Saturday, January 19, 2013

REL117000 and REL118000: The Big Move

Over at Llewellyn, Senior Acquisitions Editor for Witchcraft, Wicca, Pagan, and magickal books, Elysia has written a fantastic post on a recent change in the BISAC category codes used to index books by genre. Books on the religious side of Wicca have recently moved from 'Body, Mind, & Spirit / Witchcraft & Wicca' (OCC026000) to 'Religion / Wicca' (REL118000). The BISAC code for 'Body, Mind & Spirit / Spirituality / Paganism & Neo-Paganism' (OCC036020) has also moved into the 'Religion'-section, under 'Religion / Paganism & Neo-Paganism' (REL117000). The code 'Body, Mind, & Spirit / Witchcraft' still exists.

This is huge, people. Especially with that the discussion on 'Pagan vs. Polytheist' raging in the blogosphere, this news has cemented a belief I've held forever. This belief is also the reason I'm staying out of the debate, thank you very much, and it is:

"(Neo-)Paganism is an umbrella term, applied by those inside it, but defined by those outside of it, covering only those paths and religions to whom the following two attributes can be applied: relatively new, and considered 'fringe' by the general population."

Paganism has been around for such an amount of time, the term is no longer new. We've come together and put the label out there. People might still consider us fringe, and they might still think we're a little bit weird, but there is a distinction being made by the BISG, who maintain these codes, and thus by the general population, that we are not New Age. As a whole, we are religious. The term 'Paganism' has been--and I think it always was--defined not by those in it, but by those passing judgement upon it from the outside.

The people over at BISG must also have looked at the current Pagan landscape and thought 'Wicca has become household'. It's no longer new. It might still be fringe, but people know about it and think they know what it's about. It's proved itself to the general population, and as a reward, it gets to move out of the wonderfully murky waters of Paganism and move in with the big boys of Religion as a religion of its own.

I seriously feel this news should be celebrated with a coming of age ceremony.

Read the whole article, please, because Elysia lists a couple of very good points and fears about this move. Next, however, she lists something I wanted to talk a bit about. It concerns the polytheists (in the Pagan vs. Polytheist debate) but it got me thinking:

"In light of the ongoing and recently refreshed division of polytheists who shun the word Pagan*, well… um… hate to tell you all, but there is still no code under Religion or under Body, Mind & Spirit for Polytheism. There is Atheism, Theism, and Deism under the Religion category, but they have no room for polys. Where do polytheists see themselves five years from now?"

Well, there is always 'Religion / General' (REL000000) or 'Religion / Ancient' (REL114000) but, again, this is one of the major reasons I still call myself Pagan: others see me as such. Not what I wanted to discuss, however; I have another request: can we get a 'Religion / Reconstructionism', please? As much as I adore finding the hand full of Hellenistic books out there under 'Religion / General'--where they have always been, I might add, with books on ancient Hellas located at 'History / Ancient / Greece' (HIS002010)--I would love it even more if there was a 'Religion / Reconstructionism', or even a 'Religion / Paganism & Neo-Paganism / Reconstructionism' category for us to develop into. This seems like a realistic five year goal.

As a ten year goal, I'm setting my sights on 'Religion (/ Paganism & Neo-Paganism) (/ Reconstructionism) / Hellenismos). In order to get that to happen, though, we're going to have to churn out a lot more books, and we have to buy them as well. We need to publish at the major (Pagan) publishing houses. Above all, we need to get our religion out there so the non-Hellenist and the non-Pagan knows who we are and what we do. We need to become validated, connected, and synched--in the eyes of the general public, just as much as in our own eyes.

I, for one, and happy for the moves. Those who consider themselves 'spiritual but not religious' might not be. As Elysia writes:

"[P]erhaps we need to take a step back and define whether we [as Pagans] are, in fact, practicing religions vs. practicing spirituality?"

That, my dear readers, might be the crux of that other debate out there, the debate on defining Paganism. The general population sees us as religious, but a good bunch of us do not. If paganism does get torn in the middle, shouldn't that middle be defined by this debate, instead of the 'Pagan vs. Polytheist' one? And if so, who should move out? To stick to the BISAC codes: do we want to move (Neo-)Paganism fully back to the 'Body, Mind, & Spirit'-section and give religious Pagans spaces of their own under 'Wicca', 'Polytheism', 'Reconstructionism' and/or 'Religious Paganism', or keep the 'Paganism & Neo-Paganism'-code for the religious Pagans and create a separate code for the non-religious folk?

Also, isn't that what has already happened with this move? Under 'Body, Mind, & Spirit' are still: Afterlife & Reincarnation, Ancient Mysteries & Controversial Knowledge, Spirit Guides, Astrology, Channeling & Mediumship, Crystals, Divination, Dreams, Entheogens & Visionary Substances, Feng Shui, Gaia & Earth Energies, Healing, Hermetism & Rosicrucianism, I Ching, Inspiration & Personal Growth, Magick Studies, Meditation,  Mysticism, New Thought, Numerology, Occultism, Parapsychology, Prophecy, Sacred Sexuality, Spiritualism, Shamanism, Supernatural, Extraterrestrials, Unexplained Phenomena, and Witchcraft. 'Neo-Paganism & Paganism' has--for all intents and purposes--been removed from this category, although the category is still there; the code has been removed and can thus not be used.

