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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stamps Commemorate Harry Potter and Fantasy Literature; Neo-myth; Mythological Species of Humanoids # 19 - Veelas

(I've been waiting to write about this for a while, but spring sensitive posts have taken precedent.)

I was impressed by the recent Postal Stamp Catalog.

 [We have a postal worker in the family and find ordering books of stamps more fun than getting them from standing in line at the post office or from a machine.] I find the art on some stamps truly beautiful. I was intrigued to see Harry Potter stamps being offered by the US Postal Service.
Like so many others, I thoroughly enjoyed the J.K. Rowling's books; though I feel the series peaked at book three and slowly declined from there and book seven was actually a disappointment. Admittedly endings are hard to do, but I wonder if she didn't run out of plot material and was stretching things to get to seven books for the contract.

My opinion of Rowling's plot longevity aside, Fantasy Literature has come into it's own if Potter makes it to US postage stamp status! How did that happen? I would have preferred other examples of Fantasy series over Potter, like Middle Earth, or Narnia for instance, but I'll take what I can get. It's nice to see recognition of the neo-myth makers.


I call Fantasy Literature neo-myths because of how it functions in our society: giving people common stories that fire up the imagination to use in discussing principles and ideals. Don't get me wrong, I love religions beyond a doubt, their variety is beautiful, their guidance indispensable, but I don't love the degree of sectarianism.

In a pluralistic society, like the U.S., Fantasy Literature often gives modern people a common story base to discuss religious ideas with less sectarian-centric bombs exploding into the conversation. Now humans are humans, so slams on other people's favorite authors and worlds still happen, but they are less divisive. Who cares if you don't like my favorite author? But don't tell me you don't like my church or what it teaches.

Interestingly, I wrote the rough draft of this post on Friday, but Sunday's homily gave me a useful word for this discussion: co-inherence. This word was coined by the Christian writer Charles Williams, a fellow Inkling with J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. Williams taught that we are all intricately connected, that we inhere one another. Our pastor summed this idea up as: what unites us is much larger than what divides us. [I love hearing homilies from someone not only well versed in neo-myth, but also in the ideas that inspire the neo-myth makers.]

Unfortunately, the business and finances of religion often creeps into their messages. One must keep one's eyes open about what one is hearing (Mixed metaphor, sorry.) from the mouths and pens of religious leaders. Maybe, I'm naive, maybe religions have been this way since the dawn of time, but sectarian-centric messages are only sometimes helpful and usually lack humility and understanding of fellow sects and religions.

Also, in Fantasy Literature, unlike religion, the need to make converts is less pressing. The publishing houses take care of the business of selling books, it's not the job of the readers. [Though self publishing practices may be changing that.]

There are still conservative versus liberal debates, especially once movies come out (purists will be purists), but again, people aren't vested in other's opinions. Ideas and opinions can be freely shared. Fans of Fantasy Literature use much less “us and them” language than religions do. Though such language is used to unite groups that actually have to work together to accomplish things, as religious groups do, and Fantasy fans don't, but encourages exclusion rather than inclusion. A delicate balance must be maintained between “us” who work together to accomplish a goal and “them” who are invited to join “us.” Invitation and exclusion, rejection or condemnation usually have polar opposite results.

Now, I freely admit that the topics discussed by Fantasy fans are frequently less vital to people's lives: the uses of invisibility and how to best destroy dangerous magical items,etc., but the practice of not being offended by other's differences is really good for our modern world.

Mythological Species of Humanoids # 17- Veelas

In honor of Potter's success, I will discuss Veelas. I had not heard of them until J.K. Rowling introduced them in book 4, The Goblet of Fire, when Fleur Delacour, a human who is a quarter Veela, visits Hogwarts from the French school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Beauxbaton as their Triwizard Tournament champion.

These creatures, also spelled, villa, willa, and vila among others ways, are women with bewitching voices and dances that entrap men. They live in the woods and wilds and usually have long blond hair that has magical properties. They sometimes have control over winds and storms, and when angry can transform into wolves, bears or giant birds. Apparently there are no male Veelas, but they do interbreed with humans.

The original myths of veelas come from the slavic people of Bulgaria and Croatia. They seem closely related to nymphs, sirens and harpies in actions and to elves in appearance.

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