Book Chapter, 2009
Kirby, D. “Pulp Fiction and the Revealed Text: a study of the role of the text in the Otherkin Community” Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age ed. Deacy & Arweck. England: Ashgate, 2009
This chapter was also Reprinted in Sects, Cults, and New Religions. Vol. 3. Routledge, 2014
The search for the sacred within the secular is not a new process in the modern world. Since the advent of theories of secularization, evidence of the opposing trend has been mounting (see Hanegraaff 2000: 301; Introvigne 2004: 981–2; Partridge 2005: 1–2). New Age beliefs (Heelas 1996), contemporary occultism 1(Hanegraaff 1998), Wicca and paganism (Harvey 2006; Hume 1997) are but some of the many movements that have taken an individually driven and eclectic approach to religion and spirituality that has at least a partial premise in the creations of popular culture. The popularization of the Internet has intensified this already existing trend, allowing for the establishment and growth of groups previously unknown, or at least those diffused to the point of non-existence within the public realm (Dawson & Hennebry 1999). The Otherkin, a loosely affiliated virtual community with an alternative metaphysical foundation, is one such group. The unifying feature of the Otherkin community is a shared belief in non-human, often fantastic or mythological, souls and selves. Their beliefs are heavily constituted in relation to popular culture texts of all media(books, films, TV, comics, etc.) and the community holds a variety of approaches to the personal spiritual meaning of these narratives. This group, among others, demonstrates a range of beliefs that use fiction in a variety of ways: from the adoption of a code of behaviour, the evocative illustration of a worldview to the content of belief. While the actual integration of beliefs is extremely individual for participants, they all share a common factor: the conscious integration of explicitly fictional narrative into a sacred or spiritual context. This chapter seeks to explore the spectrum of approaches to the text by viewing four separate groups which are located in a broadly similar position within the cultic milieu (Campbell 1972: 122–4): Jediism, Paganism, the Church of All Worlds and the Otherkin. Particular attention will be paid to the latter, the Otherkin, as an example of the most deviant position with regard to a general understanding of spiritual relationships to texts. It is argued that the relationship of text to participant is not only of central importance in certain alternative spiritualities, but that it can in some ways provide a clearer view of the metaphysical assertions and related practices within a community that leaves practical manifestations of belief entirely up to the participant.