I am pleased beyond words to have fellow urban fantasy author Amanda Bonilla on the blog today — and to be a part of celebrating her second novel, Darkness Before Dawn, which released this month. Amanda and I met last year on Twitter as debut authors, and she’s another of the very special people who make me so glad that I took the Twitter plunge. She lives in rural Idaho with her husband and two kids, defines herself as a part-time pet wrangler and a full-time sun worshipper, and says she only goes out into the cold when coerced. She loves the outdoors, black clothes and pink appliances, and thinks junk food should be a recognized food group. In the summer, she can be found sitting by the lake, enjoying the view from her dock. Her guest post today is on the topic of rituals and urban fantasy…enjoy! 🙂
Rituals and Urban Fantasy
Thanks so much to Linda for inviting me to post on her blog today!
I’m fascinated with ritual. Maybe it’s because I’m a little OCD, or maybe it’s because it seems like as a society ritual doesn’t play a part in our daily lives anymore. People now tend to compartmentalize: religion, work, home life, social life… a place for everything and everything in its place. The pace at which the world moves is faster now. Time is a precious commodity, our supplies too short to waste a single second. Rather than take the time to plan a wedding, some choose to elope. And my grandparents, for example, weren’t much for ceremony or ritual. In their wills, they requested they be cremated with no funeral, no celebration of life, nothing. My practical grandparents thought the idea of a funeral was simply frivolous.
As an urban fantasy writer, I get to explore the intricacies of ritual and ceremony. There is meaning in ritual. It connects us to something bigger than ourselves. It allows me, as a writer, to experience the reverence of ritual through my characters and their traditions. It’s not hard to conceive of characters who would celebrate old religions and even older customs when dealing with the fantasy genre. I write about creatures that are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years old. And, as most of us keep with the family traditions and rituals we celebrated as kids well into adulthood, it’s safe to assume that a character that is 400 years old would do the same.
But ritual isn’t something as simple as tying your shoe the exact same way, every time you put it on. Nor is it simply the act of serving a certain kind of stuffing every single Thanksgiving for your entire life. I’m talking about rituals as a sacred act. Reverent. And sometimes religious in nature. Fantasy writers use rituals to crank up the tension in a scene, to bring the drama to its zenith. To show the reader just how important this act is to the character or characters performing it.
Since fantasy writers often depict inhuman creatures, the rituals that we devise for them can be as elaborate or low-key as we want. In the Shaede Assassin series, the Lyhtans live pretty solitary lives. They’re just too ugly to walk around in the light of day, and they hunt at night, under the cover of darkness. They don’t often live in groups or communities. And so, their deaths are treated without fanfare. When they die, their bodies just sort of shimmer out of existence. And since they have no sense of community, not one of them would spare a passing thought for another’s death. The Shaedes and Fae, on the other hand, are very community oriented. Their histories are elaborate, and again, these are creatures that live for thousands of years. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine them performing elaborate funeral rites, or celebrating a marriage or birth with a week of feasts, dancing, and revelry.
I wonder how society today would benefit from taking more time to celebrate things like life, death, birth, or the seasons with more than just a nod of acknowledgment. What if we ushered in Spring with a week of feasts and parties? And what about winter? Would it bring communities together if we spent a few days mourning the death of the land and prepared for the quiet, hungry months of winter? Would we appreciate our lives more if Halloween wasn’t just about selling costumes and candy, but rather, a day to remember the people who have passed on as we leave gift for them in the hopes that their spirits come to visit?
How do you feel about rituals? Do you think it’s a notion best left to fantasy, or is something that society should embrace? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Be sure to follow Amanda on her Darkness Before Dawn blog tour!