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Religious Themes in the Shows We Love

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[Jul. 26th, 2006|04:58 pm]
Religious Themes in the Shows We Love

churchofjoss

[texanfan]
I think this is appropriate to this community.  In the fic I'm currently writing I'm about to do some very involved spells to facilitate the climax.  I've got Wiccan friends who can help me but after Writer Con I face a conundrum.  I heard two opposing viewpoints.  Both started from the point that Joss obviously knew little about Wicca and that neither Willow nor Tara followed the tenets of that faith.  Some said this could be corrected in fic, others said it was disrepectful to pretend they were real Wiccans at this late date because that's not how they were represented in the show.  Opinions?  Discussion?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: herself_nyc
2006-07-26 10:12 pm (UTC)
I think it's fanfic and you should write what you like.
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[User Picture]From: harmonyfb
2006-07-26 10:46 pm (UTC)
::frown:: I dunno. Since it's my religion, and Goddess knows that we come in for enough misinformed representation in the media, I'd vote on the side of please don't add to the crappy stereotypes.*

*(In the South, it's not just a matter of annoyance. I've had friends who got shot at because of misconceptions about their beliefs.)
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[User Picture]From: herself_nyc
2006-07-26 10:49 pm (UTC)
To clarify, I meant to say you should write what you like but don't call it Wicca in your story. I agree that that word got thrown around a lot on the show in a way even I, who knows nothing about it, could tell was meaningless and random.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:23 pm (UTC)
I don't think not calling it Wicca means that people won't see it as Wicca. I think what I'm going to do is construct the spell with as much authenticity as I can (while still serving the story) and leave out the spiritual aspects since neither Willow nor Tara ever displayed them. At least that way I'm not further ing the stereotype.
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[User Picture]From: liliaeth
2006-08-05 02:04 pm (UTC)
hmm, I don't know, I'd say that Tara displayed some of the spiritual aspects, while Willow clearly didn't.
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[User Picture]From: redeem147
2006-07-26 10:17 pm (UTC)
I have heard elsewhere (and it could be bull) that Willow refers to herself as a Wicca instead of a Wiccan because it isn't supposed to be the same thing. It's more a synonym for the popular conception of Witch (or a metaphor for lesbian).

So I think you should write whatever you like. If you want to reflect the show, though, you should probably not be accurate.
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[User Picture]From: harmonyfb
2006-07-26 10:42 pm (UTC)
I have heard elsewhere (and it could be bull) that Willow refers to herself as a Wicca instead of a Wiccan because it isn't supposed to be the same thing. It's more a synonym for the popular conception of Witch (or a metaphor for lesbian).

::makes wanking gesture:: I think that was a last-minute scramble backwards when ME realized what a cock-up they'd made of the whole thing.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that sounds like pretty extreme wank to me. I wonder just how much flak they caught for representing Wiccans as they did?
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[User Picture]From: quinara
2006-07-26 10:27 pm (UTC)
*waves* Didn't go to WriterCon, but I hope it's OK if I muscle in on the community.

Anyway - I would say that although Wicca was represented poorly on the show, it was implied fairly strongly that Willow and Tara were supposed to be Wiccan. Therefore I would argue that the least confusing (and most educational) thing for your readers would be to keep them Wiccan, but do it properly with the help of your friend.

But then again, I know next to nothing about Wicca (being agnostic and never having researched it), so I don't know whether or not that would be disrespectful in any way.
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[User Picture]From: harmonyfb
2006-07-26 10:41 pm (UTC)
Therefore I would argue that the least confusing (and most educational) thing for your readers would be to keep them Wiccan, but do it properly with the help of your friend.

But that would make them out-of-character, since neither acted like a Wiccan on the show.
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[User Picture]From: quinara
2006-07-26 10:50 pm (UTC)
This is probably where my ignorance rears it's ugly head - I'd assumed it was an issue of the ritual employed when casting spells, but I suppose there are other factors?
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[User Picture]From: harmonyfb
2006-07-26 11:08 pm (UTC)
It's a question of belief. Wicca is a religion, not simply a magickal system. The Witches' Voice is a good resource site (for more than Wiccan beliefs.)

Here are some bullet points that I've used when talking to the local media:

Wicca is a pantheistic/polytheistic, nature-centered religion.

Wicca is an experiential, rather than revealed, religion.

