When I first started this blog, a way I connected with bloggers was to ask a number to guest writer for the site. What came out of that idea were the Aniblogger Testimonies, unique posts where bloggers wrote about the intersection of anime and their beliefs
While the active phase of this project is over, I’m also eager to add to the series. Today, a frequent commenter on the site and a friend of mine, Sweetpea, is giving her testimony.
Sweetpea is a terrific reviewer. I recommend you visit her anime/manga blogs, Paper Chimes and Going in Blindly. Additionally, she recently started a blog about her beliefs, Pagan by the Book. Sweetpea is also a reviewer for Organization Anti-Social Geniuses.
I’m a minority in a minority – a Pagan anime fan. Paganism can mean any non-Abrahamic religion, but I’m Pagan as most Westerners imagine it: I worship gods and godesses like Athena and Brigid, I believe I can talk to spirits, and I celebrate Haloween like the day after will never come. However, I don’t wear a lot of black, I don’t own a pet (let alone a cat!), and I don’t dance around naked or cast curses on people. There are a lot of stereotypes out there that mean that even if I come across people that are open to my religion, they still have a lot of misunderstandings and Hollywood-influenced beliefs about it, which can make life both interesting and hilarious as I try to dispel some of the most hilarious and out-there myths.
Technically, my family is Christian, but I wasn’t raised it. My mother was too exhausted, and depended on my aunt to help. My aunt’s religion is a mix between Judaism and Native American beliefs, and my mom had no problem with her teaching us what she knew, since she either believed in it or felt they were compatible with her own beliefs. It was an irregular religious upbringing, but I wasn’t exactly popular to begin with. Being on the fringe socially meant that I was able to make friends who had similar interests, and introduced me to anime.
I came into anime screaming and kicking. I thought it was all kid’s shows and harems because of the shows one of my friends tried to convince me to watch. But when I accidentally downloaded Baccano!, my opinion was changed forever. It got me hooked and looking for more.
Over the last few years, I’ve found shows that really resonate with me because of the messages they have or how they tell their stories. While I don’t normally watch with a ‘Pagan filter’, sometimes it’s impossible for an anime to not speak to me. Mushishi was the first one that really resonated with how I view the world. It is so close to things that I believe about spirits and spirituality that I can’t help but feel emotionally gutted after each episode.
Then came the manga of Natsume’s Book of Friends. I empathize with Natsume on many levels, because I had a very lonely childhood (not religion-related, but lonely nonetheless) and often I feel isolated because of my faith. There was a time in my teens when I had realized what my faith was but I had no one to talk to about it – it was before I had discovered the magic of internet forums. And even after this, it’s not the same as having people in real life. Natsume spoke to me because even after he finds friends with spirits, they aren’t the same as being friends with real people. Like Natsume, though, they gave me the courage to approach others in real life and make friends. I’ve even discovered a Pagan club on campus, which really made me feel welcome – I found a bunch of friends.
Manga and anime are the big things that I’m able to find spirituality in since it’s from a country that is Pagan. It isn’t my path, but the melting-pot of influences mean that there are things that resonate, more than with the vast majority of Western literature. It helps remind me of the things that I believe, and sometimes gives me new beliefs to ruminate over. And the occasional joy I feel when I really connect spiritually with an anime makes it all the more awesome.