Myth and magic, history and belonging
May 3, 2020 3:45 PM   Subscribe

I am looking to boost my appreciation for the magic of the world. Specifically, myths and magic and make believe that are tied to a sense of place and a sense of history, and foster my personal feelings of belonging in the world. Examples of what does this for me: American Gods and Neverwhere, Little, Big by John Crowley, Robin Wall Kimmerer, a friend's Beltane celebration. Things that don't work for me include astrology, tarot, and personal rituals, but are in the right vein. More specifications below the fold:

I'm specifically looking for European and American media. Magical Realism a la One Hundred Years of Solitude or Salman Rushdie fiction are the right sort of thing, but as I am not Latin American or Indian, these books don't provide the feeling of digging my own roots deep into the soil.

I live in the Rocky Mountains, and am from New England, so Louise Erdrich is great, as is Lovecraft Country, for example.

I am looking to avoid things that are problematic and racist, I'm not looking to engage in Manifest Destiny or germanic myths that have been co-opted by Neo Nazis, and I'm also not looking to co-opt another culture's spirituality for my own edification.

In terms of doing things, making a tincture in the light of the full moon and soaking my crystals in in: not my jam. Making dandelion wine from the dandelions in my yard and companion planting, yes please!

Fiction, nonfiction, movies, books, graphic novels, myths, legends, activities etc are all great suggestions.
posted by Grandysaur to Religion & Philosophy (25 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think Lolly Willowes has the sense of magic-from-place you are looking for.
posted by praemunire at 4:07 PM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


Stephen Fry's the Norse gods? Audio book very recommended.
posted by freethefeet at 4:09 PM on May 3, 2020


A few American suggestions (both books): The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston; The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 4:09 PM on May 3, 2020 [4 favorites]


Maybe Women who Run with the Wolves?
posted by beyond_pink at 4:13 PM on May 3, 2020


I absolutely recommend D.W. Pasulka's American Cosmic, maybe one of the most interesting books I've read in the last few years. Pakula is a professor of religious studies, but it's emphatically not a book just for academics. On the surface it's about UFOs, alien contact and about the people who investigate such incidents, but is far more about what constitutes belief and what religious/spiritual faith actually is, and things like how we in modernity answer the questions that religions used to answer.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:21 PM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


Talking Man, by Terry Bisson
Wizard of the Pigeons, Megan Lindholm
Ether, Or; by Ursula LeGuin
posted by the Real Dan at 4:39 PM on May 3, 2020


Some authors:
Peter S Beagle - his short stories are brilliant, also novels The Folk of the Air and Summerlong.

Lisa Goldstein - my favourite of hers is Tourists but Dark Cities Underground and The Uncertain Places are probably more what you're after.

Gene Wolfe - There Are Doors and Castleview.

Patricia McKillip generally writes high fantasy but does the occasional crossover like Solstice Wood.

Terri Windling's The Wood Wife is southwestern desert rather than the Rockies but not too far off.

He has written far too many for me to go into here, but Charles de Lint is pretty much synonymous with urban fantasy.

And also he is difficult to find in print, but Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories are set in the Appalachians/Smoky Mountains and are imbued with the folklore of the region.

I'd better stop before I just wind up sending you an inventory of my bookshelves...
posted by Athanassiel at 6:21 PM on May 3, 2020 [4 favorites]


If you have not read The Ten Thousand Doors of January, you will be very happy when you do. A little more magical that spiritual. A little difficult at times. A New England aspect.
posted by jessamyn at 6:22 PM on May 3, 2020


Last Call is heavily about tarot but it's not only about tarot and I think is otherwise a good fit.
posted by inkyz at 6:46 PM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


Give Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury a try.
posted by gudrun at 7:01 PM on May 3, 2020


