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Why no Tolkien cults?


Feb 10 2013, 6:47pm

Post #1 of 22 (842 views)
Why no Tolkien cults? Can't Post

1. I am not advocating for a Tolkien cult.
2. I do not wish to create or join a cult.
3. This has nothing to do with JRR Tolkien's own religious beliefs.

My question if purely out of curiosity. There are many cults or spiritual/lifestyle movements that are created with much less material than Tolkien offers. One that comes to mind is Rastafaris, but there are plenty of others. Tolkien provided would-be cultists a highly detailed world with a long history and numerous races and individuals that could be venerated. Druid cults could claim Yavanna as one of their own, astrological cults could claim Varda as theirs, and she even comes with her own sacred verses. There could be a lifestyle movement espousing the norms of Bombadil and/or hobbits. Or Elves. It's an endless list.

There probably are Tolkien cults out there, but they are not high-profile or google-able, and I'd think all the attention in the last decade on the movies would both spawn cults and draw media attention to them.

Repeat: I'm not advocating cult worship. But can anyone explain why it it's not proliferating?

Tol Eressea

Feb 10 2013, 7:18pm

Post #2 of 22 (578 views)
If anyone were to start any such thing - [In reply to] Can't Post

- I for one would run a mile!

Tol Eressea

Feb 10 2013, 7:37pm

Post #3 of 22 (563 views)
maybe because Tolkien fans [In reply to] Can't Post

are sane, rational individuals? CoolWink

And maybe bc there are existing religions or cults that an Eru- or Vala-based belief system might resemble (paganism and neopaganism, especially of Celt or Norse based systems, Wiccanism). Contrast that with, say, Scientology, which I'm no expert on, but from the little I've heard seems vastly different from anything that preexisted.

Disclaimer: I mean no offense to any Scientologists, or for that matter, any pagans, neopagans, or Wicca(e?).

A bag is like a hole that you can carry with you.



Feb 10 2013, 7:40pm

Post #4 of 22 (558 views)
How much material does Tolkien offer? [In reply to] Can't Post

 I don't know much about cults in any case, but I suspect the biggest problem with forming a Tolkien cult is that he himself would have been appalled by the idea, and consciously wrote his stories so as not to enable one.

But even if one disregards Tolkien and looks in the legendarium for inspiration, I'm not sure I agree that Tolkien's works provide sufficient material for a cult. It's not about word count. I'd suggest that a cult requires texts that purposefully outline a worshipful belief system. The belief system in Tolkien's works is very weakly presented, by his own intention; his worlds have no organized religion or theology, merely an implicit code of morality that parallels that of Christianity.

Rastafari, by counter-example, actually does have an extensive set of texts that contain both ideological and theological justifications for its worldview, and these works also set out prescriptions for belief and behavior that can be followed by its adherents.

It's an interesting question, in that some observers do not care to distinguish between a fantasy author's fan base and an actual cult of behavior and belief.

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Feb 10 2013, 10:01pm

Post #5 of 22 (537 views)
Guyana [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think cults ask for permission; they tend to hijack things. Guyana comes to mind. Jim Jones claimed to be Christian and built a "Christian" church around himself with no sanction from that religion, so comparatively, it wouldn't matter what Tolkien thought of the idea. There are present-day Druids who have invented a lot to fill in what they don't know about ancient Druids, so you don't really need that much to start a cult, just a nice outline and inspiration. Tolkien offers that.

There is religion in his works. The Silmarillion has a nice divine hierarchy and creation story which has parallels to Christianity but isn't the same, Narnia-style. In Numenor, Men worshiped Eru and built a temple to him; look what happened when they stopped worshiping. Other Men worshiped Sauron.

The nature themes in Tolkien are powerful and backed up by divinities. Look at the mystical hold the Sea has on Tolkien's characters, and how Ulmo is everywhere and a friend to the Elves in Middle-earth, interceding on their behalf with the Valar. He would make a sympathetic cult of worship. I've already brought up Varda and Yavanna. A nature cult wouldn't need organized religion to justify itself and could pattern itself after Yavanna, the Two Trees ("Let's make sacrifices to bring them back"), the Ents, and all the lessons in the books about how bad industrialism is for nature.

I don't think that a cult would derive from a fan base. It seems a lot of cults have only a superficial knowledge of something. Remember the Heaven's Gate one? They knew (along with everyone else) that a comet was coming and attached all kinds of stories and significance to it. They weren't astronomers or specialists of any kind. I think cultists look for the closest peg to hang their hat on.


Feb 10 2013, 10:03pm

Post #6 of 22 (509 views)
I would run away too!/ [In reply to] Can't Post



Feb 10 2013, 10:33pm

Post #7 of 22 (524 views)
I would too [In reply to] Can't Post

especially as Tolkien was very clear in his letters that the cosmology he invented could not under any circumstances violate his belief in the Triune God of Christianity.

On the other hand there are several hundred thousand people worldwide who subscribe to the Jedi religion.


