Do you yearn for a simpler time, when folks listened to a higher authority and obeyed holy writ without question? Do you long for the old-time religious faith of your forefathers? We’re talking real old-time, you understand. Not that new group, what are they again—Christians? Forget the fly-by-night Buddhists or those postmodernist Muslims. I mean way back. Back to the good old days when the gods were in business and that meant business.
That’s right, gods with an “s.” It’s time to bring gods, lots of gods, back into the classroom. It’s not such a farfetched idea. Thanks to Disney every schoolkid knows about Hercules. We’ve never forgotten Poseidon, god of the sea and the only person not afraid of Shelly Winters. You’ll be reacquainted with the whole clique before you know it.
Naturally, we’ll have to do a little modifying to bring them up to speed. They may be immortal, but they’re not exactly up-to-the-minute. Since protecting hunters isn’t the full-time job it used to be, the goddess Diana might be interested in taking over holiday shopping or personal injury lawsuits. Hermes, the messenger god, could branch out into telecommunications. Martha—oops, I mean Minerva, the goddess of handicrafts—I can see her expanding across the whole interior design and do-it-yourself realm. She could get somebody under her who just did decks. Homedepoteus, maybe. And, say, anybody else want to pitch in so that that nice kid, Aequitas, the god of honest deals and fair transactions, can get his accounting license updated and get back on the job ASAP? Washington? Anybody?
It is true that most of my knowledge of ancient history was, in fact, gleaned from a stack of Xena tapes in my entertainment center, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a true believer. Over the years, I‘ve come to see that polytheism can explain everything. Like how I am always, always on the bad side of the Leaving-Your-Headlights-On god, but how the Locking-Your-Keys-Inside-The-Car god has never once dissed me. Or how Aphrodite, the goddess of love, made it possible for my husband and I to perform our conjugal duties, week after week, to completion—for two solid years without the baby waking up. It was uncanny. It almost makes up for the grocery goddess, Demeter, that snot, who gives me a bad shopping cart every time.
It’s true that the ancient gods weren’t always fair and just, but understand that this was the ultimate market economy. Six crispy virgins buys you one decent harvest. If the gods never delivered on these deals, they’d put themselves right out of business. Of course, mortals occasionally encountered unfortunate “You scratch my back, I’ll smite yours” situations, but it was usually nothing that a couple of barbecued oxen couldn’t fix.
Then that goody-goody Moses came along with He Who Cannot Be Bribed and everything went sour. All that omnipotence was consolidated into one hard-to-reach central office (Um, excuse me? When did you say that switchboard would be up? Wasn’t it right after the Dark Ages?) run by those ingratiating seraphim who only tell Him what He wants to hear. We’ve all heard the rumors about the complaint box being emptied every morning before the Big Guy comes in. We’ve even tried apologizing for the Age of Reason. We got nowhere. What’s a mortal to do?
Go on. Start small. Burn a dollar bill in an ashtray for Eros while your date’s in the restroom. Make a discreet toast to Dionysus at the bar. Of course there’s no proof, but who has proof of anything B.C.? Who knows if Rome fell? Maybe it was pushed! If it seems too weird to you, don’t even consider them “gods.” Think of them as a holy human relations department. Like personnel, they’re folks who can’t take credit for the whole system, but who still have the power to make you wish you only lived as long as your average 3rd century gladiator.
In a situation where, say, another futile memo would be expected, take a long lunch at the park and cremate two ritually-slaughtered chickens and a bushel of bulgur wheat. Go on—light the pyre, offer up a prayer to the god or two of your choice, and watch things finally start to go your way. That is, if your particular god feels like it, if he hasn’t just broken up with his sister, for example, or if you’re not standing next to someone he’s trying to kill.
Okay, what system doesn’t have a bug or two? After all, Moses was the only guy who got things written in stone. Give it your best shot. And, by the way, if anyone happens to see Antevorte, the goddess of the future, could you let her know that I’m looking for her? I’d like to have a few words about my IRA.
Copyright, Ari McKee, 2002
Click here for another essay from Ari entitled "Dangling from the Divine."
"The Gods are Taking a Meeting" can be found in When Falls the Coliseum.