gods for the modern age: a manifesto
it should come as no surprise to any of you that my gods for the modern age series is very important to me. it’s been something of my claim to fame in the pagan sphere of tumblr, and in fact the vast majority of you are here, i think, because of it—for which i humbly thank you all. and i thought it was high time i explained why the series got started, and why it’s been something of my pet project for these last seven months.
it started, as many of these things do, with anger. some of you may recall that in late october of last year, an atheist group at the university of wisconsin–madison set up an installation that was both hurtful and extremely inaccurate—the so-called “graveyard of gods.” polytheists quite rightly decried it. i was furious. but it made me realize, once i’d calmed down a bit, that we have a widespread problem—even among those of us who believe in them and carry their worship into the present day—with seeing our gods as stuck in the past.
now, don’t get me wrong—i love research. i think cultural context and incorporating the original mythology is extremely important. i love seeing people’s art and photo sets of gods in their traditional dress and historical settings. i am positive that the gods carry swords and spears, wear iron age armour and tunics, dress themselves and style their hair in the ways they did when our ancestors worshipped them many thousands of years ago, even now in modern day.
but here’s the truth of things: when i picture the mórrígan, my mórrígan, the goddess i would throw myself into battle for at a moment’s notice, i see a woman in red lipstick and a form-fitting dress and heels that could kill a man. i see a woman in combat boots and cargo pants, carrying an assault rifle. i see a woman like the woman my little sister is growing into—a woman who could be standing at her shoulder on the parade ground, or crawling through the mud at her side on a training exercise, or cutting her way through a dance floor with her to rescue their friend from unwanted attentions.
nuada remains a king. ogma is still a poet and a soldier. manannán still walks the borders and rules the seas. brigid is in every home. donn’s hostel endures, and he still takes in souls. i don’t worship my gods because they were great in the past. i worship them because they are every bit as great now as they have ever been.
i never expected the series to get as big as it did. i dashed off the first one on a whim, and carried it on because i felt like i had unlocked something that was important to me. i don’t have a “godphone,” and i don’t experience visions or even a strong sense of the divine; all i have to go on is intuition and vague feelings. i’ve learned to trust them: they’ve never steered me wrong.
they certainly didn’t this time. i have clearly started something bigger than myself, something that speaks to more people than i can possibly keep up with. the twenty-six entries into the series have so far accumulated a total of eight thousand notes; last time i opened requests i got fourteen and had to close them in less than twenty-four hours. i intend to keep taking requests for as long as i continue maintaining this blog, and i have no doubt that there will always be someone interested.
the sheer number of people who have shown interest in my series shows without a doubt that i was right. this is a need we have, to see our gods as they are today, and it wasn’t being filled. if my role in our community is going to be to continue filling it, it is one i am happy to take up. i will always be here, a relentless advocate for the modern relevance of so-called ancient gods. i invite you all to join me.
laugh in the face of death. treat life like a carnival—chase girls, smoke cigars, drink yourself blind, and never pass up the chance for a dirty joke. keep the dead in the ground and the dying from harm’s reach. save lives, lift curses, hand out favours and come back to collect—and smile, smile as you dig the graves of those who wrong you.
walk where you will. heed no borders. make the roads and pathways your home, whether they be in the city or in the wild. get your message out however you can. always stop for hitchhikers; take them wherever they’re going, living or dead. and if you have to steal to survive, so be it. flip a coin—which way do you want to go?
do not fear the water. make your home the deep and secret places of the world. in joy give life, sustenance, adventure; in your rage, shake the very foundations of the earth. by your own hand bring steeds to heel and ride out—over the waves, or through them, carrying travellers in your wake. bury your hands in the soft clay of the ocean floor, and build.
remember this: above all else, balance. when chaos competes with order and their battles ravage the earth, step forward, reach out, and bring them into harmony. walk hand in hand with justice while learning and wisdom follow in your train. keep the records: at the time of judgement, only by your verdict will we know where lies the truth.
do not bow to fate. contest others; contest the heavens. hunt your enemies, hunt for sport, hunt because it makes you feel alive. blacken your eyes—with fists, with fury, with the shadow of the storm, it doesn’t matter which. in the end, they’re all one and the same. mount up, ride out, and drag the underworld with you: you are master of the hunt, and there are none who can escape you.
where you walk, the water of life will follow—but you need not walk alone. you are stronger in partnership, so clasp your hands together and work your magic. draw heat from the depths, light from the darkness, life from the dying. crown yourselves in stars and sunlight and pour your healing waters out upon the earth: you are the river, and the rivers flow through you. let the warmth of the water soak into your bones and take your pains away.
find poetry in contemplation. find brushstrokes in the leap and splash of the fountains. find music in the sound of running water. wet your lips, wet your brush, wet your feet, and begin your dance. let the drop of the endless rainfall and the running river be the rhythm of your meditation. step into the current, and let it sweep you away.
be whatever you choose to make yourself. create; write; heal; love. when the worst comes, hold your head high and remember you are exalted. court darkness, embrace death, and walk out again, carrying springtime in your train and bringing light to all you touch. make home wherever you go. when the night is long and cold and dark, do not fear: woman of fire, you have only to light a candle.
put colour into the world and light up the sky when the clouds part. be the life-giver, the rain bringer, who bridges the gap between sea and sky. hold all to their oaths: as you keep the promise of light after darkness, colour after grey, so must they keep their promises. fleet-footed messenger, fly, and with you carry the storm.