This post by Heather and this one by Emily Carlin have got me thinking.
I generally limit my discussions of my own gnosis to those things which are helpful to whatever point I’m trying to make. However.
When mystics get together to discuss their experiences, and when, in that discussion, patterns emerge, I generally tend to move those commonalities out of the “crazy astral shit” category to the “possibly helpful to explore more deeply” category.
I understand why pop culture spirits make people uncomfortable, but they are real.
From the moment a baby Pagan takes their first steps into the world of Pagan community, they are fed messages about who they should and should not scorn and make fun of. They catch on, pretty quickly, that there are respectable ways of practicing, and ways that will make you a social pariah. This stems from one of the uglier facets of community. We make ourselves feel better by putting others down; we create a feeling of belonging by excluding people. Those people whom we exclude, of course, whether we exclude them for reasons of race, gender, political beliefs or manner of practice, all have something to contribute. Whenever bigotry comes into the mix, the community is impoverished. This is doubly true when that community is reliant of volunteerism to get anything done.
To pursue thaumaturgy of any kind, for example, will get you labelled a crack-pot. That makes sense. Look around you. How many “respectable practitioners of magic” are running around hucking fireballs and levitating? Zero. That is an exact statistic. By definition, in order to succeed at something, you need to throw out what doesn’t work. If you want to do something that no one has done before, you need to try things that no one has tried before. That makes people hella uncomfortable.
Is it dangerous? Oh fuck yes, it is dangerous. Was it totally safe for Benjamin Franklin to go playing in lightning storms with kites and metal bits? No. Is it safe to smash atomic particles together to find out what will happen? Probably not. Madam Curie died from long term exposure to radiation. Did that make her work a bad idea? New technologies are always dangerous until you’ve explored them well enough to create safeguards. You can’t know what the safeguards should be against, even, until you’ve blown yourself up a little. I digress. My point is that “not being respectable” doesn’t make something invalid. It’s just a measure of how uncomfortable people are.
So, new beliefs and new practices, generally, make people uncomfortable. It goes deeper than that, however. Religious people believe in stories. They venerate the beings described in those stories. In order to do that, they need to separate those sacred stories from fiction. This process happens from a very young age, with the game of “real” and “not real” that we play with young children. Except that the schema which we give them is completely nonsensical and inconsistent.
Unicorns? Not real.
Aliens? Not real.
Santa? Easter bunny? Totally real.
Superman? Not real.
Invisible man who lives in the sky and judges you for masturbating? Absolutely real.
There is no logical unifying factor among the things considered to be fictitious. What we do, in our culture, is just give children a set of knee-jerk reactions to various concepts. We teach them to hold on to ideas that are emotionally or culturally important, or discard ones that make them uncomfortable, or which disturb the cultural paradigm, all completely without evidence of any kind.
Logically, when we make a comparison of the evidence for the Christian deity and Superman, in terms of realness, there is very little difference. They both figure in culturally important stories. They have made their impact on how people think about strength, power, fear and morality. You will not meet either of them walking about on the street.
The main difference is that almost no one lives their life in fear of Superman.
When we have experiences of deities like Poseidon or Thor, we can say to ourselves, “Oh, well, other people in the past did this, so it’s ok for me to do it.” When people start having experiences of Superman or Captain America, when we start to note similarities between their experiences and our own, everything starts to feel topsy turvy.
Even moreso, we know for a fact that these characters were some human being’s creative invention. The gods, on the other hand, are forces of nature which have been around forever and ever, right?
Watching a story spring to life, while a totally normal experience for a writer or RPG gamer, is an utterly disturbing experience for a religious mystic. After all, if you need to believe that deities are beyond human comprehension, that they are enormous and inscrutable, watching something which manifests similarly to a deity being created directly in front of your face kind of challenges that notion. All of a sudden, deities become a lot smaller. It inherently puts obeying Zeus without question on the same level as obeying Professor X without question. One of those sounds like religious devotion, the other one sounds like the product of a psychotic break, and logically articulating the difference between the two is harder than you might at first imagine.
Pop Culture Paganism challenges piety. It challenges theism. If you are a pious mystic, and the idea of people invoking Magnito — and getting a reply! — doesn’t make you itch a little, you probably haven’t given the whole thing enough thought. If you sum it up by telling yourself that their mystical experiences are clearly delusional, while yours of Sekhmet or Brigid are totally not delusional, you are just whistling past the graveyard.
