‘Snapewives’ and ‘Snapeism’: A Fiction-Based Religion within the Harry Potter Fandom
by Zoe Alderton
Points & Quotes:
“In this article, I explore two main features of the religion ‘Snapeism’ . The first feature is its context within fandom and the negative reception it has received from this group of people. The second is the manner in which the Snapists themselves have articulated their faith structures. When considered together, these elements of Snapeism reveal how online, popular culture-based religions are forming and the strong notions of what is ‘properly religious’, which abound both in fandom more broadly and within the Snapist community itself. […]
As this article will demonstrate, Snapeism is usually interpreted as a ludicrous—and therefore invalid—religion. This anxiety towards fiction-based religions and the behaviour of their adherents is based upon a general fear within fandom of being excessively outrageous and pushing the boundaries of ‘good taste’ too far. By policing extreme manifestations of the Harry Potter fandom, other eccentricities can be placed in the more neutral category of ‘ironic’ or ‘playful’, as opposed to ‘insane’.” (220)
“There are a variety of problems inherent in approaching a belief system such as Snapeism through a methodological obsession with veracity. This is a problem found both in fandom and within scholarly projects that seek to find some kind of ‘true’ definition for what religion is and is not. I aim to demonstrate a more objective exploration of Snapeism, exploring the genuine power that a filmic narrative can possess in the imagination, and even religiosity, of a devout fan. It is vital that both scholars of religion and scholars of popular cultural products such as film advocate either the seriousness with which we need to treat any religious viewpoint, or the ludicrous and invented elements of all faith-based systems.” (220)
“The internet has helped the Jedi religion to flourish, and Matrixism to gain an international audience. Fandom adoration of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films also seems to be a contributing factor to a rise in Tolkien-inspired faiths.” (221)
“Even though elements of Snapeism are overtly anti-Christian, … Much is borrowed from the idea of a reciprocal covenant between human and divinity, and the moral codes required are remarkably similar to those of Christianity. As will be explained, Snapeism prohibits homosexuality, limits polygamy, and configures the core divine figure as a jealous god who rewards servility and punishes disobedience. Sexual metaphors for divine unity with Snape are also likely to have come from Christian mystical traditions.” (221)
“This is not, however, an excuse to engage in a discussion of their theological legitimacy or debate the validity of a fictional text as a source of divine inspiration. Rather, it is an exciting opportunity to objectively observe the very particular manner in which fandom employs the religion category as a means of delineating territories of insanity or describing the ecstasy garnered from deep adoration of a narrative and its characters.” (222)
Understanding ‘Snapewives’ and Snapeism & Canon Skepticism
“it seems fairer to describe the wives and their faith as ‘Snapists’ and ‘Snapeism’, as this lacks the misleading and pejorative denotations of ‘Snapewives’, even though it is a retrospective term.
