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Author Topic: Fictional Characters in Religion and Magic.  (Read 29566 times)
Jabberwocky
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« Reply #41: November 17, 2008, 11:23:49 pm »

There seems to be some connection between religion and storytelling.  Many of histories greatest stories tell about deities and their (mis)adventures.  Is it so strange then that characters from stories could become religious figures?  If the experience feels real does it matter that the entity with whom you interact (supposedly) isn't?  How do you feel about the idea of a whole religion based on such a fiction?  Have you ever worked with a fictional character?  If so, who and how?
DISCLAIMER:  This is likely to be pretty disjointed as I'm still examining this while issue.  On top of that, this is all just my personal experience and falls strictly into the category of UPG.  Also be aware that I'm agnostic on whether any entity, whether fictional or a convential deity has any existence outside my own head.

Yes, would be the quick answer.  It's pretty much exclusively what I experimented with when I started.  I've worked with everyone from The Fonz to Slaanesh (from the Warhammer FRP) to Ziggy Stardust to The Bash Street Kids.

And it does give you results, I found, as long as you approach it with some level of committment.  Nothing I could prove as such, but a definite achievement as far as I'm concerned.

One way of looking at it is that, while fictional characters were originally created by a single person, over time, they become imbued with the meaning and themes placed on them by their audience.  Because they've had longer to develop, you can often see this more clearly with older works.  Romeo and Juliet are the star crossed lovers.  Don Quixote is the questing knight, to the point where we now recognise the term "quixotic" as a word.  And Robin Hood is even more complicated.  His themes have changed over time again and again, to reflect the society he's in and their needs.  He's also heavily tied up with the mythical concept of the "Norman Yoke" which has had a demonstrable effect on real history- it was a major influence on the theology and politics of the radical fringe in the English Civil War.  Obviously, Robin has developed organically, but the first two examples were originally the work of a single author.  But I'd argue they've transcended that, and become common property instead, with all that entails.  (The opposite is also sometimes true.  The common perception of King Arthur is now Mallory's Arthur specifically).  So to an extent I'd agree with Melamphorus.  I don't think the Jungian archetypes are that useful.  Instead, I'd see fictional characters as artistic motifs, that speak to us both communally and individually, but with our role as an audience playing a crucial role.

So that would be my defense of the use of fictional characters.  However, as time has gone on, I've had several issues and doubts arise, at least with how this is normally practised.

The first would be that, more and more, I was finding working with fictional characters somewhat superficial.  And times, that's fine, because it's all that I want.  But it was feeling like I was working always on the surface, if that makes sense?  I have several possible theories of why that could be (and that's all these are).  The first possibility is that it's to do with my own personality.  Part of the issue may be that I could never work with someone like The Fonz and suspend disbelief entirely.  A part of me was always conscious that I was working with a popular culture figure.  On top of that, I've not got the integral connection with any modern media format to really throw myself in entirely.  If someone was on the most fanatical wing of the Trekkers, I'm willing to accept that might not be an issue for them when working with Kirk.  The other one I've come up with is that, while people have put their own meanings onto modern fictional characters, not enough time has passed for that to have mutated significantly, so it's possible I'm still working with underdeveloped entities.  (Again, arguably, that could be different for other people.  And the two could combine.  I have no interest in Princess Diana, but undoubtably a lot of people do see her in a different way).  To repeat, this is currently strictly theoretical, with no conclusion.

I've used the term "popular culture" there for a reason.  I haven't found I have the same issues with the more mythological figures I've worked with.  Specifically, I still work with Robin Hood reasonably frequently, though less then I used to.  (Mostly because I'm a bit burnt out from political activism which was my main focus with the Loxley lads work).  But that's a connection I have had for as long as I remember- as a very young child I desperately wanted to be Robin Hood.  Or at least one of his Merry Men.

The second issue I have with it is that, while this isn't necessary, it seems to go hand in hand with an approach that says that entities all fit the Jungian archetype system, and are interchangable within that.  If anything, I am becoming more dubious to that then the issue of fictional entities as a whole.  Again, it's only my personal feelings.  But I've worked with both Rob and with Captain Mission (possibly mythical 1600's pirate captain  Was said to have liberated slaves and to have founded a direct democracy pirate colony called Libertatia).  Now, it would seem that not only would they both obviously fit the rebel archetype, but they're actually pretty similar in themes.  All I know is that they felt totally different to work with then each other.

The third issue is that I've seen it lead to people not considering the character of the fictional characters in full.  To take one example, guy I know was planning to work with Cartman as a trickster deity.  Now, thing with Eric Cartman is that he's not some loveable Bart Simpson character.  A kid angered him.  So he murdered his family and then fed them to the kid.  Now, if you're 100% sure that you're working solely within your own head, with archetypes, that doesn't matter.  However, if you have even a 0.01% doubt that there's a possibility you could be working with external forces, that strikes me as bloody stupid to risk.

So that's my experience so far.  I hope it's been of some interest.  To be clear, I do still work with pop culture entities sometimes, but generally when I'm wanting to do something low powered and simple.  If you're nervy about a promising first date, The Fonz is a very worthwhile icon to work with.  I'm just saying that, more and more, chaos magic seems to have got its own set of unspoken assumptions, that very few people challenge.  And this topic is rife with them.  If you decide that's what you believe, that's completely cool.  But I think it's worth examining them consciously.
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People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.
(Raoul Vaneigem)

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