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?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-30 04:13 am (UTC)
arethinn: Faery with a shining crown and aura (otherkin (froud sidhe))
From: [personal profile] arethinn
allowing meaningful fictions to blur with one's reality.


"this fictional language means so much to you that you've learnt how to speak in it.

Speak IN it, perhaps, in the sense of reading aloud from a text without stumbling too much over the words. It would be generous to call my actual knowledge even a smattering. I studied Quenya and Sindarin a bit a while ago for a particular magical project, and was starting to get the hang of some of the various case inflections in Quenya (the most developed of Tolkien's languages), although I struggled to write in Tengwar (I understood the principle well, but learning another alphabet is a pain). The longest utterance I ever constructed was Mana nán únyárima ná, mal tullen Laisilmenorello. Sé sillumë, essenya ná Arethinn siltheri aTinderel (lá Quenya). Luhtan aldarinen ar eleninen which means "What I am cannot be told [because all the facts are not known, or it is too long to tell], but I came from [a/the] Green-and-Starlight-Shining-Land. At this time (lit. "this hour"), my name is Arethinn, (smallsidhe?) of the family Tinderel ([this name is] not Quenya). I enchant by means of trees and stars."

(I don't know what the "siltheri" actually means, if indeed it directly translates. "Smallsidhe" is a word that's been knocking around in my head for a while, which would be in contrast to yer great Lords and Ladies type.)

But I digress. I don't know whether I even have a good Elvish accent, or whether it would be considered to be "rustic" as Tolkien says most Hobbits would sound when they spoke Elvish (pointing out that Frodo had more facility with tongues). But the soundfeel of it is definitely very good. Sounds have shapes and can conjure certain energies.

Why would anyone consider this silly or flaky, again?

Because one and only one random human wrote it down? ^_- (Seems to be the yardstick people often use...)

The defining trait of humans is that we're storytellers, right?

The? I'd say it's debatable. (In fact has been debated for thousands of years, with no be-all end-all answer in sight, I think.)

One thing I keep wishing could be done at one of these gathers is a kind of group word-weaving thing, but yet again I often feel silly suggesting it. The idea is to sit around either a fire, or without fire under the moon, or I guess you could do it indoors but in that case I'd want a central candle or something, pass around (or each have) a vessel of appropriate intoxicant, and begin to build an image or illusion in the center, each adding a few words to embellish the description of the becoming vision, egregore-like. ("Intoxicant" because my original inspiration for this was certain ElfQuest stories where dreamberries - the Wolfriders' intoxicant of choice - don't just have an alcohol-like effect, but in fact a slightly hallucinatory one that allows the partakers to enter into a kind of historical "dreamtime" and relive their own legends or what the storyteller is telling. There's those ideas from fiction, again :P I don't mean something as heavy-hitting as mushrooms or whatever, but the various herbs in the feywine are supposed to carry it along these lines - opening psychic sensitivity, being enchanted, etc.)

Related: You can find an MP3 of the version of "Namarië" I mumbled something briefly about trying to remember (and possibly that y'all didn't want to hear me sing even if I could) on this website.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-30 05:51 am (UTC)
arethinn: glowing green spiral (Default)
From: [personal profile] arethinn
I studied Quenya and Sindarin a bit a while ago for a particular magical project

I'm curious. (But of course magical projects are not always things one wishes to speak of publicly, or to strangers at all, so understood if you can't or don't wish to elaborate.)

It was a "nightmare catcher" for my husband, who at that point was very prone to bad dreams. It took the form of a round canvas painted with night-sky colors and dots where the real stars were, with a Sindarin (I think ultimately it was) inscription around the edge, something to the effect of being held gently in the night's shadows.

P'raps what would help is, sometime, some kind of gatherthing with a group of people whom you know are amenable to this sort of thing.

Right, okay! So, you and me.


Seriously though, this has been an obstacle, similar to how I was grumbling about not knowing where to find other elves or fae on Sunday. Overall mental weather in the otherkin community seems to have been gradually leaning away from this kind of immersive magical life. I find it hard to grok. I can only hope the pendulum will swing back someday.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-01 06:12 am (UTC)
arethinn: Photo of a forest, text "Dwimordene" (nature (dwimordene forest))
From: [personal profile] arethinn
And lovely imagery, there, of night-shadows as cradling, as protective. I know a lot of people who'd paint them as the enemy, in that circumstance. But they're something that's there, something that's real and part of life and possessed of beauty in their own way and to be reconciled with.

Not reconciliation, in this instance; he's very aligned and comfortable with Shadow, generally speaking, so the idea was something like recorrection - something had gone wrong, so let's try to make Night nice for you again.

I found the relevant Elvish in my files, BTW (and it is indeed Sindarin, as I remembered):

No tummen vi in rovail fuin
A tolo an îdh sîdhen vi dúath dín

"Be enfolded in the wings of night
And find restful sleep in its shadows."

when I first stumbled across the 'kin concept, back in '01.

Even then it had staled a little, I think, to conclude from the speechings of others (I awakened and joined up on mailing lists in 1998), but ... indeed. We used to hold - no, embrace - a more generally mythical, wonderful view of ourselves. Not that humans do not have their own wonders. Maybe some of the backlash is in not wanting to define ourselves relative to what is weird/otherworldly to homo sapiens sapiens? (I don't have a big problem with a negative definition, myself.)

The website seemed to suggest such an atmosphere

Well, good! :D That's my idea. But I can't guarantee that everyone who comes will agree, nor do I wish to screen people based on their beliefs (only on whether they seem to be assholes). I dunno... on the one hand I want to say "look, really, spiritual and preferably fey. It's cool if that's not you. I approve of you anyway, not that you need my specific approval. But this is a very particular environment I'm trying to create, so please, unless you want that, don't come" and on the other, I've never seen this problem at any other gather - the "right people" always seem to show up and there's never any shortage of magical mindspace.

It's kinda funny. Some part of me thinks that dragons, therians and etc are all kind of "chimaera" and therefore should fit in a fey "Freehold" environment, because even if where they come from is not that magical, the fact that they are here now, on an Earth in a time that doesn't feel them to be real, is in itself significant: they should feel some magical nature just inherent in that. Yet how can I dictate? If someone doesn't want to relate to themselves in an energetic or magical fashion, how can I force them, and what can I provide for them given that setup?

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