On the European side of things, the Dark Is Rising series (for middle grade), especially The Grey King, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (for adults) both give the experience of a deep dive into folklore, although only The Grey King is actually rooted in a mythology that predates the book. (The magical history in Jonathan Strange feels extremely real and plausible, though; I was chapters in before I realized that one of the central figures was not an actual character from folklore.)
posted by babelfish at 8:09 PM on May 3, 2020 [3 favorites]


You might enjoy the writings of Starhawk. I especially enjoyed Earth Magic which is only available as an audiobook.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:13 PM on May 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


The Foxfire book series also comes to mind.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:15 PM on May 3, 2020


I think you might love Winter's Tale

There's also some really lovely takes on Victorian faerie poetry in Possession
posted by Mchelly at 8:46 PM on May 3, 2020


Tam Lin by Pamela Dean.
War for the Oaks (80s MN) and Territory (Old West) by Emma Bull.
posted by scyllary at 8:49 PM on May 3, 2020


Your community has seasonal rituals, join in them. I'm not from here but I know the seasonal rituals and parties like your friends Beltane celebration and I join in amd also host. These don't have to be religious: berry picking and sharing food in the fall is tradition here and something I look forward to doing with others outdoors in nature.

On the European side of things, the Dark Is Rising series (for middle grade), especially The Grey King, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (for adults) both give the experience of a deep dive into folklore, although only The Grey King is actually rooted in a mythology that predates the book. (The magical history in Jonathan Strange feels extremely real and plausible, though; I was chapters in before I realized that one of the central figures was not an actual character from folklore.)

The framework of mythology in Johnathon Strange absolutes pre dates the book. The Gentleman, or king under the hill, stealing human women and giving gifts is an actual character from gaelic folklore
posted by fshgrl at 10:02 PM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


If you're not familiar with it, the poetry of Robert Frost might scratch some of this itch. It conveys a very strong sense of place -- rural New England -- and operates often at a level of transcendental allegory that elevates the mind in a way that some good poetry has in common with magic. And he's simply as great a poet as North America has produced, so worth checking out for that.

Another American poet who conveys a deep not to say mystical connection to the land is Wendell Berry.
posted by bertran at 1:04 AM on May 4, 2020


I do like my myth grounded in some idea of tradition/a certain sense of place.

Predates magical realism trends, but might fit the bill anyway:

E.M. Forster, The Celestial Omnibus
Kenneth Grahame, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn"-chapter in the Wind in the Willows
Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook's Hill (Kipling for once staying in his lane .... that said, I read that as kid and was quite enthralled, but don't quite dare revisit it, because.... well, Kipling. Your mileage may vary.)
Otfried Preu├čler, Krabat (based on Sorbian folklore)
posted by sohalt at 2:15 AM on May 4, 2020


You might like Tom Cox's fiction and topgraphical writing - here is one piece.
posted by paduasoy at 2:30 AM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


The writings of John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club. Also the writings of Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who Muir was influenced by.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:58 AM on May 4, 2020


The Findhorn Garden
posted by Bron at 6:21 AM on May 4, 2020


I'm not 100% sure this is on point, but maybe John Bellairs The Face in the Frost.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:23 PM on May 4, 2020


Your mention of Little, Big made me think you might really love Chris Adrian. It's hard to succinctly describe his work; he's a pediatric oncologist and a novelist who writes about faeries, monsters, and hospitals. Here's a short story from The New Yorker, it was later expanded into a book called The Great Night.
posted by minervous at 6:07 PM on May 4, 2020


Stonehenge currently has a livestream which is cool!

I find Connie Willis' timetravel novels do this a bit, tho you migth want to avoid Doomsday Book at the moment!

Check out Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy. It is all about finding your own personal mythology and is absolutely beautiful.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:09 AM on May 6, 2020 [1 favorite]


The Gentleman, or king under the hill, stealing human women and giving gifts is an actual character from gaelic folklore

Well sure, but the Raven King isn't! His legend fits in beautifully with elements drawn from real folklore, though, in a way that makes it feel like a centuries-old tradition.
posted by babelfish at 11:29 AM on May 6, 2020


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