I can’t really say, for sure, at this point, if there is a difference at all. I’m not a faith sort of person. I’m a natural philosopher. I look at things in terms of repeatability and evidence. I have relationships with deities, and I respect them, but I am loathe to lean on systems of belief, because I must, in my own estimation, be open to having my beliefs utterly shattered, because that is an inevitability. A pursuit of knowledge will do that to a person. I must be emotionally solvent, even if I discover the worst.
Pop Culture Spirits and Empty Gods
So, in terms of pop culture spirits, we’re in relatively new territory. We’re just in the stage of aggregating anecdotes, and will, perhaps, be able to make sense of them later. As per my usual disclaimer, I am not claiming that my gnosis is true. The experiences say something about me, and maybe something about the nature of the astral. They will raise interesting questions and angles to explore. The use in relating them is that, if others have similar experiences, we might be able to aggregate the data and start making some sense from the patterns which emerge.
“Peitho is Dead”
So, here is a very weird experience that I had several years ago. I decided to trust my Etruscan instincts, and to work with Hermes and his wife, Peitho, as a unit. Totally reasonable course of action, right? So I set up a lovely, sparkly altar to her with all sorts of beautiful silver objects and a painting that I made, and set about the process of calling her.
Hermes looked weirdly displeased. “Don’t do that,” he said.
I was baffled. “Why not?” I asked.
He shook his head. “You’re not going to get an answer, is all.”
“Because I’m sleeping with you?” I ventured. “Hermes, I have no desire to cause strife in your household. I don’t want to continue doing this if it means that I can’t be friends with your wife.”
He shook his head sadly. “It’s just… That number has been disconnected. I mean, ok. Go ahead and try it, I guess.”
Then, he left. I want to stress that he very infrequently leaves. He’ll give me space, if I need to work with another deity, but he’ll still be hovering.
So I did call Peitho, and I did get a reply. A deific presence showed up, feminine, pretty, maybe a tad roguish. I brought up my relationship with Hermes, and she said she was cool with it. Totally normal sort of conversation you might have a with a deity.
Afterwards, I called Hermes back. “I talked to your wife,” I told him. “She seems really nice.”
“Yes,” he said. “She was.”
“Very bright. Kinda funny.”
He smiled sadly. “Yeah. You know what? I don’t want to talk about her. Let’s go play a game or something.”
So, I called Peitho again, and continued the conversation. I mentioned, off-handedly, my relationship with Hermes, because we had already discussed it. She seemed taken aback and surprised, like it was the first she’d heard of it.
“You weren’t afraid that I’d be angry?” she asked.
Because we totally talked about this two days ago, I thought. To her, I said, “Well, I mean, I presume that you’ve met your husband. He’s a busy dude.”
We laughed about this, and she recounted a few stories about his trysts with various people. We had a conversation about healthy polyamory, and I stressed how important it was to me to be on good terms with her. She seemed extremely pleased, and said that this would be most agreeable to her.
By this point, I had a fairly good beat on her energy, and as I often do with deities, a day later, I poked Peitho to talk, and she had no idea who I was.
I confronted Hermes about this. He, a deity often so quick to speak, especially when a clever explanation is needed, sat down before speaking, took a moment to tamp down emotions, to fight back tears.
“I told you not to call her.” He said.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Peitho,” he said, looking not at me, but at his hands, folded in his lap. “She was the most splendid and cunning goddess I ever knew. I loved her very much. I still do. I still miss her. But when our religion was outlawed, she saw the writing on the wall. She left. A lot of gods did. What you talked to was … just… an echo. A corpse, I guess. What’s left of a deity after they do the equivalent of dying. Lights are on, but nobody’s home.”
There were not words to express how sorry I was for putting salt in that wound, or how horrified I felt at the idea of a deity-corpse wandering the astral, soulless, but still just… ticking about, responding in some way that makes sense with what they stood for. I wondered how many others there might be, what was driving them and how, if any of this was actually true, and not some crazy astral acid trip, it might be affecting mystics who call on them.
Not wanting to bother Hermes any further with the matter, I talked to Apollon about it.
“Ah yes,” Apollon said. “You… even you, a mortal… can tell by the eyes. Look at me. Look straight at my face.”
I did so. He, like many Olympians, has eyes the exact color of the sky. I could see expression, the gleam of intelligence, thoughts flickering through his vast and immensely orderly mind. Not an experience for the faint of heart. I physically started to sweat, and my heart-rate surged. I pressed through discomfort, because I sensed that he was about to make a point.