We'll see how this plays out. I'm sure it will provide plenty of fodder for the Pagan debate cannon for a while to come, though. As stated, I am happy for the move, and grateful to Elysia for bringing it to my attention. I doubt much will change in the Pagan community, but it's a nice philosophical change, none the less. How do you feel about it? Will it have ramifications for Paganism in any way, shape or form? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Daphne Lykeion said...

Frankly when I first put out my book on Apollon I couldn't get it published by even small scale pagan publishers. Feeling that Llewellyn was perhaps shooting a bit high, I instead sent it to Immanion Press a few years back hoping to have it published. It passed through the first review and sent on to an editor who rejected it wholesale not due to any problems with the script but because it did not match their line-up (ie they didn't consider a book on the worship of Apollon to be worthwhile). So whereas there are a crap load of other books being published (almost repetitiously in many of said texts) you will find recons and the like forced into self publishing their religious works. It just seems like everything else under this so called pagan umbrella has no issues categorically with getting published by named pagan publishing presses....except us :P

Daphne Lykeion said...

It would of course help if we could get more of our work published by named pagan publishers, but this seems a prospect that is easier said than done....especially considering that many of our books are history heavy and often tend to lack the magicy elements...which are things that pagan publishers know sells. So it kind of puts us in a pickle lol.
I am probably not the only one who has looked at this and said "Well I am not going to pretend and just make stuff up to add to the text to make it more "marketable" among general pagans. It becomes a matter of what you sacrifice...your work and voice....or public exposure of your work.
The slightly sarcastic voice in my head has prodded me that if my book had read 100 rituals and spells to *work with* the power of the god Apollon (or some such) that I probably would have less problems :P LOL!

Elani Temperance said...

Well, I never said it would be easy, did I ;) But you do make a good point, and one that ties into mine: if we--as Recons of all Traditions--don't become more vocal about our religions and wishes, publishers will not find a willing audience in us, and will not publish us because of it. It's a money game, after all.
It's a sad thing that the tomes that come out of the Recon community are often considered boring by the non-recon folk, leading to hesitant publishing houses. You're right in saying that if we added some spells, rituals, or crafting advice, publishing houses would be a lot more willing to take Recon books on.
I'm sorry about your experiences in the publishing world, but at least there is that new *something* that will most certainly get published when you get it written :)

Joseph Bloch said...

Part of the problem, as you point out, is that the big publishers often just don't put out products that recons are going to be interested in.

As a Théodsman, for instance, I want solid, scholarly works on runology, Norse myth and religion, languages, and the like. Fluffy books on "runes for witches" aren't going to have any interest for me.

Books on other reconstructionist faiths will have more or less interest depending on their applicability. I'd probably have much more interest in books on Hellenismos or the Religio Romana, for example, than I would on Khemetic Orthodoxy or Natib Qadish.

Elani Temperance said...

@Joseph Fluffy isn't cutting it for me, either. Like I said, we are 'boring'; we want academic sources and historic accuracy. And yes, even within the Recon community, some Traditions are going to appeal to us more than others. Stepping away from our own Traditions, it largely depends on our focal points which that will be. For Hellenismos, I suspect Religio Romana and Khemiticism will be closest, but for you, that's already different. We're a tough crowd to please ;)

Elysia said...

Working for a publisher, I can say that it's not fluffiness or magic that we're looking for, specifically - it's the audience. Right now there are just wayyyy more eclectic Wiccans than anything else, so that is what we tend to publish the most (and that represents the majority of submissions I get, as well). The recon community is still small, and you add to that the fact that someone into CR probably would not buy a book on Hellenismos, you are basically whittling down the audience to very small groups of people. There are hundreds of thousands of Wiccans, and yet not every Wiccan buys every one of our Wiccan books - we are happy if we sell 5,000! So if you really look at the market for reconstructionist material, you'd probably be lucky to sell 1,000, which is not enough to cover our expenses in publishing the book. It's not that we have anything against "boring" or detailed books.

That said - we do have some good books out now and more coming up that, while not hard reconstructionist per se (these authors do allow for individual variance, UPG, not ruling out everything that is NOT found in the archaeological record) that I would recommend. A good book on the runes and the whole of Saxon magic (not Norse) is Wyrdworking by Alaric Albertsson. Also this year we'll have The Horned Altar coming out by Tess Dawson (that's on Canaanite magic) and later A Practical Heathen's Guide to Asatru by Patricia Lafayllve. I have been trying to get a basic book on Hellenismos for ages, but it doesn't seem to be coming together...

Elani Temperance said...

@Elysia: Well, that's defintely good to read :) And yes, we are aware that it's the audience that guides what gets published. That's why I called for purchasing of the available text.

Thank you for your comment!

Greekgirl said...

I will agree with buying available text, which is usually published by your well known, outside the pagan community, publishing houses. I'm, however, big on Lulu as they will publish books that others won't touch, or think there is no audience for. I'm going with them when I publish.

Elani Temperance said...

@Greekgirl: I think online self-publishing houses are a wonderful tool to at least get the books out there. They don't, however, change the problems with shelve availability for minority books. Still, if I should publish, that would be the medium for me as well.