Snapewives

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Related terms: Severus Snape, Celebrity Marriage Clique
See also: Nick's Harem, Pop Culture Paganism
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The Snapewives, also known as Snapeists, are women in Harry Potter fandom who believe that they channel Severus Snape (allow his spirit to inhabit their bodies and speak to him), are engaged in romantic relationships with him, and see him as a vital spiritual guide for their daily lives. They practice "Snapeism," a quasi-religion centered on Snape. They believe Severus Snape is not simply a character in the Harry Potter books, but an omniscient and immortal deity, and in fact believe that the books were written because J.K. Rowling was channeling Snape.

Snapewives were active mostly in 2006, and their communities were primarily on LiveJournal. They have since deleted all of their webpages and forums due to mockery from outside their community, and the community apparently faded soon after. Some of the content was copied and discussed on fandom_wank.[1]

TL;DR: There was an actual religion centering on Severus Snape, who was portrayed as an eternal and divine being similar to the Christian God. It had theological arguments, early schisms, and its own vows and prayers, which were all taken completely seriously by its followers, the Snapeists.[2]

Snapeism

Snapewives practice as religion called Snapeism, and self-identify as Snapeists.

Snape as a Religion, or Snapeism

Well, calling them Snapewives is probably not incredibly accurate, because they referred to themselves as Snapeists—that is to say, members of the church of Snapeism. If you’re wondering if this is just a joke thing, like how Star Wars shippers in the ‘80s said they were members of the Church of Ford or Cathedral of Luke, you are sadly incorrect. The religion of Snapeism had vows, sacraments, prayers, worshippers, and theology, and it apparently had enough of an impact to warrant peer-reviewed scholarly articles being written about its inception (you think I’m kidding? Search “snapeism” in MDPI’s Religions journal.) People took it completely seriously. You know the incredibly overzealous Christians that share Chick Tracts with one another and think Halloween is Satanic? Replace Chick Tracts with fan fiction, and you basically have Snapeists.

To an extent, Snapeism actually mirrored elements of Christianity. There is a Christian belief that the Bible is somewhat flawed—its authors were inspired by God, but God did not literally write it, and so it is marred by human flaws, which is why there are passages that just talk about irrelevant things that modern Christians don’t believe. The Snapewives had the same philosophy about the Harry Potter books. They were written by J.K. Rowling, who was inspired by the spirit of Severus Snape just as the authors of the Bible were inspired by the Christian God. This gave the Snapewives a justification to disregard the parts of canon they didn’t like or agree with, because, after all, J.K. Rowling is not Snape. She was merely channelling his spirit.

There are other aspects of Snapeism that kind of fall in line with parts of Abrahamic religions. There were certian Snapeists that had a “special connection” to Snape, who were specially chosen by him to lead the others. Snape was as omniscient and immortal as the Christian god, and just as real. Snape is called Master like how God is called Lord. And, finally, and most importantly, Snape is the One True God. You cannot be a Christian and a Snapeist any more than you can be a Catholic and a Protestant at the same time. Snape is all and Snape is everything, and Snape can control your destiny. [...][2]

Zoe Alderton in the journal Religions wrote seriously about Snapeism, citing Romano's references to Sts. Hildegarde and Theresa and to Emma Hardinge Britten in the Daily Dot article. She contextualizes the wives' experiences in terms of a "fiction-based faith", explaining that it is neither unique nor insane. She also points out that most of the fingerpointing and howling mockery go to making other fans feel better about themselves -- they are in a subculture often deemed insane by the dominant culture, but at least they're not "going too far".[3].

Origins

The Snape Fandom

Before I delve into the Snapeism religion and its many followers, I should first talk about Severus Snape the character. If you’ve ever set foot in the Harry Potter fandom, you already know that Snape is notoriously controversial. The prevailing opinion nowadays seems to be “he wasn’t really evil, but he was still kind of an asshole,” but things weren’t that simple back in the early 2000s. The last Harry Potter book had just come out, lots of beloved characters—including Snape himself—had just met their ends, and the fandom was going absolutely wild, writing fix-it fanfiction and happy alternate universes a mile a minute. Some fans loved how Rowling ended the series, some hated everything about the last book, and people were fighting about just about everything. Ships, characters, plot threads—you name it, and you could probably track down someone who hated it. Even then, though, Snape had a precious, special place in the fandom as that one character you really don’t want to bring up around people you aren’t friends with, lest the whole conversation devolve into meaningless bickering about whether or not he’s a good person.