“Note,” he said. “Inner conflict. A sentient being is never wholly at peace with themselves. They are eternally struggling with their own essence. Do you feel the sparks inside of my head as passion and reason repeatedly strike against one another like flint and steel? That’s what consciousness looks like. That’s what free will looks like… now look at Peitho.”
I was really glad to look away. I kinda felt like locking eyes with anyone that intensely was not a thing that was supposed to happen unless two people were either going to fight or make out, and I did not want to do either of these things with him. I looked to Peitho again. I could see it. Her presence was intact, but her head was empty of those sparks which Apollon described.
“That,” Apollon concluded, “Is what it looks like when the soul of a deity leaves… or, of course, also what it looks like when a presence never had a soul to begin with, I suppose.”
Gods Riding Fictionaries
After that conversation with Apollon, I started taking studious notes about other entities, some divine, some fictional. Fictionaries, on the whole, tended to be a lot more like Peitho. Deities were more like what I saw with Apollon. There were notable exceptions on both sides.
I had, of course, seen deities appear to me, and to others, using fictional faces. Dionysos has appeared to people as Spike from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” or as Frank from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Hermes has shown up to people as Jared. I figured that they were just borrowing a face for convenience. It goes a little deeper than that.
“Hey, Thenea, want to play cards?” Hermes asked one day.
“Naw. Bored of cards. Let’s do an RPG. The astral is kind of an ideal format for that kind of thing. No physical props required.”
“Sounds fun,” he said.
“Absolutely no cheating. I know you can read my mind, but if you do, it will ruin the game.”
I decided on a Doctor Who RPG. It required only two people, The Doctor and his companion, and a bunch of alien NPCs. I created a unique companion: a woman who lived many times, and whose every incarnation ran into the Doctor. This was years before the introduction of Clara, never mind the big reveal about why or how she was “the impossible girl.”
Hermes wasn’t just pretending to be the Doctor. The two of us hopped into that fictional universe and made it our playground. We took turns DMing. Crap from our game, which we stopped playing a long time ago, is still showing up in the show today. The Doctor is not a sentient creature. Hermes is. And Hermes can ride that fictional character.
What would it look like if someone invoked that fictional character while Hermes was riding him? What might happen if that same person later ran into Hermes? Might they see that fictional character instead of his persona from Greek mythology?
Why, Hello, Magnito!
The very first time I got a glimpse of Neanika’s vigilante aspect was when a group of Bostonian friends of mind decided to invoke Magnito, during a trance workshop. The focus was mainly warding and spiritual safety. Invoking something which I was sure wasn’t a super-powerful supernatural entity seemed like a good, safe bet. We made up a version of the LBRP which invoked various good-guy X-Men, and called upon the power of Sorcerer Supreme — laughing our asses off the entire time, and generally enjoying the process of doing non-serious ritual, based on solid occult principles, with comic book characters. You know, for practice.
What happened next was a little unsettling.
Magnito was invoked, and more power than any of us expected flooded the space. The power then converged and coalesced inside the medium (a well-seasoned Wiccan who, at that time, had his second degree). He made a Magnito-like gesture, and at that moment, there was not a single person in the room who did not expect him to start levitating.
“By what means have you bound me that I cannot use my power?” Magnito demanded to know. To that entity, X-Men cannon was absolutely real, an absolutely valid reason to do things. I have had experiences like that when speaking to certain deities — this sense that mythology is absolutely, literally real. Thankfully, the ones I work with most frequently are a bit more circumspect.
In looking for that spark, as Apollon described it, I saw two. I saw, firstly, the sparks emanating from the consciousness of the fictionary, and the second, somewhat muted spark of the medium.
What I’m saying is, as near as I could tell, this entity was sentient and had free will. How did that happen? I can’t even begin to hypothesize.
Magnito began making threats toward the medium’s well-being, and I was absolutely ready to throw down.
Thankfully, the most level-headed magician on the planet was taking point on warding, and completely diffused the situation. Everyone was fine. No one was harmed. Magnito was eventually banished, and there were no lingering effects.
Ideas, Not Conclusions
I don’t have an over-arching theory for these various things which I have experienced. Sentient/Not-Sentient does not break down cleanly along Deity/Fictionary lines. I do feel strongly, however, that exploring Pop Culture Spirits, as a phenomenon, will be really instructive in understanding what deities are, and by extension, how we might best work with them. Working, particularly, with non-sentient fictionaries might be a good testing ground for theurgic techniques, since they cannot, by definition, assert any will of their own in the situation.
The one thing that is for absolute certain is that Pop Culture Paganism exists for a reason, and we’d be fools not to explore what that reason is.
