because that’s what I know about, and I feel entitled. It’s not spirituality I want to milk for giggles, but the silly, self-important, misguided things humans do, sometimes in the name of gods. That strikes me as being fair game. Devout and genuine faith is something I have no interest in mocking. But at the same time, there’s something irresistible about a chap who leaves the circus to take up preaching, and ends up quoting the Bible whilst striding about on stilts (Intelligent Designing for Amateurs).

I’ll happily attack that which is cruel and destructive. I’ll mock that which is foolish and self-important. I don’t really care whose name you’re doing it in. And at the same time, if you’re a warm hearted person of good intent doing the best they can with what you’ve got – I equally do not care whose name you’re doing it in. I’ll judge you by your actions and by the results you get.

There are things about Christian history that I really hate. They have to do with oppressing, killing, and torturing people. I have all the same issues with political regimes that act the same way. The underpinning belief has little relevance; it is just a convenient excuse, and those who want to abuse will find their reasons one way or another. But most Christians are people who happen to be Christian, no better or worse than anyone else, and in no way deserving attack or any kind of denigration. As an author, I’m attracted to the mad things people do, and there have been plenty of glorious crazy Christian examples through history. All those mystics, for a start. (You sat on what?) But I try and counterbalance that with figures who happen to have beliefs, who happen to be Pagan, or Christian, or atheist or some other thing, but where that’s not a major plot or character point.

It’s a shame, though, that someone seeing ‘Druid’ in my autobiography would assume that means ‘hates Christians’. The track record of relations between Pagans and Christians is not what it might be. I live in hope that will change in my lifetime.

Druid Thoughts is published on occasional Wednesdays on Agora. Follow it via RSS or e-mail!

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About Nimue Brown

Druid blogger, author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors and Spirituality without structure (Moon Books) Intelligent Designing for Amateurs (Top Hat Books) and Hopeless Maine (Archaia). Book reviewer for the Druid Network and Pagan Dawn. Volunteer for OBOD. Green, folky, Steampunk wench with a coffee habit. www.druidlife.wordpress.com and www.hopelessmaine.com @Nimue_B and can be hunted down on facebook.

  • kenofken

    I don’t think a person’s own religious identity necessarily drives their treatment of religion in their writing, or at least it shouldn’t do so in a predictable way if you’re writing fiction with any imagination. As often as not, a good story won’t even be about religion or turn on it, but can use it to flesh out characters, reflect cultural and historical backdrops etc.

    I don’t think Druids, or Pagans as a general matter “hate” Christians. I think it would be more accurate to say we have a complicated relationship with the diverse forms of Christianity and its followers. Relations will never be as simple as universal hate or happy coexistence. I think we are finding a new balance toward the positive direction as pagan traditions gain generational separation from Christianity and a degree of confidence and as Christians adapt to the realities of pluralism.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

    Druids want to ridicule Christianity? Said reviewer has obviously never heard of the Revival Druids.

    Unfortunately, neither have many Druids…

    • kenofken

      The name doesn’t ring a bell, but I do recall that there was Druid movement in the early 20th Century or even Victorian times which was Christian, or rather more of a cultural revival than a religious practice?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

        The men (and they were almost all men) who revived Druidry beginning in the 1700s were Christians, although not always orthodox Christians. Their primary interest was cultural and fraternal. Pagan Druidry is pretty much a 20th and 21st century thing.

        Here’s a review I did of The Druid Revival Reader: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2013/01/the-druid-revival-reader.html

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