tangyabominy: A full-body shot of a pale blue dragon reading a book. (book learnin')
[personal profile] tangyabominy
So I've mentioned before that fiction, to me, has a very strong link to magic. I experience my most intense magical happenings, my most intense transformative moments, through fiction; it's shaped the landscape of my life to a degree that nothing else has.

To be clear, when I say this, I'm using a very broad definition of the term "fiction". I don't just mean reading and writing, but a whole array of experiences: creating stories in my head that never get written, playing out internal music videos of characters to songs, having headpeople/whathaveyou, fictionalising events in my life, and simply allowing the trappings of fiction-- concepts, ideas and beings therefrom-- to matter in my life in the same way that everything else matters in my life.

In a lot of circles, this would be struck down as crazy, but I find that when I do it, I'm actually healthier; this is my default mode of being, to fictionalise the real and to realise the fictional, to see as every bit as valid a magical system or oath that came from a fantasy world as one that came from the history books. Not only do I not want to give it up, but there's a profound void in my life when I do, one that can't really be filled with anything else. I live fiction and I need fiction, to the point where I considered myself "fiction-kin" well before that word meant "people who identify as a specific fictional character". I feel akin to the energies of the overarching concept, the unique qualities it brings to our lives.

So I've been theorising on some reasons that could be. One is that I've always felt that magic, the kind of magic I seek-- that communion with the true nature of existence that perhaps is more properly called mysticism, but which I like to call magic for the exact reason that fiction calls it magic, and fiction's terms are what I find meaningful-- is found in its purest form in, or through, fiction. Which is to say, not necessarily just in literal books and other stories, but, again, through practices associated with fiction, through allowing meaningful fictions to blur with one's reality.

Rarely have I felt more enchanted, more transported, than when gazing up at a full moon and picturing it as the world of Lunar, or when sharing my mind and my eyes with a character who treated the landscape as an otherworldly place, or when simply making a meaningful narrative out of the varied events of my day. When I read magical texts, I often try to imagine myself in another time, another place, having been given these lessons as if I were a student of some arcane society, cloistered, secret, being inducted into great mysteries. It helps.

As C. S. Lewis would have it:

'But why,' (some ask), 'why, if you have a serious comment to make on the real life of men, must you do it by talking about a phantasmagoric never-never land of your own?' Because, I take it, one of the main things the author wants to say is that the real life of men is of that mythical and heroic quality.

It's that mythical and heroic quality, which exists in reality but is so rarely dwelt on, that blurring these boundaries allows to come into being. It's not just a case of making life "feel more fantastical": it's more, to me, that life is fantastical, but you have to look at it in a fantastical way to allow it to be so. That's not self-deception: it's no more strange than the fact that you can't see the positivity in the world unless you bring a positive outlook to it. It's not that the world doesn't have plenty of positivity, but if you insist on a constant pessimism, then you'll never see it; you're not looking for it. So is it with fictionalisation. The world is mythic, but you can only see that if you allow for the possibility, if you approach it with the idea in mind that mythic structures can apply to reality. It's really elementary.

It would seem, to some extent, that a lot of what makes faerie and elven community what it is is also this. I'm not fae or elven, so I can't especially speak for that group, but I know that Lord of the Rings in particular has great value in that particular otherkin culture. Listening to [livejournal.com profile] arethinn read Elvish poetry at MythiCalia, I found myself thinking, "this fictional language means so much to you that you've learnt how to speak in it. And it's beautiful, it makes me feel like there's magic in the air, and like you're drawing on a tradition that says something precious to you. Why would anyone consider this silly or flaky, again?"

Hearing someone who cares about these languages speak them is transporting: they're perfectly suited for expressing feelings and connotations that exist in that mythic space, feelings that are perfectly real and experienced, right now, in this life. Not even because of any particular linguistic characteristics of the languages, but precisely because they hearken from another world: an imagined world, yes, but another world all the same. They are authentically not of our mundane space, and that's what makes them beautiful. That's what makes fiction beautiful, in a spiritual sense: it transports one, by its nature, to a space that is non-mundane, not of this world. And to those whose experiences of and longings for magic are closely tied to sehnsucht, that ache for another world, that's all that's needed.

When you think about it like that, there are a lot of similarities between fiction and a ritual space. When you enter into fiction, you define in advance, subconsciously, that you are leaving the mundane behind. (We call it "suspending disbelief".) As you pick up a novel, sit down to a TV show, or begin to write or daydream, you encourage what occurs in this space to be surprising and alien in a way that, in life, we simply shut down on. If an unusual event occurs in life, we rationalise and justify, blocking out any hope of magic before it can even spark. In fiction, we actively encourage the strange and unusual to tantalise us, to come real before our eyes. The mundanity filter is completely bypassed, and thus, magic can happen.

This mindset shift is completely natural and unforced; indeed, it would be difficult to force it not to happen. It simply takes us over. It's a lot like a meditative state (and indeed, the state of mind into which one gets while reading has been compared to meditation), except one that we don't have to work for. While in such a state, one's subconscious is liberated to express itself as it really is, without the censor that we normally place on it. We're allowed to resonate with images of dragons and fae, even if we'd never consider in "real life" that those things could have deep meaning to us.

And when we write, we more often than not pour forth our true selves, the ideas that seem inherently reasonable to us but that we have no "real-world" justification for. We can justify them in the course of the story, make up why they should work, and so there's no fear of holding irrational ideas. They're just fiction, after all. It's just imaginary. Anything can happen. And so what we deeply want to happen, in our heart of hearts, is often what ends up in the work.

Given that, is it really any surprise that so much fiction seems to contain elusive truths, things that are rarely spoken of in the "real world" but can feel more real than anything in it? Is it any surprise that, while very little fiction is written about or by otherkin or mages, so much of what's out there manages to speak to an otherkin or magical heart? When you consider that most fiction is created while the author is basically in an altered state-- and the best fiction, many authors have said, comes about while "in the zone", in a space where one's subconscious seems to be guiding and everything begins to knit itself together, to self-reference and layer, without the writer consciously connecting the dots-- it doesn't seem strange to me at all.

So, fiction. It's sacred to me. Things can come from it that are so hard to reach any other way. When people insist you have to draw a sharp, bright line between it and reality-- especially in the context of being otherkin, or engaging in any other magical practice-- I feel like they're cutting off the lifeblood of what magic, of what existence itself, is all about.

I mean. The defining trait of humans is that we're storytellers, right? Can we really excise from our lives something that's been so fundamental to them from the beginning of our existence as a species, and expect that something vital won't be missing?
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