Reblogged this on Journey to the stars and commented:
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Reblogged this on Pagan Church Lady and commented:
An absolutely fascinating article by Thenea. I very much appreciate the experiential approach. I also remember the dead eyes being A Thing I saw when invoking some Goetic spirits and wondering about that.
I suppose the sparks you describe rules out a thought form like the fake gods that pop up. Is it then just the weight of belief that causes something to gain form and sentience? Millions of people who accept the Marvel Universe as on par with their own, just removed from this timeline, create a newly birthed entity?
The development of a fetus is a good analogy to describe how I’m thinking about it.
Souls are eternal and indestructible, in my view. They incarnate for experiences. I really don’t think anyone would bother to incarnate a a blastula. Only when that body becomes viable, or capable of having experiences and relationship would it start to make any sense for a soul to incarnate into it.
Being a deity, or a fictionary, is an incarnation. Only when there are a critical mass of people trying to directly interact with the personality does it make sense for a soul to incarnate into it.
At the end of the day, there has to be a soul who chooses to live as that character, or it will never draw breath, so to speak.
Somewhere out there Middle Earth lives! 😉
You could go there when you die, if you like, I suspect.
Maybe Hermes has it on his list of cool places to stay between incarnations. If so I think I’ll ask for a hobbit’s home while I wait. I can think of worse things to do than garden while I wait.
Likely. That dude can break into anywhere.
I’d like to believe He can – and would – do that. Sure there’s many who would welcome such tranquility. The idea that a soul has a choice as to whether or not it remains embodied is interesting. I’ve heard of Walk-ins – almost zombie – like people whose souls decamped due to drugs or despair, and a different soul moved in. And changed the life in the process. But I don’t know if that’s true or a tall tale. Please if you do take a look at the goetic spirits let us know what you find and think. Also -off topic – would you have any suggestions as to how I can encourage a 14 yr old boy who is very interested in the Greeks, and help him connect? His family is Pagan , and I’m an aunt figure.
My parents knew a person that this happened to. He was a drug addict, and almost died in a car crash. After that, he claimed that he was a new person — meaning that literally — he divorced his spouse and got clean, but his personality was fundamentally different after that. Different temperament, different interests.
Cases like that are important to study when we try to tackle questions about brain vs soul.
Bonus points for the Jonathan Strange memes
That’s a fascinating experience with Peitho, thank you for sharing it! I wonder that the astral would have the acoustics to echo, or produce a shell or mask or ghostly pod-person like that. Why couldn’t the agency be the substance of the astral body alone?
About separating sacred stories from fiction so that the gods aren’t made smaller, though, it might also be a matter of re-thinking how big fiction can get. We can try to make it small by defining a pop culture story as the product of pandering to target demographics in exchange for money to fuel an industry in a bourgeoise culture, whereas the sacred stories change people’s minds and change people’s lives…but no one can really control how other members of the audience will take it, and designated creators by which a story is credited might yet sustain some mystery to the creative process.
And evidently the astral does its weird thing all the time, Doctor Hermes and successfully summoning/channelling Magneto.
My guess that stories are a natural way of organizing concepts, and the more stories are told then the greater the symbolic vocabulary. Lately I’ve been considering stories as spells. I read a summary of Orestes and the Kindly Ones and perceived the story as a curse-breaker, with characters behaving more like elements, than people with history. (Though I’d expect that you’d relate more personably to the figures in the story than this way that I’ve “met” them?) Catherine MacCoun wrote in her alchemy book that the Lord of the Rings trilogy may have counteracted the occult impact of Ariosophists and brought some balance to the alchemical levity and gravity of the world’s collective consciousness.
A constellation of concepts and symbols can create a structure for personality, but on what wavelength that construct is a person might be another matter. I’d also consider how immersive the fictional setting can become, and why.
On Peitho: Yeah, I really would have thought that if the soul left a deity’s office, there wouldn’t be much left of the deity’s presence. But, I guess, apotheosis means making a persona eternal.
I think about Apollon and Helios, and how the two were conflated. Is it because Helios got fed up and left, and Apollon picked up his mantle? Deities are created and destroyed all the time. It’s been happening throughout history. Are we to suppose that their souls died, too?
Rather, I think it’s more than people still think on Peitho, but no one has filled those shoes for a long time. The personality and the seat of consciousness are non-identical. That would explain why people don’t have the exact same personality in every incarnation (at least according to some people doing modern past life regressions, personalities can vary quite a lot from life to life).
