Interview: Rebecca Buchanan, editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Rebecca Buchanan

Rebecca Buchanan

Rebecca Buchanan became editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina in the summer of 2010 and has edited many of BA’s devotional anthologies. The books are made up of poems, prayers, artwork, essays and short fiction, and are devoted primarily to Greek, Roman and Egyptian deities and spirits. She generously took some time to share some of her insights and experiences.

How did you come to paganism? 

As a little girl, I made regular trips to the local library (Mom was a book fiend). It didn’t take me long to find the fairy tales, and then the books on mythology, and then the books on ancient history. My love of those ancient times and places and stories never faded. When I went off to college, that passion mixed with my nascent feminism and environmentalism to lead me away from Catholicism and into Paganism.

That Paganism was fairly quiet and self-contained, and sort-of Wiccanesque, at first. The only books that I could find were on Wicca, or some flavor of Goddess Spirituality. Neither really fit me, as I found myself drawn to a multitude of Gods and Goddesses, primarily from the Greek pantheon. As such, I was ecstatic when I discovered that I was not alone in my devotion to Hermes and the Muses and Apollo and Artemis. I had found my spiritual home, and I haven’t look back once.

How did the devotional series get started? Describe the thought process that led to it. Who was involved in getting it rolling?

I can’t claim credit for launching Bibliotheca Alexandrina. That honor falls to Sannion, who came up with the idea of publishing a devotional anthology in honor of Dionysus. Written in Wine was such a success that Sannion edited several more books, before stepping aside to pursue other interests.

I took over as editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina in the Summer of 2010. It has been exhausting, exasperating, and endlessly satisfying. I love overseeing the production of these devotional anthologies. I am constantly surprised by the quality and variety of submissions, and the many and varied ways in which the Gods make themselves known to their devotees.

Most of the devotionals deal with Greek, Egyptian or Roman deities, but there have been some departures from that, such as with The Morrigan. Do you see an endpoint when you will have done all that you want to do with the series, or can it continue indefinitely?

Technically, Neos Alexandria — and, by extension, Bibliotheca Alexandrina — is modeled after the ancient city of Alexandria. Our goal is to revive the worship of the Deities of that city: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Jewish, and so on. So, the anthology series began with those Gods: Dionysus, Hekate, Zeus, Isis and Serapis, Demeter, and so on. Anointed was the first anthology to sort of stray outside that territory, and the response to that devotional encouraged us to do more themed anthologies (independent Goddesses, polytheist science fiction, et cetera) which brought in more Deities from outside Alexandria.

By Blood Bone and Blade, cover art by Ashley Bryner.

By Blood Bone and Blade, cover art by Ashley Bryner.

By Blood, Bone, and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrigan, was an unexpected addition to our bibliography. The editor, Nicole Bonvisuto, had initially planned to release it through a different publisher, but that fell through; when she approached BA about releasing the anthology instead, we debated for a bit, then decided to go for it. The Morrigan deserved an anthology — and she is not alone.

I can’t see there ever being an end to BA’s devotional series. Even if we stick to just the Deities honored in Alexandria, that is still hundreds of Gods and Goddesses, both well-known and little-known.

Do you think there might be occasional sequels for deities that have already been covered?

Oh, sure. I can definitely see us releasing another devotional for Dionysus or Hekate or Artemis or Isis. New material is constantly being written in honor of these Deities, and they are attracting new devotees every day.

When you edit a volume, what criteria do you use to choose which submissions are in and which are out?

The first criterion is: does the submission fit the anthology? I can’t tell you how many pieces I receive which have nothing to do with that particular God or Goddess. I just politely decline those and move on.

The second criterion: the quality of the submission. Most pieces need little in the way of editing or polishing. If I think the piece just needs a bit of tweaking, I send it back to the author with a few notes and ask them to resubmit it. How the Deity is presented is largely irrelevant to me, so long as the submission is respectful; I find it fascinating how people perceive the Gods so differently, how the Gods present themselves in such different ways. I learn a lot about the Gods by editing these devotionals.

What do readers say about the books? How do people use them in their own spiritual practice?

Overall, the response has been quite positive. People keep asking when we will have anthologies in honor of Deities such as Hestia, Set, Anubis, and Hades, so the books are certainly in demand. How people incorporate the devotionals into their spiritual practices I am not sure — but I hope they do!