In this article, I will focus on the three main wives: Conchita, Rose, and Tonya . Each of these women has dedicated numerous online journals to their discussions of Snape as a supernatural figure and his role in their lives. They all acknowledge each other as fellow Snape devotees, fandom companions, and spiritual spouses.” (223)
“The idea that Rowling was somehow wrong in her portrayal of Snape or the decisions she made for him is surprisingly common. Because there was a large gap between the publication of books (the largest being from July 2000 to June 2003) and a very active fandom awaiting new material, speculation about the future of almost every character abounded. Each book left many unanswered questions—a major one of these being whether or not Snape was on the side of evil
When his expected rewards did not eventuate, a more extreme wing of fandom began to see Snape as something of an objective reality with Rowling as a flawed scribe who does not ‘own’ him.” (224)
‘Snapewives’ and ‘Snapeism’: A Fiction-Based Religion within the Harry Potter Fandom
“please, Ms. Rowling, stop telling lies about this character, and admit he is a Good Guy”Rattlesnakeroot on Livejournal
“by this logic, Rowling can be viewed as someone who was able to write Snape’s character after being influenced by him— perhaps via some kind of channelling—as opposed to an author who created Snape from her own imagination.” (225)
“A recurrent anxiety within fandom is the conception that long-term fans are more serious, committed, and rational; in opposition to the waves of new fans who are delivered due to increasing pop-culture awareness of a text, the creation of movies, merchandising, et cetera … For example, fans whose enthusiasm for Harry Potter arose from the movies and whose enthusiasm for Snape is derived from their attraction to actor Alan Rickman.” (226)
“I mean, if you’re married to Snape on an astral plane, okay, I’m going to think you’re fucking weird and possibly not want much to do with you, but whatever. I think this of, like, Mormons, to be honest and I live in a city full of them. Have you seen their holy underwear? But people aren’t suggesting we call CPS [Child Protective Services] on Mormons who aren’t the fringe cultists living in compounds and shit, yeah? How is a relationship with Snape so much more damaging? Because it’s not as common, basically. And because it’s fannishness and, we really must be certain to police how people are fannish. Because god knows, we’re already off the charts weird! We can’t be seen as ~crazy~!”quoting Niqaeli, (226)
I BELIEVE THAT SEVERUS SNAPE EXISTS INDEPENDENTLY OF JKR! HE IS A LIVING, FEELING SPIRIT. I BELIEVE ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE AND THAT SEVERUS DOES VISIT THOSE HE CHOOSES TOquoting Tonya (230)
“In regard to her online channelling, Tonya specifies “it is never role play.” She also states that she has no control over Snape or when he might choose to appear. Tonya’s ability to channel has allowed her to introduce new codes of conduct and beliefs into the group. For example, she announces that Snape despises “annoying, giggling fangirls whom think they understand [him] as being a ‘cute fluffy funny’ being.” As Snape, she also makes clear “I only give audience to those women that are strong and able to withstand my fierce temper and do as I say. I coldly ignore those vain, simpering females that hold a thought like a leaky sieve.” (232)
“Rose and Tonya have opted to conduct their marriage with Snape in a very traditional way as concerns power and dominance. Tonya and Rose “know our place. Yes, Severus is the head of our homes and we do defer to him and we OBEY him. We do as we are told and we are most happy for it” . Tonya explains, “I am to behave like a lady and lavish my attentions upon him. Focusing upon him daily, is required (248)
“The physical bodies of these husbands do have benefits. Rose is also able to have sex with Snape via her husband. She proudly explains, “Master would ‘take over’ for my Hubby and have fun ;o) Basically my Hubby would do things in ways that only Master can and could! ;o) :-D” Nevertheless, Snape only uses his body as a vessel.
[… but] Snape is able to provide an additional level of sexual fulfillment when the earthly husbands fail to satisfy … Snape’s spirit form is able to procure a range of sensations within her. Tonya can feel his fingers across her body. She confesses, “It might be lucky that I can’t see him or grab him…cause…I would be on him in the floor behind me. Going wild on him!” (238)
Fanfiction & Disagreements
“Rose is forthright in her belief that Snape fanfiction has been a deeply impactful element of her life. She explains, “I used to be a shy wall flower, backwards and had a hard time talking about things, over time Severus Snape helped me to explore me, he helped me write two very in depth and sexual ladened Fan Fictions, and through them I discovered myself” (247)
Conchita’s writing betrays that she wants to be Snape’s only love:
“Make me a serum
To make me a ghost
Still not feeling numb
I want you the most
You get me on my knees
Losing the fight within me
Please just love me ” (245)
“[Conchita’s] style and intentions are notably different from those of Tonya and Rose. The various fights between the central wives are revealing moments, demonstrating core community values and also points of strong disagreement. In regard to the latter, erotic fanfiction has distanced Conchita from Rose and Tonya who both feel that their sex life with Snape is appropriate material for salacious literature. Conchita believes that her fellow wives need to be “more RESPECTFUL to Severus, as he likes his privacy” (245)
“The death of Snape in the canonical Harry Potter books had a significant impact upon his wives and their communities, but it was not as devastating as may have been predicted.
