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Follow Me: Religion in SFF - Elyse Welles

Pre-orders are now open for Luna's latest Call for Papers! Follow Me: Religion in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Pre-order yours here! Ebook also available on the usual retailers' sites.

Our Award Winning series, welcomes essays from academics, independent researchers, fans and creative writers, appealing to both the casual reader and a more research-oriented one. We consider this cross-disciplinary collaboration a strength, and the beginning of many more journeys.

The book will be released on the 20th of June, so we have plenty of time to introduce you to our contributors.

Today we'll introduce you to Elyse Welles - USA - presenting the paper, Neo-Pagans & the Ainur Pantheon.


In this paper, I discuss the major texts of Tolkien’s legendarium: The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, and why these texts are seen as sacred texts by a large following of neo-pagans today. I purport that neo-pagan readers love and trust Tolkien, the

narrators, and the characters so much that they don’t want it to be fantasy—and Tolkien’s attention to detail makes it so believable it allows them to use his fantasy religion within the construct of existing pagan beliefs.

I analyse Tolkien’s background as a philologist and academic studying ancient myths, and how that enabled him to create a believable mythos and religious structure. I discuss his use of language, his writing style, and overarching narrative framework, and how the depth of his world-building in creating languages, cultures, and deep histories for his characters makes his works exceedingly believable, especially to the average reader, who is unaware of the texts or languages Tolkien was inspired by.

After viewing the perspectives that make Tolkien’s books believable enough to work with as a religious framework, I explore the ways that Tolkien’s created mythos easily overlays existing neo-pagan belief systems. For a modern pagan practising ritualistic worship, pantheons, and individual archetypes of gods and goddesses are interchangeable, making it easy for neo-pagans to include the Ainur pantheon in their path. The core beliefs of paganism are prevalent themes in the major texts, as well, aligning Tolkien’s work with their belief system. I list some existing groups and organisations practising neo-pagan-informed Tolkien spirituality, and conclude by reminding readers that while Tolkien did not intend to create a new religion, there is a valid and significant use of his works in neopaganism, and it is accepted by the broader neo-pagan movement.

About the Author:

Elyse Welles studied abroad at Oxford University specialising in Tolkien studies, and was chosen as Millersville University’s Outstanding English Major in 2017, although

this is her first piece of published Tolkien scholarship. Selected as a ‘Best Poet of 2022’ by Free Verse Revolution, she is a regular contributor of poetry and nonfiction articles for The Wild Hunt News, Witch Way Magazine, Sunflower Journal, Metaphysical Times, Full Moon Magazine, and has appeared in Yellow Arrow Journal and Gypsophila Magazine, among others. Her debut novel, Witch on the Juniata River, is forthcoming from Running Wild Press in 2024. She also cohosts the Magick Kitchen Podcast, and is the creator of Seeking Numina, a community-led shop featuring products and events from sacred places around the world. Elyse shares her time between Greece and Pennsylvania, traveling often to spiritual places — from natural wonders to ancient temples. Read her works at

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