Wiccans acknowledge and worship an immanent, rather than transcendant, divine, usually represented as a God and Goddess.

Wiccans strive to live in harmony with, rather than in mastery over, Nature.

Wicca stresses personal responsibility and individual knowledge of the Divine rather than adherence to specific religious law.

Wiccans live by the Wiccan Rede: An it harm none, do as you will.

These aren't exhaustive, of course (and some are given more weight than others depending on the tradition), but they'll give you some idea of how our faith is structured.
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[User Picture]From: quinara
2006-07-26 11:37 pm (UTC)
Wicca is a religion, not simply a magickal system.

*blushes* Oh yes, I know - what I meant was that, just as when you aren't always aware of what religion people are until you ask them / meet a situation where it becomes apparent, I'd assumed that that changing Willow and Tara into truly Wiccan characters wouldn't drastically change their actions in general-episode X. Obviously, there would be many more differences than I had first appreciated.

Thanks for the link - it's so nice to have that much concise information with good authority.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:28 pm (UTC)
And may I say welcom to the community quinara! Now I'm kicking around a plot bunny where Willow's use of manipulative magic (pick and episode there are plenty) comes back to bite her on the ass via the 3 fold law. Have to think about that.
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[User Picture]From: harmonyfb
2006-07-26 10:40 pm (UTC)
Hmm. In my fics, I simply refer to them as 'witches' and not "Wiccans", since they were clearly uninformed about Wicca.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:30 pm (UTC)
That's a very good idea. I'll check back through and see if I ever refer to them as Wiccans. Is there a category of people who are witches? Personally, I think the D&D term magic user would be the most accurate.
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[User Picture]From: elizard100
2006-07-26 10:43 pm (UTC)
Well, the show is over and this is your fic so I say it's your call. The show was fantasy and to have Tara and Willow as real Wiccans and therefore not capable of doing abracadabra kind of magic would have been boring for the largely non-Wiccan audience but this is your fic so you should be able to do whatever will make the most sense for the characters you are creating.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:32 pm (UTC)
I appreciate your view. But the take ME took on Wicca was very insulting to the Wiccans i know and I'm hoping not to add to it.
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[User Picture]From: spikeverse
2006-07-26 10:49 pm (UTC)
I agree with the others that you can do whatever you like. Also, maybe it depends on which season.

But I think it would be more acceptable to have Tara be practicing the faith, but new to it. And that would be the reason she started to get concerned about Willow in season 5.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:33 pm (UTC)
That's a very valid observation. This would be s6. Willow was always the more out of control one.
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[User Picture]From: rahirah
2006-07-26 11:01 pm (UTC)
I call them witches rather than Wiccans, and I wank it that Willow and Tara picked up the term from the college group in S4, and neither of them have much experience with 'real' Wiccans. My personal interpretation is that Tara came from a family with a tradition of witchcraft, even if it was stifled and suppressed, and therefore she has a tradition to draw on, even if it's not Wicca proper. Willow's more of a loose cannon.

OTOH I do try to make the spells they cast in my stories make some sense in regards to real-world magical traditions. On the gripping hand, I usually have to edit said real-world traditions severely because real magical rituals are far longer and more repetitious than most readers want to deal with. I also have no qualms about syncretizing different traditions madly to get the effect I want.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:36 pm (UTC)
I think this will be the approach I use. For my purposes I think it's well withing creative license to shorten a long ceremony to maintain reader interest. This is a story, not a how to manual or religious text. Since the practice of Wicca is so varied I find it unlikely you will insult someone unless you break the major tenets, which ME did regularly.
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[User Picture]From: cissasghost
2006-07-26 11:30 pm (UTC)
IMO Tara could have been a very lapsed sort of Wiccan - we never saw her doing anything overtly religious but IMO several of her opinions expressed re: magic could have come from a Wiccan background.

