Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Two Moments in 'American Gods' That Gaiman Gets Absolutely Right


Image result for raven


In the old days, you could rightfully look to the storytellers—who, after all, tell the tales of the gods and know their lore—to know as much about the gods as anyone.

These days, I'm afraid, not so much.

As an entertaining read, I like American Gods. (The TV movie struck me as a waste of time, though. One story to go, please, hold the special effects.) But Neil Gaiman is a storyteller, not a theologian, and (as anyone who has read his twee retelling of the Norse myths can readily attest) an outsider looking in.

So—I will admit—it bugs me when I hear pagans citing Gaiman as if what he says about the gods has any sort of authority whatsoever.

(America hard on gods? Ha. America is a land of many gods.)

I can understand why theology-deprived modern pagans might do so, of course; the new paganisms, alas, have yet to generate much in the way of theology, or the conceptual framework that theology provides. Mostly we're too busy just keeping the lights on and the Wheel turning to have much time for deep thinking. But if we're looking for theology, a novel by a cowan using the Lore for his or her own purposes is probably not the best place to find it.

Gaiman's understanding of the gods is, for the most part, of no great depth, but there are two moments in American Gods when he strikes pure gold.


Shadow is talking with Mr. Wednesday, a calque for Odin.

Shadow: How did you lose your eye?

Wednesday: I didn't lose it. I know exactly where it is.


Shadow is being (sorry, I have to say it) shadowed by two huge ravens.

Shadow: Hey you: Hugin or Munin, or whichever one you are. Say “Nevermore.”

Raven: F*ck you. (Flies off.)


These two moments are as good as anything in Snorri. They're absolutely genuine.

As entertainment, American Gods makes a perfectly fine read for a cold winter's night.

Just don't mistake it for theology, OK?






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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