BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.

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Addendum: On Graphic Novels



Several times over the past few years, I have profiled graphic novel titles, series, and publishers (e.g., Campfire Graphics, The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, and so on). Thanks to my comic guy, I have found three more which will interest Pagan readers.

The first is Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch (Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard. A surreal and fantastical tale, it centers on Maddy Kettle, whose parents have been turned into rats by the Thimblewitch. Accompanied by her floating spadefoot toad Ralph, Maddy crosses a strange landscape, battles spider goblins, befriends cloud cartographers Harry and Silvio, and finally makes her way to Thimble Rock where -- well -- all is not as she thought it would be. This is an odd and wonderful coming-of-age tale, just a bit scary, with a strong female protagonist, and the promise of more adventures to come. Recommended to fans of Abadazad, Amulet, and Bayou

Next up is Spell of Desire (VIZ) by Tomu Ohmi. The first volume of this manga series has been translated into English, with at least two more volumes incoming. Spell of Desire stars Kaoruko Mochizuki, a young woman who runs an herbal shop in "a small port town up north." One day, Kaoruko notices strange things happening around the shop (like plants blooming out of season and men who had ignored her suddenly paying her too much attention) and, immediately thereafter, the mysterious Kaname Hibiki arrives on her doorstep. A Knight of the Coven of Black Witches, Kaname -- along with Unicorn and Dragon (cleverly disguised as a cat and dog) -- reveals that Kaoruko is actually the granddaughter of a White Witch and the daughter of the leader of the Black Witches; her mother "sealed" a portion of her power within Kaoruko, and then disappeared. Kaoruko has no experience with magic at all and has no idea how to control this foreign power which now resides within her ... and things have taken notice .... 

Okay, I admit it, Spell of Desire is total eye candy. Kaname is friggin' hot, and Dragon and Unicorn (in their natural forms) are stunning. It's also deeply sensual, and offers an interesting exploration of the nature of power. Here "white" and "black" are not synonymous with good and evil; rather, they have to do with the source and focus of the witch's powers. White witches draw their power from the natural world, especially plants, and tend to focus on healing and cooking and so forth. Black witches, on the other hand, draw their power from primal passions, such as lust, love, and anger. As such, whenever the untrained Kaoruko loses her temper or becomes frightened or aroused ... well ... let's just say that it has quite an effect on those around her. Recommended to fans of Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, The Erotic Pagans series by Erzabet Bishop, and the manga time travel romance series, Red River

Finally, there is Theseus and the Minotaur (Toon Graphics) by Yvan Pommaux. The book opens with a map of ancient Greece and the Mediterranean, and a photograph of a vase painting depicting Theseus slaying the Minotaur. Then there is a labyrinth, which a curious child could (try to) navigate with a pencil. The story which follows is clear and concise and true to the source material; it is not gory, but it does not shy way from details that modern audiences might consider unsavory (like the origin of the Minotaur). There are also helpful pronunciation guides for unfamiliar terms on the bottom of the relevant page (e.g., Knossos). The book closes with flash card-like illustrations of the main characters, an index with definitions, a list of further readings, and discussion questions.

Theseus and the Minotaur is the kind of graphic novel that I would like to see in classrooms and libraries around the country. Toon Graphics has published other great, hardcover graphic novels aimed at kids, and I really hope they produce more mythology books. Recommended to teachers and librarians everywhere, as well as fans of d'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, Gifts From the Gods by Lunge-Larsen, and HeroBear and the Kid.   

My comic guy is constantly plying me with new graphic novels, so check back in a few months for more recommendations!

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


  • nolongerhere
    nolongerhere Tuesday, 28 October 2014

    Thanks so much for this! I'll be looking for those books. Comics are delightful, and so is the women's creative tradition vibrantly running through manga.

    My first (positive) introduction to a polytheistic and shamanistic worldview was through Japanese media as a teenager, and it's interesting how that subtly changes how stories involving Gods, magic and the supernatural are told, even in completely made-up fantasy settings or "real world" stories where they are taken for granted as part of human experience.

    Far more Japanese people deeply believe in magic than they like to discuss with Westerners-- even if they love flashy, over-the-top fantasy. For instance, how often is a polytheist priest/ess the main character of a Western fantasy novel set in modern times? I can think of several Shinto shrine maidens who figure prominently in anime/manga-- and have to use their divine powers to protect people.

    Don't ever knock it as a way for kids to be positively exposed to beliefs outside of a dualist matrix.

    And did you ever do a write up on Artesia? It takes polytheism, and Artesia's mixed role as a warrior, witch, queen and priest very seriously within its setting.

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