Look, this is not a good country for gods. My people figured that out early on. There are creator spirits who made the earth and so we say thank you. But we never built churches. The land was our church. It gave us salmon and corn and buffalo, and wild rice. You follow that river for a way, you’ll get to the lakes where the wild rice grows. You go far enough south, there are orange trees, lemon trees, and those squishy green things… avocados. What I’m saying is that America is like that. It’s not good growing country for gods. They’re like avocados trying to grow in wild rice country.
It’s a strange paradox that a country with a strong fundamentalist movement would not be fertile ground for gods. To me it seems more like we choose to collectively idolize the wrong things, or choose our gods for the wrong reasons. We love our distractions, we love our teams, we want to be a part of a community, we want to be freed from our guilt and shame, and so on. America is a country of “God, Guns, and Guts.” Personally, I have a difficult time reconciling those three things in my life.
There is a palpable feeling that we are on the cusp of a major global shift, that this is the “moment of the storm.” It will be curious to see how things play out in the next few years.
I didn’t write about the last couple issues, not because they weren’t great (they were!), but because they didn’t include any quotes that I thought were worth looking at more closely. But this one certainly did.
Early in this issue, Shadow is entering the realm of the dead, after being sacrificed on the World Tree. He meets a cat woman, who seems to be some sort of spirit guide in the underworld. When Shadow inquires about her nature, her response is very intriguing.
Shadow: What are you? Who are you people?
Cat-woman: Think of us as symbols — we’re the dream humanity creates to make sense of the shadows on the cave wall.
This immediately made me think of Plato’s allegory of the cave from The Republic. Everything we perceive in this reality is but a shadow of a form that exists in another plane of existence. And we cannot comprehend the forms in their true essence, so we must approach them through the use of symbolism, which allows our subconscious mind fleeting glimpses of understanding, impressions of what thrives beyond our limited scope of awareness.
I know this is heavy stuff, and Gaiman’s work is very complex. But that said, he is a master storyteller, so he presents heady material within the structure of fun and imaginative tales.
That’s all I have to share for today. Thanks for stopping by.
Starting to catch up on my backlog of reading. This arc is already on issue #4, so I’m a little behind, but that’s OK.
This new arc in the American Gods saga continues where “My Ainsel” left off, and is classic Gaiman, steeped in mythology. I only need one example to sum up the gist of this issue.
In the god business, it’s not death that matters, it’s the opportunity for resurrection.
The death of a god is required for the renewal of the cycle. Osiris, Jesus, Mithras, the list goes on. One need only refer back to Frazer to understand that this is a dominant trope in mythology.
Not much else to share on this. Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading cool stuff.
In this issue, Shadow finishes his work at the funeral home of Jacquel and Ibis, who are representations of the Egyptian gods Anubis and Thoth, respectively. The installment contains some brilliant reflections on death that are worth contemplating.
Shadow drove carefully down the street. It seemed right to go slow in a hearse, although he could barely remember the last time he had seen a hearse on the street. Death had vanished from the streets of America, thought Shadow. Now it happened in hospital rooms and ambulances.
People in modern society are terrified of their mortality, so the tendency is to shield the public from what is a natural part of every life. The terminally ill are usually sent off to hospital rooms to die, or if they are lucky, spend their last days in hospice. To face a dying person is to stare into the mirror of your own mortality, and I sense that a lot of people don’t want to do that. They want to stumble or charge through life, oblivious of what is coming nearer with each passing moment. Personally, I feel that there is something very spiritual about reflecting on your own death. It makes you realize just how precious each moment is. In fact, I recently read about some Eastern traditions where monks spend time meditating while gazing upon the body of a dead person. I can only imagine the profound impact that must have on an individual.
The issue concludes with another great passage describing Shadow’s exit from the house of the dead.
Shadow realized it had only been a temporary reprieve, his time in the house of the dead; and already it was beginning to feel like something that happened to somebody else, a long time ago.
What I like about this short passage is that it succinctly expresses that death is only a very brief moment, essentially a portal into another level of being. Our consciousness does not linger in the house of the dead. It is quickly prepared and then sent on its way, and all that is left is the vague impression of that fleeting moment in the long journey of the soul.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my musings. Have an inspired day.