In Defense of ‘Fakelore’

“And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But that’s just me”

— Dr. Bennett (Robert Guillaume), Big Fish

Let me preface the following by stating categorically that there is no place for physical, emotional, or sexual abuse within any community, let alone the greater, so-called, ‘pagan’ collective. We should strive to be better, to one another and to those outside our circle. The age old adage that ‘we are all in this together’ is more than just a platitude or affirmation — it is grounded in the reality of our place in the universe. While I believe you will discover that I am no great friend to ‘reality’ as perceived by the masses, some truths are irrefutable, regardless of the cut of your jib.

campfire

If you’ve not already been treated to their words, I direct you first to a lengthy essay by Sarah Anne Lawless titled For Sale: Neopaganism “As Is”, and a response from anthropologist Amy Hale found under the heading On Paganism, Fakelore, and Tired Conversations about Authenticity.

Both are erudite and thought-provoking. Do I need to add my proverbial two-cents? Absolutely not, but then, that’s never stopped me before.

I watched the movie Big Fish this past weekend. Are you familiar? Based on the book by Daniel Wallace (which I’ve not read, but need to), the film was packed full of star power — Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Ewan MacGregor, Helena Bonham Carter, and on and on.

Of the film, director Tim Burton said, “Big Fish is about what’s real and what’s fantastic, what’s true and what’s not true, what’s partially true and how, in the end, it’s all true.

My own faith, which stems from my interpretation of heathenry, is founded on the tall tale in many respects. Anyone who has taken even a cursory stroll through the Sagas can readily see this to be true.

Boasting around the campfire is a time-honored tradition. Tales often grow in the telling, but if they’re well told, then more’s the better.

The truth can be overrated, and more often than not, elusive.

Sometimes building a mythology, a legend, around one’s beliefs heightens the narrative. It becomes a part of the ritual, entering that headspace where reality is warped and blended with the supernatural to create a magical truth that transcends the reality of the mundane.

Looking at Thelema, for instance, does it really matter if Aleister Crowley fictionalized his account regarding the transmission of the Book of the Law?

What of Gerald Gardner or Alex Sanders? Do their backstories make their traditions any less potent if they are fabrications?

The Golden Dawn was founded on so-called fakelore as is nearly every ‘secret society’ born under the sun, moon, and stars. I’m looking at you, Freemasons and Odd-Fellows, and all the rest.

Entire nations are founded on twisted versions of the honest to goodness truth.

And why not?

In a sense, all of reality is false, memory is unreliable, and we all build mythologies around ourselves, altering the past to suit our chosen narratives.

Everything is fictive.

When looking for the truth, well, which version of it do you want, because we all see things from different perspectives. There’s a reason why eyewitness testimony is largely unreliable.

Psychologically, we reinterpret events so that they make sense to us all based on numerous cultural and biological factors.

Truth is what you make it.

wonder

Now, if you’re creating fakelore to manipulate and control people to feed your ‘cult of personality’, to use and abuse members of your ‘tribe’, well then, we have a problem…

But, if you’re building a mythological narrative to elevate and uplift, to pass down a fable that fosters a sense of wonder and importance, well then where is the harm in that?

We’re on a spiritual journey, each and every one of us. What matters is our evolution going forward. If your reimagined backstory propels you up out of the mire into the heavens, then so be it.

In the end, it’s all about intent.

At least, that’s how I see it.

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