As to why an astral shell can exist on the astral without a consciousness? No clue, but a ceremonial magic technique includes building such shells, and likewise, taking them apart. They are *definitely* not sentient, even though thousands of practitioners use the exact same ones.
Also of interest was Laine’s (Pagan Church Lady) description of Goetic spirits being likewise empty. Lots of people work with those, too. But who would wasn’t to be those spirits? After all, shouldn’t the soul have license to depart a dream which is wretched and hateful to them?
The empty eyed thing only happened a few times. The problem is, I no longer have the book that I used for the evocaitons, having abandoned that practice over a decade ago. I first tried to call a spirit (I don’t remember its name, but it began with “N”) that was said to be useful for learning about how to deal with other spirits. It told me that I could tell if a spirit was telling the truth by its eyes, that if it was lying, its eyes would shift and change. This spirit appeared to me with no eyes, just blank spots.
Likewise, a few others appeared that way to me. Like empty masks, moving but eyeless. It was more than a little creepy, and they felt so very hollow.
Thanks for clarifying. The more anecdotes we pull together, the clearer the picture will be.
I think I might go visit with some Goetic spirits and see what’s what.
Reblogged this on The Forest Witch and commented:
THIS. ARTICLE. RIGHT. HERE. I can’t even right now, I have so much head nodding happening.
As much as we like to think we know, we just seriously have no clue. The whole idea that our ideas can become reality, or perhaps were inspired by another reality, another plane, by these beings, these people…
GO READ NOW!
This reminds me a lot of discussions on another blog of the difference between “the hat” and “the wearer”. You were talking to the Peitho hat, but nobody was wearing it. And Hermes-the-person is quite willing to wear the Doctor hat in a game. This seems similar to “the divine answering machine” that has also been spoken of elsewhere, which is sorta sentient and can take devotions and answer prayers without necessarily drawing on the attention of the deity. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t around somewhere, it just means they aren’t paying personal attention.
This all kinda suggests the business with gods is much more complicated than it looks. If there’s not a 1:1 mapping of gods to hats, if they’ll wear fictional hats – and maybe borrow each others – then how many are there, how do they correspond to mythology? If they arrive as convinced of their mythology as Magneto was, can their own perspective be trusted?
Can we talk to them without the hats?
Why do they do it?
I, for one, would not trust the perspective of a deity who took his own mythology for literal truth.
As to the rest, it’s all personal gnosis that I’ve got for answers.
I kinda don’t understand the grammar of what you wrote “As to the rest, it’s all personal gnosis that I’ve got for answers.” Did you mean that you have answers but they’re UPG?
Yeah, that’s what I mean. In otherwords, inklings, but nothing solid.
A couple of things: Much of what you describe here matches with my experience of the Gods. I have experienced them taking on the appearance of fictional characters, often because that’s imagery I can quickly understand. Your description of Apollon’s eyes is whatchacall “accurate.” I’ve had similar experiences of his intensity, though not quite like that. My youngest (who will be three this week) has a relationship with Helios. I’m not really sure what her experience of Him is like (because she’s little), but I’m just going with it.
I like what I’m reading here so far. I stumbled across your blog from Asa West’s blog on Patheos, who linked to your June post about parting from Dionysos. I’m a Priestess of Apollo and would NEVER in a million years have pushed you to pursue an unhealthy relationship with any deity. I’m still making the horrified face over here.
Fantastic post. It’s funny (or maybe synchronous): 1) I’m writing a book series (to be published) that involves the gods. Since they appeared to me as fictional characters in the beginning, I use that in the book. 2) My main character has a thousand incarnations (and there is time travel in the series). I was writing her for fun in the 90s, long before Clara was around. But, my series has more in common with Terminator than Dr. Who. 🙂 The more I have written, the more it feels like the characters have taken on a life of their own. I dream about them more often than anything else, and wake up to grab my phone and type out as much as I can before I forget. Most of it makes sense, too. I’m a firm believer in the multiverse – I wouldn’t be too surprised to find out someday that I was only channeling all of it. It would at least give me an excuse for any one star reviews I get on Amazon someday. HA.
I’m very sad about Peitho, for Hermes’ sake. Though Zeus and Apollo “came through louder” in the beginning, lately all the activity seems to be from Hermes. Maybe it’s my Yahtzee habit. 🙂
The story about Peitho is just personal gnosis. As much as it brings up interesting metaphysical questions, and as much as I am going to stay away from the subject with Hermes, I’d prefer to believe that it’s not true. I’m going to remain agnostic until I see similar gnosis, unprompted, from other people.
