Incorporating Spirituality in Writing

Who doesn’t love a little spiritual twist to a story? A little Norse paganism here, a little Christian lore there, maybe throw in a hint of some Celtic druid history. I for one love seeing hints of religion and mythology in the books I read and the stories I write. But here’s the thing; you have to do it right. If you don’t want to do it right or don’t have the dedication to do it right, don’t do it at all.

To begin, do your research. Don’t fear it, love it. Worship it. Delve into the depths of every piece of lore you can get your hands on. Letters, books, poems, songs, folklore, other people’s research. Commit. Catalog it all so you can refer back to it. It’s going to take time. Tolkien spent many years consuming information on various religions to write Lord of the Rings. If you don’t want to spend the time doing the research, however long it might take, then don’t bother writing the story with religious elements in it.

Next, interview people. Talk to people who are actively involved in your subject. For example, you want to write a story about witches? Talk to a witch. Yes, they exist (you’re currently reading a blog post written by one and I’m more than happy to discuss my beliefs). Ask them about every aspect of their beliefs. Do they worship a god? Many gods? None? How do their spells work? What tools do they use? By the way, don’t scoff at their beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they may seem to you. How rude.

Anyway, after you talk to that witch, go find another one to talk to. And another one after that. Everyone is going to have a different interpretation. I have a different version of witchcraft and paganism than a Wiccan or a secular witch or a druid. Same goes for Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Native American spirituality, etc. Don’t follow just one line of a religion either. There exists an incredible amount of variety just in Christianity. Same goes for polytheism. And realize that there is an incredible amount of overlap as well (take Hellenistic polytheism and Roman polytheism for instance, or Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).

Onto my final point. Respect the religion you’re writing. Avoid stereotypes, assumptions, and misconceptions. If I have to read one more story where the dark-skinned female is an evil hoodoo witch who worships the Devil (I’ve yet to meet an evil hoodoo witch, by the way… Supernatural lied to me) or a racist interpretation of Islam who talks like Achmed the Dead Terrorist, I’m going to take that book, throw it in a dumpster, and light that sucker on fire, smiling with an enormous amount of satisfaction. Don’t use degradation in your work, it’s reprehensible.

Those are just a few harsh tips I can give you. There is much, much more advice out there, probably a bit more in depth than I can offer, but I hope this can help you in the wonderful, exhausting, tedious journey of writing a successful story.