The first question to be considered here is what makes a miracle, a miracle?
Miracles, to the everyday person, are usually defined either as some sort of supernatural intervention in a situation (and proof of that supernatural influence is usually dubious at best), or it’s something happening that is deemed to be impossible. And yet it happens anyway.
Miracles are often used to strengthen religious faith, especially with historical events, or during times of crisis. The criteria for performing or receiving a miraculous event can strange, and usually involve no small amount of faith. The performance of miraculous events may also be a criteria for receiving sainthood.
If you’re creating a religion within a world where magic is active and prevalent, miracles might be a little harder to define, because seemingly impossible things happening might be the norm.
Miracles, though, do not have to be something only physically apparent. This is part of what makes miracles hard to believe at times, because what a miracle is in someone’s life (especially as an internal, emotional experience) can be very subjective.
Types of Miracles
Here’s a short list of miracles you might find appropriate to add into your religion. You may also wish to mark some of them off as miracles that never happen or are considered taboo, for doctrinal reasons.
We’ve all been in this spot at one point or another, when something happens to shake our day-to-day stability in a way that jeopardizes are ability to provide for ourselves and pay bills.
And at some point, no matter how small or how large, we’ve all experienced someone paying for something when they didn’t know how desperately we were needing something. Sometimes it’s not huge, and sometimes it is. But the core of it is usually that someone sees our struggle and acknowledges our pain. Your characters will need this too.
However, while we all may desperately want to see (especially in real life) people getting all their needs provided without even having to say anything, the truth is that sometimes the miracle only follows the asking. So don’t be afraid to have your characters ask for what they need.
Change of Heart/Conversion
This might be the most difficult type of miracle to portray, because it is almost entirely internal, and depending on the person who is claiming to have a change of heart or some type of conversion experience, it could be seen as a trick that they are using to gain something.
Conversions don’t have to be written like they are in contemporary or historical Christian fiction, which is primarily what comes to mine anyone talks about a religious conversion within fiction. They don’t have to be ‘come to Jesus’ or intervention moments followed by a prayer.
What they need to be is genuine and sincere. Sometimes they can start out with a ‘come to Jesus’/intervention moment, but the change is gradual over a period of time. They are rarely—rarely—instantaneous conversions from interventions, in real life. Remember that your characters need to seem like they are real people.
In some ways, these types of wounds and their required healings are easier to portray in fantasy stories where the edges between the seen and unseen are already blurred, and even the receiving of these types of wounds can be described in a more visceral, dangerous way than simply trauma, abuse, or hurtful words do in our real world.
The healing of these types of wounds in our world is long and arduous, often in the form of therapy and many years of learning to establish healthy boundaries and self-care routines. That can and absolutely should play a role in even speculative fiction, but there are also some wounds so raw and so deep that we just can’t poke them. And these seemingly-hopeless wounds are the ones that we should offer the hope of healing—even if it’s through mere fiction—through our stories.
With the exception of internal bodily issues (especially if your fictional societies are not terribly medically advanced), then these are going to be some of the more obvious types of miracles. If someone is physically unable to do something, or has been visibly ill for quite some time, a sudden change will be quite obvious.
Physical healings could be anything from a sudden recovery from an expected fatal disease, becoming pregnant after several miscarriages or many years of not becoming pregnant at all (despite trying), amputated limbs regenerating, etc.
In all religions in all the world, and in every story, there really isn’t anything more miraculous than returning from death. Especially when one has been dead long enough to actually be confirmed dead, not just passed out or in a coma.
If you’re worldbuilding this religion for a people who also practices magic, then you’ll need to account for necromancy. In religious terms, resurrection is usually seen as a total restoration of a person from death. There are no hitches, no glitches, and no personality changes. It is, fully and truly, that person, but either as if they had never died, or if they were fully restored to their peak of health.
Necromancy usually either revives a dead body (without the soul) to be controlled by a magician, or it forces a soul to return to a decaying body, whether permanently or temporarily. Obviously, this will have unpleasant side effects.
- Are miraculous events a part of the religious traditions and/or history for the religion you are building? Are they a regular occurrence, or a phenomenon?
- Are certain deities (if your religion prescribes to more than one deity, or a true/false deity narrative) known for certain types of miracles? Can a ‘false’ deity (still in possession of certain types of power) mimic miraculous acts? How is a miracle determined to be a true or false one?
- Are miracles something that happens currently in your story world, or are they a legend from past times?
Leave a comment below if you have any questions! Thanks for stopping by!
Rebekah Loper began creating epic worlds and stories as a child and never stopped. She is the author of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding series, and has a fantasy novella published in Beatitudes and Woes: A Speculative Fiction Anthology.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (…ok, ok, they’re chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she is not writing, she can be found battling the elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.