It is very sad. It’s horrifying.
I, too, am a firm believer in the multiverse. Every possible reality exists, in my opinion.
I am of the same opinion. Have been since about second grade, when I read Bulfinch and the Greek (and other) creation myths. I came to the conclusion that if what was written in the Bible was supposed to be true, then why wasn’t Greek myth true as well? And if they were all true, why wasn’t everything in every other book true as well, somewhere out there? Probably faulty logic, but I was also an animist, and still am. I’ve only “messed around” with magic once, and decided it wasn’t for me, but your conversation with Hekate made me rethink my views. I tend to talk to all the elements and their various incarnations. Ask my curtains. LOL.
Reblogged this on In Search of Eccentricity.
Firstly, I know I’m terribly late to this post but I wanted to say how much I appreciated it. I must say I had my YES.THIS. face when you discussed the work to help identify the different ‘types’ of beings (deity, fictionary, etc.) as the question “what makes a deity a deity? How can you tell the difference between a deity and a INSERT OTHER BEING HERE (wight, ancestor, fae, fictionary, generic astral entity, ETC)?” and I’ve not received a succinct answer yet. So I really really appreciate your work to gather these experiences and put in words the theories and experiences regarding this. It speaks so strongly to how I relate to and learned about the mind, altered states and our spiritual experiences through studying hypnotherapy. Heather Freysdottir has been linking me to posts from you for an obscenely long time and I’m now sorry it took me this long to sit up and take notice. Thanks again for a great post and I look forward to catching up to your more recent posts! ^_^
This article is such a relief. HOLY SHIT!
Captain America showed up in my meditations early in May, and my friend linked me to this article when I posted about it.
I’m very used to the idea of existing deities “borrowing” a character’s appearance to make emotional connections or mental associations easier–I’m a writer and an actor, so stories and characters are my thing. So when Cap first appeared in his full movie getup, I naturally assumed that Chris Evans’ appearance was getting “borrowed” by an existing deity. The main two reasons I could think of for Cap’s specific face are because 1) I’ve been writing a superhero play, and 2) America seems determined to reenact World War 2. I’m Filipino-American, and I was NOT happy to hear Donald “Second Hitler” Trump say that the Japanese-American internment should be repeated for Syrian refugees.
When I asked his name was, he went, “Steve Rogers! :D” And I freaked the hell out and TRIPLE-checked Cap’s identity.
No lie, I asked the gods from THREE pantheons: The Irish, the Norse, and the Greeks. All of them have taken this man’s word that he is Steve Rogers, Captain America. Even if he isn’t the literal brainchild of Simon and Kirby, he must have taken this identity because he resonates with Cap’s honor and compassion. And that theory isn’t even from ME, it’s from the GODS. They had to calm me down, so they told me, “Whoever he is or used to be, whatever he did to take on this identity, he is Steve Rogers now. If you can’t trust him, trust us.”
I instantly felt ashamed about that. I’M AMERICAN AND I DON’T TRUST STEVE ROGERS? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME? Like, this dude let a five-foot tall Filipino girl drag him to a boatload of gods and make him state his identity over and over, without once getting mad or frustrated. In true Steve fashion, he assured me that a lot of people do dumb things when they’re panicking like I was, and the only thing I really did was make him introduce himself more than usual. (He would jeopardize Chris Evans’ title of “Steve Rogers Incarnate” if he were a living person.)
So the Irish gods adore Cap for being his chivalrous self, and Thor immediately went “Yeeeeeeah! AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, BRUH!” which speaks for itself, even though I was a little terrified that the REST of the Avengers would get summoned. They assured me that 1) I’m not crazy, 2) anyone who calls himself Steve Rogers is a VERY good man, 3) he is not my subconscious raging at Donald Trump, and 4) I’m not crazy, everything’s fine.
The second “not crazy” was from Dionysus. Our relationship is weird, but it works. (I’m leaving another comment for your post about Dionysus.) A lot of times, he’s the second god I go to when I need to check things–the first is my patron, the Morrigan. When the god of insanity says that 1) I’m not crazy, and 2) Cap is legit (and also not-crazy), I’m pretty sure it’s sound.
This morning, I met an entity who calls herself Wonder Woman. Since I’d already spent a month with Captain America obliterating my “superheroes aren’t real” mental block, my reaction to her was ridiculously clear.