That being said, despite all the controversy, some people really latched on to Severus Snape, probably because they thought he was “misunderstood.” Characters with ambiguous allegiances, tragic backstories, unrequited romances, and dark aesthetics are very, very beloved in fandom, regardless of whether they’re traditionally desirable. [...] There’s this idea that “he is tragically broken and the person he loves doesn’t love him back, so I can step in and shower him with the affection he desperately needs, which will fix him and make him adore me.”

[...]

Anyway, Snape fan groups sprung up with relative ease, and fan fiction and art of him quickly started to proliferate. Most of these fan groups were what you’d expect—lots of petty arguments over stolen OCs and traced art and copying ideas—but they didn’t get any worse than any other fan group to ever exist. If you went into a Ronmione forum or a Drarry forum, you’d see the same type of toxicity. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t distinctly horrible, either.

But there are always people who take fandom too far, and it was bound to happen with the Snape fangirls. The Harry Potter fandom is absolutely massive, and pure statistics meant that at least some of its fans were the type to become obsessively dedicated to a particular person or concept. Crazy stans just sort of happen once you reach a certain amount of fans. It happened to Bucky, it happened to Frollo, and, naturally, it happened to Snape, in the form of the Snapewives[2]

Practices

Relationships with Snape

Significant Others

See, a core aspect of Snapeism is that Snapeists are married to Severus Snape, all acting as his sister-wives. This is, like other aspects of their belief system, taken extremely seriously. It is ceremonial, it is very religious, and it is very much a real marriage in the eyes of the wives, who wrote their own Snapeist vows for their Snape weddings:

I promise to be always faithful in body and mind, and never love another man. I promise to love and cherish you all of my life. I promise to respect and honour you all of my life. I promise to dedicate all of my life to you. I promise to stand by you in good times and bad times. I promise to protect and guard you, and to prevent you from any harm. I promise to provide anything you need for you. I promise to take the best care of you. I promise to use your name with the respect it deserves. I promise to always wear the ring with your name in it, as a symbol of my love. I promise to obey you, no matter what. I promise to respect your wishes and not to be selfish. I promise to look after you in sickness and in health.

I solemnly promise all of this to you, Severus Snape, my only love. May these words create a strong loving bond, which can only be broken by death. If I break the promises made, or treat you not in the manner I should be, I'll make sure I'll die. May all the good forces and spirits bless our love eternally…. So it will be done...

The above is just one example of a vow written by “Lady Darkness.” If you were wondering if she was being serious, don’t worry: she posted several pictures of her Snape shrine in response to queries about whether she actually worshipped Snape or not. (Sadly, those photos have been deleted, but there are threads referencing them on archive.org archives of fan forums.)

Anyway, you can clearly see how dead serious the Snapewives were about their faith and their fictional husband. They absolutely considered their marriages legitimate, and wanted them to be treated like any other marriage to exist. This begged the question, then: should Snapewives have to divorce their real-life husbands to marry Snape? The majority of the Snapewives were middle-aged women who had been married to real men for years, and yet… this is a wedding after all. Weddings can’t happen if one party is already married to someone else. Snape himself gets a pass because all of his wives are “on the astral plane,” whatever that means, but the women’s husbands are physically real.

People did all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify being married to their husbands and Snape at the same time. One woman claimed Snape regularly possessed her real-life husband, especially during sex. Apparently Snape’s spirit would just take over his body, so whenever he was being particularly affectionate, it wasn’t him—it was just Snape showing how much he loved his wife. Others claimed that if Snape could have multiple wives, they too could have multiple husbands. Still others broke up with their boyfriends and fiancés in exchange for Snape’s love. The majority just kind of hand waved it.

Other people simply could not justify being married to two people at once, even if one of those marriages was “on the astral plane,” and decided to stay essentially celibate, only having sex with Snape’s spirit (don’t ask me how that’s supposed to work.) This divide did cause arguments that almost eerily mimicked early Christian schisms, and they were one of the reasons Snapeism eventually died.

Astral Projection

This article or section needs expansion.

Decline

The End of an Era

After the fan war, community participation slowly dwindled. Snapeism was still going strong, though—just not as strong as it used to be. The real nail in the coffin didn’t come until later, when something terrible happened: one of the wives fell in love with someone else.

If you’re wondering if one of the Snapewives realized that this was all insane and found herself an actual, physical significant other, well… I respect your optimism. Unfortunately, that’s incorrect. By “fell in love with someone else,” I mean “stopped worshipping Snape so she could worship Jethro Gibbs from NCIS instead.” After all, this is a religion we’re talking about. You can’t be a Catholic and a Protestant at the same time, and you can’t worship Snape and Gibbs at the same time.

