You know, there’s nothing as refreshing as having a good old-fashioned existential crisis at 1:30 am on a work night. Well, I exaggerate just a little; it wasn’t really a crisis, as I wasn’t doubting the veracity of beliefs or experiences or my own existence and purpose. My faith is horrifying in its strength, almost enough to make me slap myself and be all, “get a fucking grip and just try to be normal for an hour!” No, I was just mulling over the question of what came first: the gods or the stories? Have the gods always existed, or did humans create them and give them their power? It’s something I ponder a lot, and ultimately, it doesn’t matter because regardless of their origin, they exist, and they amuse me. Yes, I frustrate them because instead of the idea that humans exist to amuse the high holy beings, I tend to think they exist for my own entertainment. They’re cute when they’re frustrated. Shrill, but cute. But I digress.
Just because it doesn’t matter doesn’t mean it’s not fun to discuss.
The super fun part about all of this is the inspiration: yesterday, I fell down the rabbit hole of Snape Wifery, thanks to Reddit. For those who were blissfully unaware, I’m glad to burden you with this knowledge. Evidently, in the early Aughts, there were middle aged women who claimed to be married to Severus Snape (do I even need to explain who he is/where he’s from?). They said he existed in the astral plane, and they could channel him and have sexyfuntimes with him, and so on and so forth. He was their Master. Awesomeness all around.
A post on the r/TIL forum linked an “independent” research paper on the phenomenon of Snapewives, though it was questionable at best; only three women were mentioned in the paper, all of whom knew each other (two were even neighbors) which hardly qualifies as a phenomenon begetting a new religion. Even when I tried to sleuth out more information about this “movement,” all of the sources I came across and the archived pages focused mostly on those same three women. However, this isn’t something that’s limited to just these women and Snapesy. Anyone who’s ever Googled Lokians/Lokeans has surely come across their share of Tumblr fangirls claiming to be married to Loki, specifically the Hiddleston/MCU Loki. So, it’s kind of a thing, I guess. Understandable, to a point: lots of attractive actors playing interesting characters who are designed to be charismatic and entertaining. I’ve had plenty of crushes on actors and the characters they play, because who hasn’t? But insisting they’re real entities and claiming to be in intimate relationships with them? Well, this is where it gets interesting.
Because I’m the best kind of friend, I sent the Reddit post and the article to my friend Statler from work (as in she’s the Statler to my Waldorf). She was appropriately unnerved, and I started in on some of the comments in response to the “research paper.” Anyone who’s read this blog is familiar with my fascination with Catholic nuns that carried over from the brief time I spent dabbling in Christianity as a teen, and that I often liken myself to a Lokian nun. So of course I was a little alarmed to see comments making similar correlations. I panicked a bit while messaging Statler, hoping that I don’t come across like these ladies in my devotion to Loki (Norse!Loki, in case anyone’s forgotten that my devotion is to the red-headed, emerald-eyed, freckle-faced god of what-the-fuckery). She tried to calm me down by telling me my situation was different, that the gods are real (which is interesting because she’s at best an agnostic of sorts) but Snape is a fictional character.
“How do you think religion starts?” was my reply.
“The old gods?”
“Did they actually create the world and us, or did we create them?”
“I’m going to go with the first thing.”
And thus we jump into the heart of the matter.
This isn’t much of a debate-worthy topic for adherents of faiths such as the Judeo-Christian monotheisms, as their teachings specifically state that God created the world and everyone in it, and their holy writings are the Word of God as recorded by His prophets. End of story. But for the rest of us nutcases . . .
As mentioned above, this is something I think about a lot, even though the truth really doesn’t affect anything. I genuinely don’t care which came first, gods or humans, and it makes no difference to how I perceive the world and interact with the people and energies around me. But it’s a fun thought-exercise, and I’m always down for discussions of this nature. How do religions begin? How do the gods come into being?
First, personal groundwork: I am a hard polytheist. I believe that each god, goddess, and being is its own separate individual entity. I personally don’t subscribe to the thought that there is only one cosmic being, and all deities are just facets or representations of that one great creature. In my own experience and understanding, Thorr is not the Norse name for Zeus, Freyja is neither Aphrodite or Diana, Hel is not Anubis, Baldur is not Christ. This is my truth, doesn’t mean it’s yours, or Actual Truth. It’s just how I’m hard-wired.