Willow, no way. She's a witch, but not a Wiccan. Last I recall canon, she was a non-practicing Jew - which is interesting as Judaism expressly forbids witchcraft. There's a magical tradition (not sure of the distinction there, but there apparently is one), but I don't think it resembles what Willow was practicing, especially considering the big resurrection spell called on Osiris (an Egyptian deity). Thinking of her as a purely created character, yeah, Joss mixed his mythologies big-time. If you want to think of her as a real person . . I'm not sure of the appropriate dictionary term for her beliefs. She's not *quite* a polytheist, or at least that doesn't adequately explain the entirety of her belief system. She clearly *believes* in multiple gods, based on multiple source mythologies, and every time she comes across a new one, she encorporates it (someone who knows more about this, feel free to step on me if I'm wrong here, but isn't that sort of characteristic of voudoun?) However, her gods are all very small-g, she doesn't worship in any way that we're shown in canon and she doesn't seem to believe that these higher powers are necessarily humanity's moral superiors - if anything she seems to believe the opposite. We also see evidence in her behavior that she believes herself - and presumably others - capable of attaining a god-like level of power with sufficient study and practice.

So yeah .. don't know that there's a single word for her. She's a credulous cynic, I guess, and weird as this may sound, to all intents and purposes she's an atheist. She doesn't believe in anything deserving of her worship or devotion, what she believes, she believes because she's seen it work, she has no faith in the traditional sense. Where she interacts with the spiritual it's because it's *useful*, that's all. There's no moral significance to it in her worldview.
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[User Picture]From: ravenwings_7
2006-07-27 06:30 pm (UTC)
I think the word you may have been looking for was "pantheist," although your point of Willow-as-atheist is definitely a good one. I tend to think of Willow's lack of worship as a (possibly subconscious) belief that the deities she invokes are not "true" gods, but more just very powerful spirits (I'm not certain I said that terribly well).

As for her use of the term "Wicca," I've always felt that she consciously adopted the label; perhaps in an effort to distance herself from the negative connotations of "witch," but more likely because she felt that her family would take her practice of magic more seriously if they thought she had converted to another (established) religion than if they thought she was just playing with spellbooks.

I agree with your assessment of Tara, as well (especially as Wicca is one of the most loosely-defined religions out there). Just because she didn't follow Wiccan tenets in the time we knew her, doesn't mean she never did (and I don't recall her ever going directly against the Rede). It makes sense that she's simply non-observant (thus maintaining the title).

Oh! IIRC, voudoun and some of it's cousins are kind of a hodge-podge of various (highly modified) African and/or Caribbean deities mixed up with Christianity, but practitioners don't make a habit of adding new deities to the mix (I could be very wrong on any aspect of that statement, though).
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[User Picture]From: harmonyfb
2006-07-28 01:01 am (UTC)
I agree with your assessment of Tara, as well (especially as Wicca is one of the most loosely-defined religions out there). Just because she didn't follow Wiccan tenets in the time we knew her, doesn't mean she never did

While that could be true, the way her character was written reminded me more of a looser FamTrad, and not a Wiccan. She was definitely more interested in spellwork than religious practice (I think that could be said of all the characters, really.)
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:40 pm (UTC)
That's an extremely good analysis of Willow's character. She believes in things only in so far as they are useful to her. You never see her, or Tara for that matter, with a shrine or altar. BTW, the Jewish tradition you're looking for is Kabbala (Probably horribly misspelled) and no, it's nothing like what Willow and Tara do.
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[User Picture]From: st_salieri
2006-07-27 01:44 am (UTC)
In my opinion, characterization trumps all. Tara and (especially) Willow didn't seem to identify with Wicca as far as its religious principles. I'd agree with some of the other commenters that they should probably be truly considered witches rather than Wiccan. By trying to "correct" for their behavior in fic, you would be ascribing to them beliefs that they didn't appear to actually have on the show. I would rather see a fic that portrayed them as they were, rather than as real Wiccans.

I remember that the panel got on a discussion of how poorly Joss (and the other writers) portrayed the realities of the Wicca religion. While this is true, it also could be used as a testament of Willow's character on the show: that she didn't seem to be an actual Wiccan because she never embraced its belief system. This also could help explain why Willow ran into such trouble with her power issues, and as such is an important part of her characterization that shouldn't be discarded.
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[User Picture]From: texanfan
2006-07-30 01:46 pm (UTC)
Characterization does trump all. But I think I can create spells that don't run counter to the belief system while not representing Willow as Wiccan. I think that's the compromise I need to reach with my conscience. I do think there's a story to be told in Willow's abuse of magic biting her back via the 3 fold law. But it's a story I'm not equipped to tell.

I'm gratified so many people weighed in on this question. Excellent discussion!
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