Paganism is a religion? Who knew? Apparently bookstores have finally figured it out.
A fantastic article by Elysia over at Llewellyn details the new shift in the Book Industry Standards and Communication (BISAC) coding, which typically dictates where a book is shelved in a bookstore. Pagan books, which have traditionally been shelved with “Body, Mind and Spirit” (alongside astrology, divination, Feng Shui, and UFOs), has been moved* into the Religion section right alongside Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and other, you know, religions. Books strictly on witchcraft which do not contain a religious component will still be shelved with Body, Mind and Spirit.
This makes me happy. There are some people worried that the shelving space we’re granted will shrink, as we’re jumping into waters with much bigger fish–and it might. But with such an incredible shift toward electronic buying anyway, I don’t thinks this is going to seriously impact our sales. Being shelved with the major world religions is a sign of our growing public acceptance. The book industry has declared us a religion. It changes nothing for the millions of us practicing the faith, but I am in the camp that thinks being taken seriously by the rest of the world is a good thing. It is these sorts of small things that help erase prejudice and build a society that is less hostile toward people of minority faiths.
I do want to be clear that I’m not knocking books in the Body, Mind and Spirit category. But the books in this space, like astrology and divination, aren’t religions. They are tools used to achieve something (which is why I agree with non-religious witchcraft remaining behind). Paganism isn’t a tool, it’s a religion (or faith or spiritual path or belief system or whatever term you want to use). It is technically correct that we be placed on the same shelving–and symbolically the same footing–with other faiths.
So far Wicca is the only branch that has its own subheading. The rest of us will be shelved under the generic “Paganism & Neo-Paganism” label. Yes, I know some of us don’t like being labeled under the Pagan umbrella, and I’m sure this will spark up words from some of the virulently opposed. As a Heathen who’s perfectly content to also be labeled Pagan, I have no angst over this. Hey, I’m in a seriously tiny religion; I get that I’m going to have to go with the flow a bit where practical decisions made by businesses are concerned. The important thing to me is that books on Ásatrú now go in the same section as books written about the other many religions of my fellow bookbuyers.
What do you think? Have you seen us in stores under our new shelving yet? I’m excited to go check it out!
* I also noticed that Viking romances are getting their own code. This also makes me unabashedly happy.
+ Featured Image: A bookstore in Bethesda, MD, released to the public domain by photographer Chris Spielmann