Feb 10 2013, 11:08pm

Post #8 of 22 (529 views)
Except for us, you mean? [In reply to] Can't Post

Folks who re-read LotR every year? Who celebrate Bilbo's birthday and March 25? Who learn Elvish and go to the movies in costume (as mentioned in the thread just above this one)? Who spend hours every week in Tolkien web sites?

Ok, we don't take it all that seriously, and (as squire points out) there isn't really much of a belief system outlined in the books. I also think a major point is the lack, not only of dogma, but of any kind of ritual system or practice. Faramir's "facing West" custom is about all there is, and it's hard to base much of a cult on that.


Feb 10 2013, 11:47pm

Post #9 of 22 (490 views)
*snigger* I was thinking the same thing ;) // [In reply to] Can't Post


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Feb 11 2013, 12:03am

Post #10 of 22 (501 views)
I think you are right [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien fans are sane, rational individuals. I took a psychology class in high school, and I found out that most cults are started by pyschopaths or sociopaths who are looking to get a number of people killed simultaneously. It's really scary.


Feb 11 2013, 12:47am

Post #11 of 22 (506 views)
Probably because [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien didn't set out to create some sort of quasi-religion, or a structure that. In fact, he had no agenda at all. Most cults (loose definition here) have some kind of agenda.

A cult around creating mythology and languages would not really fit the definition of a cult anyway.


Feb 11 2013, 1:15am

Post #12 of 22 (494 views)
News to me, but that's my point [In reply to] Can't Post

Are there that many Valar-worshipers or Ent-worshipers out there? Elizabeth makes a good point that LOTR has just about no rituals in it to copy, but wow, how does someone come up with a "Jedi religion" with little more than "may The Force be with you" to go on? They take something very minor and have a big run at it. Are there Ring Cults, maybe? I could envision that pretty easily, since the One Ring is magical and mysterious and has stuff written on it that you can't read--as mysterious as The Force. People could wear the One and the other Rings of Power and chant and feel magical and who knows what else.

I suppose if a bunch of chanting Ring-wearers show up on my doorstep tonight, I'll have my answer. And I'll run away!

But I think there's a difference between dressing up as an Elf and really believing there are Elves, and you commune with them, and they're bringing about the Final Judgment or whatever. There's fun and then there's misperception of reality.


Feb 11 2013, 1:38am

Post #13 of 22 (473 views)
Well, "fan" is short for "fanatic" :) // [In reply to] Can't Post



Feb 11 2013, 4:28pm

Post #14 of 22 (450 views)
Yeah [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been to those conventions...the fantasy genre is a cult, for sure.


Feb 12 2013, 7:33pm

Post #15 of 22 (432 views)
What of our entertaining friend Noel Q.? [In reply to] Can't Post

Doesn't he count?

 leniel Tindome

Feb 13 2013, 8:19am

Post #16 of 22 (417 views)
For many "outsiders" [In reply to] Can't Post

I spoke to it already is a cult or alternative religion. They look at us fans like they look at cult-followers, but of course not too serious.

Also there was some kind of Tolkien-cult in the 70ties.

(This post was edited by  leniel Tindome on Feb 13 2013, 8:20am)


Feb 13 2013, 3:48pm

Post #17 of 22 (418 views)
Just an FYI... [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
Also there was some kind of Tolkien-cult in the 70ties.

Seventy = 70

so that

seventies = 70s.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Feb 13 2013, 8:20pm

Post #18 of 22 (382 views)
Haha, I think he does, now that I re-read his posts. Maybe he'll speak up and set me right.// [In reply to] Can't Post



Feb 13 2013, 9:07pm

Post #19 of 22 (384 views)
Honestly, I don't know [In reply to] Can't Post

Except that many Tolkien readers (myself included) have been led through his writings not to worship his sub-Creation, but to worship the Creator who inspired him. Perhaps it's the firm but subtle Christian underpinnings that lead someone seeking spirituality beyond the fiction?

Because as someone pointed out, there's more to go on in Tolkien than in Star Wars, but Jedi is an "official" religion. I suppose otherwise we've been lucky (as "luck" or "chance" is defined in Middle-earth). Wink

(This post was edited by dreamflower on Feb 13 2013, 9:08pm)


Feb 14 2013, 2:04am

Post #20 of 22 (376 views)
Narnia? [In reply to] Can't Post

Good points. And now you have me wondering if there are Narnia cults out there? Since Narnia so heavily overlaps Christianity, it seems like it would be hard to have a Narnia cult without being a Christian, unless one took it absolutely literally and said Jesus was a fraud, that real truth only comes from a talking lion who was killed by a winter witch.


Feb 14 2013, 12:45pm

Post #21 of 22 (370 views)
Is there some kinda Tolkien cult in Russia? [In reply to] Can't Post

They read into Tolkien's work what they wanted and translated it themselves so there are a fair number of different versions floating around i think.

Then someone made The Silmarillion but from Morgoth's point of view and i read somewhere that a very small number of people there think it really is true?

Fredeghar Wayfarer

Feb 15 2013, 10:51am

Post #22 of 22 (436 views)
I was thinking of us too [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien did refer to the more obsessive fans as his "deplorable cultus."


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