Vaginal Fantasy Book Club discussion

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2012 Archives > Jun 2012: Religion and the 13 Houses

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message 1: by Andy (new)

Andy Dainty (kosmopolite) Hi, all. I'm up to chapter four, and the religion of the text fascinates me. Grandchild of the Christian god and the archangel who invented courtesanship. I absolutely love texts that play with existing mythology.

I was curious about how other people might like it. I'm an atheist, so the inclusion of Jesus affects me as much as the inclusion of Thor or Zeus, that said, was anyone offended by the summer school class in the early chapters?


message 2: by Nicole (new)

Nicole As a practicing Catholic, I actually enjoy the mythology that this story conjures up. I am also a historian and love seeing how the different cultures of the area were changed slightly to give you an idea of who they were talking about. I told a friend of mine about the book and she found it rather disturbing, in her own beliefs, but I respect her for that.

As I said, for myself, I enjoy it, I am able to suspend my belief system, like I do with physics when I read scifi novels or watch those movies. It is a story, and for me that is all that matters.


message 3: by AnnaBanana (new)

AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments I was raised catholic, and have chosen different paths in my faith recently. When I first read these books, I was very firmly Christian. I thought that it was actually done pretty respectfully towards Christianity, since the books assume that it is the truth, and branch off from there. I loved the imagery and I thought it was interesting how in certain parts the One God was shown to be angry, jealous and holding grudges. It is a fairly realistic representation.


message 4: by Renee (new)

Renee | 17 comments To be honest, it would ruin something about the series for me if I thought of it as based on Christianity. I prefer to imagine that the religion is fully fantasy-based. Otherwise, the world being built on an assumption that those stories are true would make the book come off as preachy and ruin my enjoyment of it.


message 5: by AnnaBanana (new)

AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments Renee wrote: "To be honest, it would ruin something about the series for me if I thought of it as based on Christianity. I prefer to imagine that the religion is fully fantasy-based. Otherwise, the world being built on an assumption that those stories are true would make the book come off as preachy and ruin my enjoyment of it"

But in the novel, they ARE true. In order to read any fantasy novel, you have to suspend disbelief. To imagine that it was a different religion would be like pretending the story wasn't based on real world geography. It IS based on a real world religion. Just apparently not yours.

And actually, the description of the One God is the opposite of preachy, since he is described differently in the book than the real world religion would like you to believe is true. The parts with the story of Yeshua and Magdalene are pretty matter of fact and only have a bearing on that story because of Elua's birth. When I described it above as a "realistic representation," I meant more of what I believe in my mind rather than what is preached by Christianity. (I feel like there should be a word like prought instead of preached. It offends my sensibilities.) Which is actually why I turned away from the faith in which I was raised.

I'm not trying to be deliberately argumentative (honestly!) I just don't understand the different between not believing something is true in real life and not believing something is true in a fantasy novel. If you don't believe that it is true, then it is all just fiction, right? Does that make sense? (It's late, and I am not sure it does lol)


message 6: by Renee (new)

Renee | 17 comments Well, in my opinion it is all just fiction. I accept that this is a fantasy world and that the world and religion exists in the way that the author intends it to, but I don't connect it to any real world beliefs.

Perhaps I haven't explained myself very well. For example, you mention that the geography has ties to real world geography. I agree. However, I would not use this book to gain insight into European geography and history. While it might be based on similar themes, it is entirely fantasy as it exists in the book. I would not take a parallel from Kushiel's Dart and apply it to a history class any more than I would look for spiritual meaning in a fantasy novel, real world or otherwise.


message 7: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 89 comments Really, it's not based on any sort of Christianity anyone is likely to recognize, unless you have a thing for obscure Gnostic sects. The folk of Terre d'Ange don't look to the Jesus-figure as being the Messiah or the Son of God or the one whose death redeemed humanity from sin. They don't even particularly revere their Jesus, despite their ready acceptance of his divinity. All their religious devotion is directed towards Elua and the angels who left Heaven to follow him. D'angelines don't really believe in sin or redemption they way Christians do. They just want to live a good life, full of love, and let what happens afterwards happen.

I don't think this is intended to be an alternate history of any kind. I think it's just a re-imagining of medieval Europe.


message 8: by Emily (new)

Emily | 6 comments I'm pretty unreligious so I found the building of the lore and religion enjoyable. It fleshed the world out well and made it seem more real. The intertwining of religion and culture fascinates me and it's interesting to see cultures that we are slightly familiar with given a different look with this alternate reality kind of deal.