I’ve always enjoyed the myths as stories; while I wholeheartedly believe in the gods (mine and all the others throughout the world), I’ve never seen the stories of the Eddas as a Holy Writ that chronicles the Actual Real Historical Events of Everything. I mean, I would enjoy it if the Eddas recounted things that actually happened, because who doesn’t want to live on a planet that was built from the corpse of a giant (especially a giant who was released from a salt lick by a Cosmic Space Cow)? Who doesn’t want to worship gods who tie their nutsacks to goats to play an epic game of tug and war, in which the lives of all the other gods hang in the balance? But I’m pretty sure that’s not real life. The myths are stories that help us to learn about the gods, who they are and what they’re about, so that we can better understand them and give us a foundation on which to build and cultivate our relationships with them (and by cultivating relationships with them, I mean mocking the goat thing, even during offerings and meditation/trance work. I’m an asshole, but at least I’m an asshole right to the gods’ faces).
That said, did the gods create humans, or did humans create the gods? In all honesty, I personally think that even if the gods existed first in some way, shape, or form, humans developed them and gave them their identities. As a book nerd and occasional novelist, I’m well aware of the power that stories hold. As writers, we create entire worlds and populations, and as readers, we bond with characters, fall in love with them, and devote energy to them when discussing and creating fanart, etc. Who can look me in the eye and tell me the gods came first? It’s very likely that what we hold up as sacred lore and mythology were literally just stories, but they became so popular and the characters so beloved that they literally took on a life of their own. Did that create the gods, all of that energy people fed into the telling and retelling of the stories? Or did it just give identities and shapes to the energies that already existed?
Or were the gods always here, as we know them, and the stories are the memories of dreams and visions in which the gods made themselves known to our ancestors? Did the gods call people to them and reveal themselves? That’s just as possible and plausible as the idea that our ancestors created their gods through stories.
Of course, the idea of gods being created through the energy of fandoms opens the door to new religions and new deities being born. I mean, the Church of Latter Day Saints is one such example since the Book of Mormon is only, what, 200 years old? Not even? And look at Scientology. Sure, it looks and sounds like an absurd scam, but don’t all religions in their infancy seem bizarre and cultish? Sure, we even know that Scientology was created by Hubbard just to prove he could start a religion (and make bank while doing it), but it’s got a sizeable following. There are religions based on Lovecraft’s work, and Tolkein’s, and even Jedi faiths. If there’s a book or movie that tells a story that resonates with enough people, ignites a few hearts and sets some souls ablaze, who’s to say that such energy isn’t being shaped into a new deity? Or breathing new life into a long-forgotten god?
I’m pretty sure this is exactly why American Gods has been my favorite book since 2001, because it more or less handles this topic in the most fascinating way. It examines how the old gods have evolved and changed with their assimilation into American culture through the centuries, how they change and modernize right along with the people who believe in them. The book focuses on the friction between these modernized old gods and the new gods people have unconsciously created, such as Media and Technology. But at the very end, in the remote wilds of Iceland, the protagonist meets with one of the OGs, the original version of a god he’d met in America. The gods are fluid beings, and they change with us, keep up with us as society morphs and reshapes itself. They’re not dusty old relics watching from on high – they’re dynamic and easily adapt to the changing times. Is this a reflection of their primordial power, or of their dependence on those who believe?
At first reading of the Snape wives article and discussion, I was creeped out and absolutely thought those women were crazy. I’m not saying that upon further reflection, I think the whole thing is hunky dory and want to know how many erotic fanfictions I need to write to gain Master’s approval. Fuck no. I’m just entertained by the idea of new gods and new religions continuing to spring forth as more pop culture phenomena take hold. It’s more than a little amusing to think about what will survive and grow in the next few centuries.
What say you? What are your thoughts on the origins of various deities? Did they create us? Or did we create them? Are we creating new gods? And what the fuck, Loki, was trying your balls to a goat really the best you could come up with? I mean, props for saving everyone from Skadhi’s wrath, but dude, you’re as demented as a Snape wife. We all know it was just an excuse to show off your junk, but seriously, stick with the erotic fanfiction next time.
Or don’t, actually. I don’t think anyone needs to read erotica as dreamed up by Himself. Gods know there’s already enough Thor/Loki slash thanks to Marvel. Oh god, I feel another existential crisis coming on.
If we created the gods, good job, society. We’re all just a bunch of sick fucks.