[Friday] B is for Book Keepers

Friday posts are written by Sage of the blog Sage and Starshine. Every week or so they explore a different aspect of the Otherfaith through the letters of the alphabet.

As someone curious about the Otherfaith, one of the first spirits to catch my attention was Epiphany. Epiphany originally belonged to a class of spirits known as Book Keepers who essentially function as librarians of the West. I’ll write more about Epiphany herself later in the year, but for now I’d like to focus on the Book Keepers themselves. The majority of this post is going to be my personal headcanon, which means something particular in the Otherfaith. Similar to the concept of headcanon (or fanon) in fandom circles, Otherfaith headcanon are beliefs held about deities and spirits by members of the Otherfaith which are personal and unique to them. Sharing headcanon to debate its merits and implications is how the official canon of the Otherfaith grows. Headcanon as a term is used in place of UPG (Unverified/Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis), which often crops up in Pagan and polytheistic spaces. I present the following essay as my own ideas about this fascinating group of spirits based on my own creative intuition and welcome honest feedback.

What I originally found about Book Keepers way back in September and October of 2014 came from the myth 5169814 to Epiphany, which centers around Book Keeper #5169814’s inability to match societal expectations and ultimate immolation/transformation into the spirit Epiphany. In this myth Book Keepers are not named, but numbered entities who eventually focus their whole being on one particular topic. Some Book Keepers have a very wide scope, such as #003 overseeing greenery, and some have narrower ones, such as #5169813 overseeing forgotten grammar rules. For younger Book Keepers, “it was not so strange to wander for a decade or a century or an age” before settling on their subject. The fact #5169814 could not could not “find a place” was a source of shame and some degree of social ostracization from the other Book Keepers.

This, plus the fact Book Keepers are associated primarily with the Clarene’s great Library, was all we knew – or at least, all that was published – by the time I came on board. Immediately my mind began to churn with sympathy for Epiphany and intrigue for the Book Keepers. As a library and information sciences student, I saw parallels to the inherent struggle of cataloging and classification. On the one hand, a library needs pre-assigned places for its materials if they’re ever to be accessible (and thus useful) to its patrons. On the other, there can be a huge loss of nuance and understanding when, for the sake of physically putting books on shelves, we have to decide it’s primarily about one thing more than another. (As an aside, the advent of electronic card catalogs allowed for more nuanced organization since catalogers weren’t trying to fit information on a 3-by-5 index card anymore. #5169814’s transformation into Epiphany has a lot of similarities in my library student’s mind to the changes effected by the advent of digital cataloging.)

5169814 to Epiphany left me with a lot of questions. Who exactly are the Book Keepers? What are they like and why are they like that? Who were the other spirits Epiphany grew up with? Who were her mentors, peers, detractors? And what are the ramifications of Book Keeper #5169814’s immolation and rebirth as Epiphany? All things have mythic resonance and consequence, after all, and the transformation of a spirit’s very identity isn’t exactly small potatoes. Here’s where my headcanon comes in.

Book Keepers are born to the Library itself, without parentage or familial ties with any spirits besides other Book Keepers. In some ways there are similarities between Book Keepers and Smaller Spirits; while they don’t (all) manifest as children to me, I do wonder about their selves being constructed of pure elemental energy and their lack of allegiance to any of the Four and Four Gods. Nominally they may be associated with the Clarene as it is her Library they oversee, but I believe they’d be more allied to the Library itself rather than the Clarene. Book Keepers are primarily about the organization and oversight of information rather than its creation and gathering or its use. Individual Book Keepers may have their own ties outside the Library – rare, but not unheard of and not technically against the rules – and may choose to help or hinder other spirits, but by and large they as a group are true neutrals. Their interest in order is primarily the order required for maintaining the integrity of the Library; I get the distinct feeling that during the Sundering of the West, for example, Book Keepers were more concerned that the Firebird’s flames might disrupt the regularity of Library operations than with the havoc and destruction being caused elsewhere in the West.

This is not to say Book Keepers are callous – far from it. Many are capable of deep emotions and loyalty. In fact, I suspect there’s a great deal of familial bonding amongst Book Keepers, especially those close in age or dedicated to related topics. However, there’s an expectation (both socially and energetically) that Book Keepers are similar, orderly, organized, and efficient. This expectation is what makes Epiphany so unique and is why her transformation in some ways threatens the social structure of the Library. Since she left, there’s been increased scruitiny of younger Book Keepers who haven’t yet settled on their life’s subject fed by fears they might “pull an Epiphany” and leave as well. There’s also generally increased awareness that there is space for those who deviate from the norm. Perhaps Epiphany herself is unique, but other Book Keepers who feel isolated, odd, or stifled at least know they aren’t alone.

Book Keepers have a hierarchy of a sort known as the Decimal Council. This is comprised of Book Keepers who, in addition to their regular numerical “names,” also have decimal titles between 0.1 and 0.9. The Decimal Council oversees both the workings of the Library (and theoretically the safety and happiness of their fellow Book Keepers) and mediates interaction between the Library and the rest of Western Faery. Book Keepers aren’t forbidden from leaving the Library or talking with other spirits, but due to many of them preferring a life of study and focus centered around their subject area it helps to have a governing body dedicated to outside issues.

While I may have painted Book Keepers with a fairly homogenous brush, there is still the same diversity within their ranks as exists in other communities of spirits in the West. When manifesting in a humanoid form Book Keepers may be people of color, fat, disabled, neurodivergent, queer, and transgender. It’s important to note that the human appearance(s) of individual Book Keepers doesn’t correspond to their chosen subject area; not all short, masculine-presenting Book Keepers with brown hair look after history, for example. I get the sense that some Book Keepers, particularly younger ones who haven’t yet settled, may shapeshift and enjoy experimenting with new bodies. They may also manifest as balls of light and pure energy like will-o-wisps.

You can work with Book Keepers on both an individual and a group level. Perhaps the most obvious way of approaching them is through books: reading and writing them, listening to audiobooks, volunteering at your local public library or with literacy programs, or joining a book club. Book Keepers also highly value organization, so organizing your own books or cataloging them with LibrayThing or Goodreads is another way to align yourself with their goals. There are potentially countless Book Keepers for all the subjects in all the realms, so if you’re especially passionate about a particular topic you may want to reach out to the corresponding spirit(s) in the Library.

Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

2 thoughts on “[Friday] B is for Book Keepers

  1. Pingback: [Friday] E is for Epiphany | of the Other People

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