I just stared at her for a minute, then screamed “Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod, DIANAAAAAAA!!!” and fell down crying with joy. I had to keep myself from crying in the PHYSICAL world, too–that’s how deep my reaction was. Once I calmed down and gave her some breakfast, Cap told her that he’s here to help me because Donald Trump is running for President. Yeeeeeah, Diana’s fucking PISSED at Trump.
I’ve realized after a lot of thought that none of my gods have ever appeared as superheroes. Before Cap showed up, I mostly figured that someone would eventually get around to borrowing a superhero’s face–but now that TWO superheroes are here, of their own volition? I’m wondering how many more are wandering around. They’re certainly worshiped like gods, and Cap seems to hold a deity’s level of respect since the other gods are starting to defer to him regarding me, specifically when it comes to “American issues.” Diana is obviously part of the Greek sphere and seems to consider herself a demigod by rank, if not blood. (My version does NOT acknowledge the “Zeus’ daughter” retcon of her birth. Dionysus joked about it and went “heyyyy, one of my eight million half-sisters!”, and she could have killed him with her expression.)
Unfortunately, with my fangirl squealing aside, it only takes two seconds to look at America and realize that we probably DO need superheroes right now.
Honest to Gods, this is no more crazy than virtuous Bellerophon riding on Pegasus and defeating monsters and bad guys across the ancient world. There is no reason Bellerophon should be legit and Cap and WW not so.
Funny, on the 4th of July, someone had a funny meme going around about “Don’t forget to leave out milk and cookies for Captain America.”
I thought to myself: “Gosh. It would be so incredibly great if there was a deity who gave a shit about the United States, in particular.”
Anyway, no, you are not crazy. We all deserve heroes. They don’t have to have literally physically existed in the past or belong to a foreign culture in order to be valid. Just my two cents.
Ha, I love that meme! For the Fourth of July, I painted a shirt with Cap’s Winter Soldier stealth-suit design and I watched the parade wearing it. 😀
I wonder if the prevalence of monotheism/Christianity in the West is why people are so hesitant to believe that superheroes are real. Many superheroes are explicitly “humans that have powers.” They’re not gods/demigods, and most of their powers were either from freak accidents, mutant genetics, or experimentation by other humans, not granted by a higher power. To a person raised with Christianity like so many people in the US, especially the “one right way to do things” mentality, there’s a pretty big mental block right there.
But when you start poking around into other religions? There’s TONS of stories where that shit happens. Humans randomly find something that gives them power–freak accidents, inborn magic, or what-have-you, and they give gods a run for their money without a sniff of divine parentage or support. It’s hilarious to me how everyone acknowledges that the superhero genre can be summed up as “Mythology 2.0,” yet claim that it doesn’t hold REAL power solely because it’s modern.
What power do they mean? Superheroes inspire people to make it through hard times, the stories have inspired genuine technological advances, and a lot of superhero actors start taking on their hero’s persona in real life.
Someone asked Chris Evans to autograph “Hail Hydra” as a reference to Nick Spencer’s infamous plot-twist for Captain America’s recent comic, but Chris refused and 90% of the fandom went “SUCK IT, NICK SPENCER. THE REAL CAP HAS SPOKEN AND HE HATES YOUR STORY.” This deliberate blurring between actor and character is discouraged in almost every other genre, and it was discouraged in the early days of superhero movies when they were just seen as campy family-friendly movies, but current superhero actors seem to be taking on the role of priests that embody their god/hero in the physical world.
Plus, superhero clothes are basically ritual garb. Bright colors (except for Batman, the Dark Knight), significant designs and motifs, and the outfit is only used for very specific purposes? CLOTHING MAGIC, BRUH. A lot of superhero actors LOVE their costumes, they feel that it genuinely “transforms” them, and they wear them for important purposes specifically for that emotional punch. Robert Downey Jr. probably won’t borrow Iron Man’s armor just for an awards show, but “Tony Stark gives a disabled child a prosthetic arm styled like Iron Man’s armor?” BOOM, EVERYONE LOVES IT.
Somehow, all of this evidence that pop-culture has genuine power in real life, among real people, STILL doesn’t translate to “Real Spirituality (TM)” as far as a lot of pagans are concerned. Maybe the social upheaval going on in the world is going to change that.
Quick plot twist: I started watching “American Gods” a while back, and HOO BOY there’s a lot of twisty meta things that the spirits pick up from it.