I think the way this book was written in respect to religion allows it to present an alternate world and religion in a way that is more likely to be inoffensive. I was raised uber-religious and even back then can't imagine myself getting offended at the lore of the book.

I personally love the idea of Elua. A god whose main edict is "Love as thou wilt" ? I like it. As for how the book intertwines religion and sex, I think it was done skillfully. I like the idea of their society although it does have its problems (as the trilogy shows).


message 9: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyrichmer) Completely agree, Emily. Elua seems awesome. Like a smiling, barefoot, hippie Jesus. In a good way. :)

I'm a sworn skeptic, but I like reading about different religious beliefs, especially in fantasy. Carey's religion is very fleshed out and intricate--even more so in the next two books of the trilogy. She's definitely done her research.


message 10: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Emily wrote: "A god whose main edict is "Love as thou wilt" ?"

Every time I read this I wonder how much Carey is drawing from Aleister Crowley's writings: "Love is the law; love under will. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" (hopefully I haven't mangled that too badly, it's been a while!). The first part of that is often missed out.


message 11: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 89 comments @ Caroline: Switch the two sentences around, but otherwise, yer correct :).

There's a *little* bit of Crowley's influence, especially when the story gets mystical in later books. Mostly, though, I think Carey incorporated a bunch of influences from wherever she got inspiration. She could also have taken 'love as thou wilt' from the Wiccan Rede, which is 'An it harm none, do as thou wilt.'


message 12: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Rachel wrote: "@ Caroline: Switch the two sentences around, but otherwise, yer correct :)."

Jolly good. It's been ten years or more! And yes, agreed on the Wiccan Rede also. I bet you can find an equivalent in most philosophies.


message 13: by Vicky (new)

Vicky (librovert) | 493 comments Mod
I really enjoy reading works where the author takes an existing mythology and makes it their own in a way that's convincing. I think Carey has done that very well with this book - and I'm only about 10 chapters in!

One of my favorite things was the mention that the Midwinter Masque was a celebration adopted by Elua. There are so many traditions within the Christian holidays that have been taken from earlier pagan celebrations, so that was a small bit I found really interesting in her world building.


message 14: by Chad (new)

Chad | 8 comments Do you think the author used the name Yeshua, jesus's Jewish name instead of jesus... assuming anyone who got the reference would know enough about religions not to get offended ??

Also there are no female angels in the bible that i can recall.

reference Im Ignostic (not agnostic) not trying to pick and fight just trying to chat about this.


message 15: by Andy (new)

Andy Dainty (kosmopolite) Well, everything relating to history as we know it had its name changed, and I think that using Yesua rather than Jesus was part of that. I think it was still obvious, though. History isn't littered with crucified demi-gods with friends called Magdalene.


message 16: by Heather (new)

Heather | 17 comments My take on the Yeshua thing is that in the story arc, the majority of his contemporary Jewish people accepted Jesus as Messiah, gentiles did not convert to Christianity in large numbers but rather kept their "pagan" religions, and the Yeshuites kept the traditional Jewish practices (sidelocks, etc).

My background is Evangelical so I'm not very familiar with books outside the mainstream Protestant cannon, so I just figured some of the stuff covered is from books considered apocryphal by those of my background and perhaps traditional lore I'm not familiar with along with the author's own ideas.

I like religion and myth and found the alternate religious history interesting and enjoyable.


message 17: by Vicky (new)

Vicky (librovert) | 493 comments Mod
Chad wrote: "Do you think the author used the name Yeshua, jesus's Jewish name instead of jesus... assuming anyone who got the reference would know enough about religions not to get offended??"

I don't think she was worried about people being offended, I think it was more about his name fitting in. If you look at the other character's names, most of them have a bit of lyrical exoticism about them - Suriah, Phedre, Alcuin, Anafiel, Melisande, Elua - they all roll off the tongue, they're all beautiful names. Jesus, as a name, seems harsher and doesn't seem to fit into the convention.

I also think that using a lesser known but still recognizable name for Jesus to provide us with the connection between the religions and still feel like we're in a completely different world. In other words, it allows us to see the roots of what we know as Judaism and Christianity and understand the connections between those religions and that of Terre D'Anga without being so obviously in your face that it feels preachy and pulls you out of the world she's trying to create.


message 18: by Caitlin (new)

Caitlin Rachel wrote: "I don't think this is intended to be an alternate history of any kind. I think it's just a re-imagining of medieval Europe. "

I think alternate history = re-imagining.


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