Back in April when the right wing kerfuffle began, there was a comment on Under the Ancient Oaks that got me thinking.
“Do you think that the gods can live on a dead planet? Do you think that colonization and imperialism, in exterminating countless cultures and ecosystems, hasn’t also annihilated gods? How many gods have been erased along with the people that worshiped them?”
The annihilation of Gods. Now there is something to think about.
Firstly, the idea of us destroying the planet is a bit too much for me. Even a massive nuclear war isn’t really likely to destroy the planet – just the current life filled version of it. But some life would survive and new life would grow out of the fallout – nothing we might recognise or survive with, but humans are not the planet, we just live here.
But on to the matter at hand. Can Gods die?
This really depends on what you believe. If you believe that Gods are not entirely immortal, then of course you might believe they can die. For many of us though, we do believe the Gods are immortal and therefore, they probably don’t really die – even when they seem to. Even when they seem to disappear completely.
For those of us who communicate with the Gods, how can this be explained? How can there be missing Gods out there, if they aren’t dead? If they are alive, then why don’t they just contact us? The Gods are obviously capable of contacting us if neo-Paganism, Polytheism, Reconstructionism and all the rest are anything to go by.
So why haven’t they contacted us?
Who says they haven’t?
Conflation and Convergence
There is this phenomenon, well known throughout history, where a God or Goddess will, over time, become a completely different deity. Here we can see what happens to some old Gods, they don’t die or disappear, they merge with another deity – or perhaps just become known by another name.
Usually this occurs when one religion encounters another and decides some appropriation is in order, and so a deity of another culture will be merged with the deity of the appropriating culture. This was a common aspect of Hellenism – and is how we have Rhea-Kybele and the conflation of Isis/Aset with Hekate. It is extremely common in Hellenism for a single deity to have about a million names – that might be a slight exaggeration, but it might not be. And so Hekate is Hekate Phosphorous, Hekate Enodia, Hekate Brimo, Hekate Soteira and many many more.
From what we can tell by looking at history, it appears that in a lot of cases these multiple names were not original, they occurred over time. Once there was a deity called Brimo, and there was a deity called Hekate. Then, one day, there was a deity called Hekate Brimo and Brimo was no more – though Hekate continued as Her own self.
So what happened?
There are several possibilities, but we don’t really know – I suppose it is not for us to know. However we can make some guesses.
It is possible there never was two deities, just two different ways of seeing one deity and over time people learned their mistake and fixed it. And so Brimo was always Hekate, there was no Brimo, just a Hekate. It could be that the people knew this all along, She just had the two names, but they didn’t communicate that well in the histories.
It is possible that there were two deities and they literally merged together into one greater deity. Like how I like to mix coke with vanilla icecream to create one awesome piece of yumminess (we call that a Spider here in Aus, because we apparently don’t have enough spiders already). It’s probably more complicated than that of course, but you get the idea.
It’s possible that there is no merging, just assumptions. Hekate and Brimo remain two separate and distinct entities, and when we pray to Hekate Brimo we are praying to two different deities at once. Or perhaps we are only praying to Brimo who simply has a new name, She is now Hekate Brimo, and Hekate Brimo is not that same entity as Hekate or Hekate Phosphorous. Just like I am Bekah, but I am not the same person as every Bekah out there, so too the Gods could share names whilst remaining distinct and individual.
Personally I suspect it is either the second last – when we pray to Hekate Brimo, we are actually praying to two different entities. Or it is the first – there never was two deities, just two names for one deity. But that’s just my assumption.
I think though that there is a good chance of it being the last and for the purpose of this post, we are going to assume it’s the last one – one deity gets stronger, while the other becomes forgotten, but She is still there, somewhere.
Old Gods, New Gods
There is this other phenomenon where people of our not-too-distant past will write out histories that aren’t exactly true or at least are completely unsourced from our perspective – such as the Venerable Bede who wrote about a Goddess of Easter named Eostre.
Was she real? Did she used to have a following back before Bede wrote about her? We don’t know for sure, it’s possible, but the historical proof is lacking (you can’t prove a God exists, but you can show they existed as part of a religion of the past). So we don’t know if she was real, if she had a cult back then. But we do know one thing. She is real now, she has a following now. Indeed, she is really popular.
Let us assume for the moment that Eostre was a creation of Bede and never existed, as such, before he wrote about her. But now she is real.
How does this happen?
There are multiple possibilities. One is the power of belief, mass belief essentially creating the Gods. So, a whole heap of neo-Pagans read about Eostre and, thinking to one-up Christianity, grasped onto Her with every fibre of their beings. And so She came to exist, through that mass surge of power and will.
Another idea is that She already existed, just not as Bede described her exactly. I mean, where did Bede get the idea of Eostre if she didn’t exist? Why would he create Her?
Perhaps, an old dead Goddess made subtle contact with a man and inserted some tantalising ideas into his head, so that he would write about them. He turns out to be somewhat influential and soon enough this old dead Goddess is being worshipped again. Perhaps she has a new name, perhaps it is old. Perhaps her mythology is false, perhaps it is not.
Over time myths and associations have been given to Eostre, ones that have no source that we can find at all. Yet they are widely believed and ascribed to. Where did these new beliefs come from? Some random person I guess. And where did that random person get their ideas from?
Maybe it was an old dead Goddess.
Maybe some things never die.
Am I saying Brimo is Eostre? Ahaha, no, they are very very very different entities. But while Eostre could be the new perception of an old Goddess, so too could Brimo be perceived differently today, with a new name.
There have been people who have created new deities, or seemed to. It’s not impossible that they haven’t created new ones so much as they have revived some old cults to some old forgotten Gods – even at the subtle behest of that old God. The Gods are not always honest with us, They hold secrets from us, it is not our right to know everything about Them.
We can’t accept that every new God is a real God, but we can at least consider the possibilities of these new Gods and just who They might actually be. Surely we owe it to those old Gods to seek out the possibility of Their re-emergence.
Personally, I don’t know if I agree with any of this. I think it’s worth considering though, for the sake of dead Gods and for our own minds – considering different possibilities is good for the brain, if nothing else.
What about you, do you think old Gods can die? Or do you think something else happens, maybe an idea from this post or another idea entirely?