Odin apparently loves Mr. Wednesday / Ian McShane’s portrayal of him as a grifter and a warmonger. Fucking loves it. He said he gets bored with the usual fatherly/kingly and dignified figure that people tend to portray him as–in his words, those portrayals “don’t have much teeth,” but Mr. Wednesday does. His main appearance for me is a Gandalf-type wizard figure with an eye-patch (go figure), but now if Odin wants to tell me something canny, he’ll look like Mr. Wednesday and he REALLY pumps up the “shiny glass eye / heterochromia” effect, to the point where it looks like he has one glowing iris plus his regular iris. I don’t know why he homes in on that fucking glass eye, but he sure likes that it unsettles me so much. According to him, “sometimes eye-patches actually comfort people. It’s a nice, easy shorthand that ‘this person has lost a fight,’ and it keeps you from seeing what happened. But a glass eye can never look normal again, no matter how much it tries and how nicely it asks you to believe it’s real. That’s some visceral shit.”
Meanwhile, a spirit is standing in for Anansi (as played by Orlando Jones). He came along because I apparently have such a strong “trickster” vibe that he calls me a cousin, and it definitely helps that I’m a storyteller/artist. The problem is, my PERSONALITY is strongly mismatched to it… which is why I’ve avoided most actual trickster gods for the past ten years. Like, I cannot stand Loki and about three days after he started bothering me, Thor gave me a blank check to throw Loki out with no questions asked. We’ve gotten to an agreement, but I still don’t talk to him if I can help it. Even the nice trickster-type spirits either have too much energy for my introverted ass (Hermes and Dionysus), or they’re just too WEIRD and I have to take their interactions very carefully (Dionysus and a Fox-spirit). Anansi’s stand-in seems a lot more empathetic and able to process human logic, so he’s better at not-scaring me and not pissing me off than the other tricksters I know.
Of course, the OTHER reason Anansi’s stand-in is coming around is because I have a lot of simmering anger that fuels my writing. “Angry gets shit done,” after all.
So yeah, the gods definitely seem to take or leave modern portrayals if they resonate with them well enough.
The comments, beautiful.
Really, all of this is beautiful. I’ve had my own experiences, and it’s really refreshing and exciting to see I’m not the only one! I had a recurring nightmare for a while, and Batman got me out of it. I even had a dream once, where I encountered Cap… and I’d never seen the movies or cared about him… that caused me to actually watch them. Winter Soldier saved my LIFE – my whole family is filled with Vets, myself included, and I needed that movie. I had another dream once, not too long ago, where Sam Winchester locked us both in a room, salted it, put up some sigils, and explained to me some things I needed to know in order to deal with an astral nasty that was making my life, and my family’s lives, hell. Dean later showed up and gave me a spell to use… and it worked!
I’ll gladly talk about them some more if anybody wants to hear.
I’m so happy I found your blog.
Huh! I don’t know why this post showed up on my feed, but it did, even though it’s pretty old. Still a good post and replies. Happy holidays everybody!
I think because it had recent activity in the comments.
Must be. I enjoyed re-reading the comments. It’s an interesting twist on the usual.
Can I present a concept re: fictionaries vs gods, and the art of musing? And I don’t just mean Apollo and his muses, but the concept of spreading awareness of the self and one’s presence through television.
There’s a few faces to this coin I see:
Deities projecting aspects of themselves to earn proxied attention (would it REALLY be wrong to see a lot of Hermes in, say, Jack Sparrow?)
Deities finding other ways to modernly yield attention in an atheistic modern age, because how better to reach millions of people?
Thoughtforms/variants that end up floating in the same realm *as* mused effects and essentially play energy-feed with it alongside people’s focus and attention.
So in this proposed premise, especially #1-2, we already know deities can have fractal forms, masks and faces.
So while yes, most pop culture thoughtforms are hollow, how many may even be shells of ideas deities lobbed out into the public at some point and left behind like a cicada shell, floated by groupthink?
Also allow me to add to that last thought with the simple definition of “fan” that sources from “fanatic”, and then look at fandoms (for better or worse). I mean, religion is basically ancient fandom towards intangible effects in the universe. It’s not really a huge leap to take musing x fandom = religion. Hell, I’m commenting from a Supernatural account. For better or worse, the fandom sure as hell makes a lot of energy. (I am not saying Supernatural itself, perse, is a message from the gods — albeit the final showrunner’s use of inner alchemy as its mytharc instead of Christan dogma has kind of knocked me stupid, I admit — but an example of “energetic fandoms”)
I’m sure this could be used for good or for bad, from true divine things to malign thoughtforms trying to find their way up in the world, for a number of purposes, but while we speak of energies within egregores, I don’t think the energy of fandoms, in a world we know the validity of musing, should be cast aside too easily.