Tag Archives: gods

Santa’s Little Apologist


Right on the edge of the Cliff Of Heaven sits the small hamlet of Last Ditch. Here live the Gods of Lost Causes. Doomed with each turn of the moon to once more plunge in to the abyss as the cliff crumbles beneath them. The next weeks see their re-constituted forms drifting from the Mists of Defiance to build again their hovels of forlorn hope either side of the undrinkable waters of the Stub Bourne. Sometimes the other gods will break the tedium of eternity by going down to try and save the inhabitants, begging them to leave while they can. It is of no avail. The hands that reach across the cracking earth, though stretched for, go unclasped. The rope that is thrown as the rocks break away goes un-grasped. They are not rich gods, their worshippers, often newly converted, by definition have nothing to give and much to ask. Although their prayers are fervent enough to make their deities solid and well formed, their inherent pessimism does not empower the mythical symbols of their plight to actually come to their rescue. Besides which, like most gods, they have problems of their own.


With great power comes great responsibility, which makes your average immortal pretty busy. Think how big the Met Office is, how many people it takes to work out what is likely to happen with the amazingly complex business of predicting the weather. Now think about how much more hard work is involved in making the weather! Very few celestial beings have only one area of duty, usually seeing to a portfolio of natural and human activities which can be as diverse as irrigation, textile production and the beach tree. Most of them have some part to play in the battle between good and evil, Odin being famously hard at work building an army to take on the giants, thieves and monsters at the final battle.

As we approach the worldwide annual festival of god bothering, in which solar deities are begged to return, storm gods are begged to hold off, sky gods to bring snow – but only the pretty sort and only for a couple of days and can it be lovely for the rest of the year please? The god of Abraham is entreated to bring peace to the world by the three most heavily armed religions on the planet, and the god of presents receives his annual tall order.

Come December the 25 Santa will have 80 million more presents to deliver than he had last year and a whole heap of requests from confused children asking him to take away their little siblings, for their estranged parents to be reunited and/or their dead gerbil to be alive again. Whatever you have asked for, there is chance Father Christmas will turn up with something else. If he does please cut him some slack, he’s got as lot of stuff going on.

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You Haven’t Got A Prayer


When you spend as much time getting to know the gods and goddesses of different cultures as I do, pretty much all of whom inhabit a realm that is variously described as “in the sky”, “on high” or the delightfully vague “above”, your concept of the heavens becomes very odd. As well as being highly multicultural it appears on the surface to be a phenomenal resource. Whatever you want to do, there will be a deity to pray to there: growing stuff, herding cattle, shoemaking, metalwork, pottery, making false teeth… and what ever befalls you there should also be a corresponding demiurge to seek help from.

If all that activity is too much for you there are deific beings to call on when you want some down time too. Without looking beyond the Greeks (because we don’t want to overtax ourselves do we?), we can put in a request to the relaxing Goddess Pasithea for some much needed rest. If that isn’t enough then a plea to her husband Hypnos, god of sleep, could be in order.

Mind you, there are some you should probably avoid. Enkairos, for example, got in to trouble with Zeus after he was sent off to earth early one morning, to bring a specific human to Olympus by sundown the same day. It shouldn’t have taken that long but Enkairos was rather known for leaving things to the last minute. Down he went, located the mortal in question and was about to return when he had a thought: since he had all day… as he didn’t get a day out in the human world very often… he could fit in a bit of sight seeing while he was there! He enjoyed the pleasures of the city, ate the local food and visited the theatre. As he noticed the sun was setting, Enkairos looked around for the being in question who was now nowhere to be found. Zeus waxed mighty wrathful, as well he might, shouting: “I gave you plenty of time!” He never asked Enkairos to do anything again. With no other obvious career ahead of him the dilatory Olympian became the god of procrastination. Presumably some time later.

One step down from Enkairos, who will at least attempt to respond to your prayers and might get round to it eventually, is Aergia. She is one of the daughters of Air and Earth, who, as parents, are probably very disappointed in her. Technically Aergia is a daimona, a spirit, rather than a goddess. She hangs around by The Cave of Sleep with her sister Lethe, or Forgetfulness. She does nothing and has no story of her own, which is hardly surprising as she is the personification of Laziness. Well, I suppose somebody has to do it… or not.

…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure.

The Travelling Talesman www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk

Hmm, I seem to have written a rather short piece this month. I better quickly burn something in offering to the husband of Pandora and all round pointless deity, Epimetheus. After the creation he was charged with the job of handing out abilities to all the creatures on the earth. With no sense of forward planning, he used up all the good stuff on the animals and had nothing left for humanity. Luckily his brother Prometheus sorted us out with the civilising arts and fire, but no thanks to Epimetheus, the God of Afterthought.

 

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Size Matters


We all know that ‘giant’ means ‘big’ and unless otherwise stated, ‘a giant’ means a human like, bipedal person who just happens to be really big. You would think that the giant is a fairly simple creature compared to say, fairies or witches, however it doesn’t take much close examination before this happy misunderstanding starts to unravel. In the majority of creation myths I have come across giants were there first, so humans are in fact giant like bipedal persons who just happen to be really small!

It’s not just humans who turn up late to the party; the Greek, Roman, Norse and Celtic gods are all preceded by their giant counterparts. In all these cases the gods interbreed with or directly descend from the giants before fighting with and eventually supplanting them. It is often during, or as a result of, these struggles that some of the giants take up elemental functions as the bringers of winter, earthquakes or drought. It seems that when new gods establish themselves the old gods get demoted to giant status and have to carry the can for anything that goes wrong. It’s not entirely unlike politics.

Giants who were once gods (or were nearly gods but didn’t have the PR), “proto gods” if you like, often retain magical abilities and sufficient knowledge that gods who come after will consult with them in times of doubt. The Norse god Odin goes in disguise to see the giant Vafthrudnir and the two trade questions. Vafthrudnir, who was born before the world was formed, makes their contest “more interesting” by suggesting they stake their heads on the outcome. Odin agrees and after he has learnt all he wants he tricks the venerable Jotun by asking a question to which only Odin could know the answer.

When humans do turn up we very rarely have to deal with the elemental giants, they like to keep that in the family as it were. The typical giant that we encounter will be male. Some are friendly, the Cornish giants of Towednack and Carn Galva offered protection to the humans in their area, usually from other giants. Although they can be tricked many of them are sly and not to be underestimated. It is not at all uncommon for giants to have committed murder and amongst the murderers a goodly proportion are inclined to eat those they have killed. Giant homes tend to the extremes being caves or castles but either way they are heaped with treasure. This is often stolen from the local populace along with livestock and sometimes maidens or wives.

The question is: who are these earthly giants? Are they sad left overs from another race of nearly gods, unemployed elementals as it were? Are they pick and mix monsters, there to add some jeopardy to a psychological adventure? Are they perhaps just big people?

After 1066 the Norman Barons, having taken the land by force, built castles from which they oppressed the Saxon peoples and taxed them for the privilege. The “noble lords” considered the ordinary people to be their property and maintained their hold on the country with extreme violence and persecution. Being military men with the diet that wealth affords, they probably were on average taller (and fatter) than those who toiled in the fields to provide for their voracious appetites, especially when sat on their war horses. It is easy to see how they might be viewed as monsters. Stories in which a plucky lad tricked, robbed and even killed the big bully in the castle would be very popular amongst the downtrodden peasants. Sadly, the stories were just that and any actual uprisings or attacks on the upper crust were punished with death. These “sociopolitical” giants stayed in their castles and, like the gods before them, considered themselves entitled to their privileges won through violence as they morphed in to the British upper class. We might not like it but size really does matter.

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