It's all fine and exciting when using lore and myth to create new stories. Especially when it comes to modern genres like urban fantasy, it can yield pretty alluring and impressive results! From ancient Greek mythology to all kinds of Asian myths and legends, to Norse mythology and Egyptian one, all of them hold enormous potential for engaging stories within a fascinating setting. And with good reason! All those myths and legends were active and powerful religions in their time.
But what happens when stories, especially fantasy or science fiction, draw from current religions with actual followers and practitioners of the particular faith?
There is already a level of respect and care one needs to take when using the mythology of any culture or people, even though usually the corresponding faith has faded or been replaced with another. Even if the religion from which the mythology was derived has no followers anymore, often there is an emotional connection to it within the culture that has it as part of its past and heritage. The requirement of not misrepresenting a mythology, or reimagining it in a way that is offensive to the source material and the culture attached to it is extremely pivotal.
That requirement is even stronger, more demanding, when the source material, the mythology, if you like, comes from a religion that is still alive, still has followers. The backlash can be great, whether the religion is big or small. Or especially, if it is the religion of a minority or marginalized group. Not even entertainment giants are above backlash if the source material is not respected.
It is true, that you might get more leeway with some active religions as opposed to others. Being disrespectful or cavalier with a big one might be considered edgy, while being disrespectful or cavalier with a smaller one, or one with a protected, so to speak, status, might be considered punching down, racist, inappropriate.
In my opinion, mishandling, or handling carelessly the symbols, elements, stories and messages that other people invest their faith and emotional, mental and existential wellbeing in is at least inconsiderate, if not malicious, regardless of which faith it is, how big, how established or how tiny and limited to a small population.
But how does one draw from a religion to write fantasy without causing offense and/or distress to the religion's faithful?
One might argue that it is practically impossible; someone will always find offense, someone will always loudly protest and make accusations, even at the best intention and the utmost care from creators. And that is true. Some, a very select few that make it their hobby to be offended and create controversy, will definitely be ruffled.
But, again in my opinion, those are irrelevant. There's an objective line that shouldn't be crossed, but beyond that, a creator should feel at ease with his/her conscience about how the material was handled. So what goes into respectful handling of a live religion's mythology or legend in stories?
1. Do Your Homework
Definitely study the religion well. Know what the symbols stand for, how they are used, the cultural and spiritual significance they hold for the people that worship through them. Know the legends and mythos, and the significance for each major personality, deity, and being. Do not depict them differently in your worldbuilding- that is, whatever reimagining you might do, make sure the general trajectories and uses remain the same.
2. Do Not Shorthand Religious Stuff
Don't write any existing religion as “The Religion of the Bad/Good/Weird/Marginalized/Cool/Uncool Guys”, especially if juxtaposed with another existing religion that is also written as “The Religion of the … Guys”. Within any religion, all kinds of people exist, and that includes the clergy connected to it.
3. Separate Religion from its Institution
The practices of the clergy often divert from the main dogma or main spirit of the teachings, as happens with any social institution that wields power. When giving commentary and castigating such practices and transgressions, separate the actual dogma from its proclaimed practitioners. It's likely to not only have a better reception among audiences that ascribe to the religion at hand, but also to keep people from polarizing and getting fanatized over it.
4. When Judging Religion, Make sure you Show Awareness and Respect
The clergy aside, there are elements within every religion that are anything from imperfect, products of a different era and time, or just simply wrong. They cannot be off limits to art, not at all. But at the same time, the religion shouldn't be painted as a grotesquely twisted, unholy concoction of evil tenets. Such a thing does not exist. All religions, when stripped down to their core, have the basic set of rules that roughly translate as “Don't Be a Douchebag” and “Try to Better Yourself”. Make sure you don't lose track of that, nor of the fact that unlike what is stereotypically thought of, religions are actually living, dynamic systems of ideology that evolve along with the people that observe them. They are bound to change and reconceive the manner in which the main dogma applies in daily living, and that, too, is something that should be recognized.
So what if you don't want to put in all this work, and aren't really interested in the religion, but only one thing you saw from it that you really like, like an especially fun demon, or a very awesome holy artifact, or an amazing story from its scriptures that you'd like to give a spin yourself?
That's easy! Repackage it! Call it something different, reconstruct its surface characteristics enough so it's not a mislabeled religious icon, and go to town!
Don’t forget you can now advertise on DrunkDuck for just $2 in whichever ad spot you like! The money goes straight into running the site. Want to know more? Click this link here! Or, if you want to help us keep the lights on you can sponsor us on Patreon. Every bit helps us!
Special thanks to our patrons!!
Justnopoint - Banes - Rmccool - Abt Nihil - Phoenixignis - Gunwallace - Cresc - Pauleberhardt - Scruff - Dragonaur - Emma Clare - Dylandrawsdraws - Functioncreep - Eustacheus - Dillycomics - Barrycorbett - Sinjinsoku - Smkinoshita - Jerrie - Chickfighter - Andreas_Helixfinger
Tantz Aerine - Cdmalcolm1 - Epic Saveroom - Spacewitch - Alpharie - Genejoke - ArityWOlf - Davey Do - Spark of Interest - Gullas - Spark of Interest - Damehelsing - Roma - Nikolaimcfist - Nanocritters - Scott D - Bluecuts34 - j1ceasar
Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, April 11, 2020
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Google+