A poem [Conchita] wrote to mark the occasion reads,
A humble tribute to you
Unconditional and endless
Regardless of what Mrs Rowling might do.
Tonya’s reactions were equally passionate, albeit somewhat contradictory. Before the release of the final book, Tonya wrote: “I can’t deny I am a nervous wreck and it is getting worse daily. I just don’t know how I will react if she killed him. Yes, I do know. I will scream and cry. It will ruin the books for me, too”
After the release of Deathly Hallows on July 21, 2007, the wives slowly retreated from their online presences. … Conchita deleted most of her online accounts prior to the release of the final book in order to mimic the conclusion of Snape’s public appearances via Harry Potter releases. This was prior to the publication of his death. There is also the gradual morph of Livejournal from an English-language platform with significant fandom presence to a primarily Russian-language blogging site with far less active fandom content.” (249-250)
“The Snapists are a small and specific group who have now disbanded, but their community and belief systems provide a fascinating template for broader issues of fandom, religion, and the intersection of the two. The Snapists have combined traditional with non-traditional belief structures— something that seems to be an inevitability of online religions where technological advances lead to new forms of practice (such as fanfiction and chatroom channelling), but older forms of worship (such as shrines and sacred images) remain socially relevant. Their more traditional beliefs and practices draw heavily on Christian culture as a source of legitimacy, whilst their internet channelling and fanfic ecstasies have earned them mockery and scorn for being fraudulent and insane.” (256)
“I think it is very likely that we will see an increase in explicitly fiction-based religions as technology brings online identities and communities in greater harmony with everyday life. It is important for scholars to examine the manner in which these intersections manifest, and the politics behind them. The internet also facilitates the sharing of ideas to a far greater degree than was previously available to the average person. This idea sharing can help to spread material with mythical potential, and feed a passionate obsession with popular cultural texts.” (256)
“What has been clear throughout my research on this topic is the seriousness with which the Snapists take their beliefs, and the sacrality of Snape as their central figure of worship. Davidsen notes that fiction-based religions are often treated as though they lack substance and sincerity (p. 380). To treat the Snapists in this manner is to ignore a vast quantity of evidence that shows the time and attention that has gone into their theology, and the emotional investment that they have in Snape as their erotic leader.
The book and film franchise of Harry Potter has inspired a monumental fandom community with a veracious output of fanfiction and general musings on the text and the vivid universe contained therein. A significant portion of these texts deal with Professor Severus Snape, the stern Potions Master with ambiguous ethics and loyalties. This paper explores a small community of Snape fans who have gone beyond a narrative retelling of the character as constrained by the work of Joanne Katherine Rowling. The ‘Snapewives’ or ‘Snapists’ are women who channel Snape, are engaged in romantic relationships with him, and see him as a vital guide for their daily lives. In this context, Snape is viewed as more than a mere fictional creation. He is seen as a being that extends beyond the Harry Potter texts with Rowling perceived as a flawed interpreter of his supra-textual essence. While a Snape religion may be seen as the extreme end of the Harry Potter fandom, I argue that religions of this nature are not uncommon, unreasonable, or unprecedented. Popular films are a mechanism for communal bonding, individual identity building, and often contain their own metaphysical discourses. Here, I plan to outline the manner in which these elements resolve within extreme Snape fandom so as to propose a nuanced model for the analysis of fandom-inspired religion without the use of unwarranted veracity claims.”
Kirby, Danielle L. “Between Synchromysticism and Paganism: Tracing some Metaphysical uses of Popular Fictions.” Culture and Religion 14, no. 4 (2013): 396–410.
Cusack, Carole M. Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.
Davidsen, Markus A. “Fiction-Based Religion: Conceptualising a New Category Against History- Based Religion and Fandom.” Culture and Religion 14, no. 4 (2013): 378–95.Continue reading Alderton – Snapewives and Snapeism