With all of the big-name fans gone or fighting with each other, Snapeism kind of fell apart. To Snapeists, it was kind of like the Pope suddenly converting to another faith. The Jethro Gibbs incident was the nail in the coffin for the religion, and with all the important leaders gone, the others just kind of stopped caring. There may be one or two wayward Snapeists out there in the labyrinths of LiveJournal, but they certainly don’t have half as much of an impact now as they did back then. The church of Snapeism is, for all intents and purposes, gone. Bad photoshops of Snape with his astral-plane lovers are still scattered across the Internet, laying amidst prayers and fanfiction and strange combinations of them both, but the church itself has faded into obscurity like some pagan religion of old.

The death of Snapeism has been attributed to numerous things. Some Snapeists blame J.K. Rowling for handling Snape’s spirit so poorly and not writing the truth. Still others say that it was all Snape’s plan—he is omniscient, after all. Snape created the world, and he can end it, too. But most Snapewives just vanished quietly into the background without saying anything, deleting LiveJournal pages and frenzied fanfic as they left and leaving only archive.org pages in their wake. Maybe some realized that the whole thing was insane and culty in the absence of big-name fans to guide them. Maybe people started seeing the consequences of using one’s real name and photos on an online group dedicated to sharing porn of a Harry Potter character. Or maybe, like the woman who had criticized Snape, they were experiencing astral-plane marital problems and decided to get an astral-plane divorce. Who knows? Only one thing is for certain: Snapeism is dead, and Harry Potter fans everywhere are breathing sighs of relief.


Fan Comments

From the Daily Dot:

Andrew Blake's habit of channeling alternate personalities wasn't exactly unheard of in the world of fandom. Some people view this practice as an extended kind of roleplay; others see it as a lifestyle that deserves basic respect, understanding, and consideration.

Fandom Wank, of course, showed none of the above when it stumbled across the Snapewives; but to be fair, the Snapewives don't seem to fit into an identifiable category of behavior. Were they multiples? Roleplayers? A really ambitious writer's circle?

Or were they just a collective of well-meaning but deluded women who seemed to believe themselves to be married to Hogwarts Professor Severus Snape?

If so, they certainly wouldn't be the first. Medieval women like Hildegaard Von Bingen and St. Theresa were visited by spiritual ecstasies from the Lord; female spiritualists in the 19th century like Emma Hardinge Britten spoke of communing with spirit mediums.[4] Throughout the world, stories of religious leaders who "fall in love" with their chosen deity abound.[5]

The Snapewives certainly revered their beloved fictional Harry Potter character enough to form a religious practice--one of them, a fan named Lady Darkness, even wrote him her wedding vows, under the title "My Unbreakable Vow to Severus Snape."

Before the Snapewives saga was over, she would tearfully break up with Severus, recognizing that her love for him was keeping her away from caring for her kids, and acknowledging that "he was right" and she was not the woman for him. But not before Fandom Wank had a field day, combing through their blogs and finding [http://web.archive.org/web/20130311072442/http://www.journalfen.net/community/fandom_wank/1015949.html?thread=134116749#t134116749 endless examples] of their views on Severus Snape ("do not call him just Snape, he hates that").

The denizens of Fandom Wank discussed whether they were stirring an innocent nest of hornets with this one, since the Snapewives weren't exactly hurting anyone. And in the end, Lady Darkness herself might have had [http://web.archive.org/web/20130311073112/http://www.journalfen.net/community/fandom_wank/1015949.html?thread=135035277#t135035277 the last word]: "It isn't forbidden to dream and love. And just because those morons don't know how to, doesn't mean we don't." [6]

Most reactions by fans, and non-fans, is one of mockery, finger-pointing, and exaggerated horror.

Snapewives is, hands down, my most favourite HP wank ever. More even than MsScribe, more than Doctor Who Killed Snarry, and more than the whole fucking Cassandra Claire thing, Laptopgate included. [7]
Also, reading this Snapewives is making me feel better about myself because no matter how much I love certain things…I’ve never entertained any of this. [8]
I'm not used to discussing the latest fandom gossip with non-fandomers. It takes a little getting used to, but OTOH I think it's safe to say that I was not the most freaked out person at the table. ;)

My personal opinion is that you have to judge these things by the norms of the subculture of which they are a part. And by the norms of the subculture of Snapefans and other Slytherfen, Lady Darkness and friends are stark raving insane.

That, and no one in their right minds would write a soppy love letter to Snape of all people and think it would impress him, surely?? I don't know who these fangirls are crushing on, but it's not the Snape I recognise. It's not the crushing I find laughable - haven't we all been there at some point or other? It's the horrific characterisation. [9]

Some fans found the mockery uncomfortable and shaming.

Re-reading SnapeWive wank, for the actualfax first time I felt really uncomfortable with the entire subject matter. Not because it wasn't batshit, but after reading for years in the snark communities--and also existing on this plane of existence--batshit is the rule. I know no non-batshit people. Frankly, the non-batshit seem untrustworthy and smell weird, like eggs. I'm just saying. Granted, this is a level that most of us cannot--no pun intended--dream of ascending to, but still...

[snipped]]

[Of course, I come from the school of thought that 'serious' does not equal 'not fun'; fun is serious fucking business. We are not immortal and I have like, what, only sixty years left before mortal funtimes are over; that's not all that much time.

[snipped]

If I were speaking in stereotypes, then women totes overinvest in romance and it's unrealistic and dangerous and they could like, mistake it for RL and fuck up their kids if that shit isn't watched and kept goddamn ironic. If I were speaking in stereotypes, then men totes overinvest in romance and it's unrealistic and dangerous and they shoot their love interests to death IRL. I'm not sure, since it doesn't seem to come up a lot, but I'm pretty sure that fucks up the kids more. And also, the woman is dead, but whatever, we're talking about a man and his kids. In most murder cases, I rarely if ever see someone state that someone shouldnt' have access to their kids when they kill their partner; in Snapewives, I saw people worriedly recommend a visit from CPS more than I was comfortable with.

This came up in MsScribe too, actually; the weird thing was, there was a lot of OMG NO SHUT UP at the idea of calling CPS because she was using multiple sockpuppets to play a really fun game of munchausen by internet proxy, but I think the dealbreaker was she was ironic enough about it. It's not even that I think there's a double standard here; I think it's a very consistent standard. MsScribe's actions, though destructive, sometimes personally, were in retrospect clever; she was manipulative and played on stereotyping, and it wasn't like she believed her own sockpuppets were real or something. They were tools for a goal.

Snapewives just think they're married to Snape; that's not clever at all. [10]
There's an uncomfortable element there of "We are not the ones who take it too far. They take it too far. We know we do not because we are not them.", yes? [11]

Some fans understood the fine line that fandom sometimes draws.

I feel bad about the general pointing and laughing I do at crazy fan behavior, for similar reasons, but I still do it. I guess I just... at some point, I have to just say, "Yeah, I am sometimes -- many times -- a nice and empathetic person. And sometimes I'm a dick." I mostly keep my "LOL SNAPEWIVES WTF" comments to private conversations, because at least the Snapewives and the like won't get their feelings hurt by me. It's definitely about social policing, it's definitely about, "Well, yeah, I'm mentally ill and it sucks, but at least I don't think Snape's (a) real; (b) my boyfriend on the astral plane who (c) dumped me*, yay, I'm less crazy than that fan over there!" It's definitely fucked up. But... idk. Sometimes, I'm a dick. [12]

Celebrity Marriage Cliques

The fannish practice of "marrying" a character or a celebrity existed outside of Harry Potter fandom. It was an offshoot of ""Marriage Cliques." See Celebrity Marriage Clique.

Further Reading/Meta

References

  1. ^ "Severus, come to me/ Be the light for me/ So I can see/ Life's beauty/ Guide me to destiny."; WebCite, October 22, 2006
  2. ^ a b c (Harry Potter Fandom) Married to Severus Snape on the Astral Plane: The Story of the Religion of Snapewives, 2019.
  3. ^ Zoe Alderton, ‘Snapewives’ and ‘Snapeism’: A Fiction-Based Religion within the Harry Potter Fandom. Religions 2014, 5(1), 219-267; doi:10.3390/rel5010219
  4. ^ Communing with spirits as a medium. See also The Britten Archive and Chasing Down Emma.
  5. ^ More precisely, the Wives most closely resemble the Gopis, the 108 milkmaids who seduced and were seduced by the young Krishna. His abundance was such that he was able to pleasure them all equally.
  6. ^ Aja Romano, The 10 best tales of online drama from 10 years of Fandom_Wank at The Daily Dot, March 11, 2013
  7. ^ comment post in an offline Tumblr post, 2012
  8. ^ comment post in an offline Tumblr post, 2012
  9. ^ Welcome back, my friends, to the Wank that Never Ends...; [ WebCite], October 25, 2006
  10. ^ post by seperis: Unpopular fannish opinion: i feel bad about mocking the snapewives, see that post for much more and more comments to it
  11. ^ sapote's comment to Unpopular fannish opinion: i feel bad about mocking the snapewives
  12. ^ post by wembley: Unpopular fannish opinion: i feel bad about mocking the snapewives, see that post for much more and more comments to it