Modern Gods and Urban Druids

On one of the Pagan online forums where I hang out, someone asked how old gods think about new technologies, and whether they think about them at all. This was an Awen-moment for me. Here’s the reply I wrote.

I guess there are two ways of thinking of this (or maybe more and I’ve only thought of two!) In American Gods, the old gods are fighting new gods – of technology, computers, TV, modern music, etc. The old gods don’t understand either these new things, or the gods of them. That’s the school of thought that says that the gods are from the old world (literally, in the case of American Gods) and can’t understand the new world.

Another approach, though, might be to realise that, even though we see the world as changing very fast because we’re in the centre of it now, maybe the world doesn’t change that fast, from the viewpoint of someone who sees things very differently. Maybe the people who worked with that new-fangled bronze wondered whether the gods could keep up with them – and thousands of years later, humanity is just sliding from one form of tools (technologies) to another, with old deities seeing it all as the folly of humanity – or the fun of us, maybe.

From that perspective, I see some of the gods as cheerfully taking on new technologies of all kinds. I imagine Mercury as taking gleeful charge of IT and modern communication technology (while having fun dropping Skype calls and prompting us to send those emails that we immediately regret once we press ‘send’). I can see Morrighan enjoying digital tarot decks and oracular ipod playlists, thinking that she could have done with these at the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh. Ogma seems to enjoy my forays into scholarship just as much when I’m researching via Google Scholar and using Dragon Dictate to write my papers as when I’m in old musty libraries or writing with ink fountain pens. (Though he does seem to be a fan of the British Library.) I imagine Airmed and Brighid enjoying modern healthcare and medical treatments very much. I have no doubt that Camulus (Brythonic war god) is very impressed by nuclear weapons and unmanned drones. Taranis (god of the wheel and thunder) might enjoy cars and rock concerts. Hard to say whether Epona and Macha like modern horse-racing – they probably either adore putting money on the horses, or worry about their safety too much. Lugh must love football and test cricket and the iron man contest. I suspect Coventina protects the canal systems and waterways of Britain, looking after the exploited, insecure people who live on barges and house-boats. Maybe Elen of the Ways looks after our motorway system and you can meet her at bleak service stations all the way up the M1, if you look hard enough.

I used to wish I was more of a classic Pagan, liking crafts or playing lots of musical instruments or dancing all the time. I’m increasingly accepting that my love of technology and the modern world is not a bad thing. As an urban druid (TM), it works for me, sort of as the vehicle for my path. I’m already setting up online groups for Pagans who like that sort of thing, and I’m thinking that I need to go further with my tech-happiness and get good at things like doing readings online, and adapting old hoodoo workings to computer-based life, and online rituals and what have you. I’m not an olde worlde Pagan, and I don’t think my gods are olde worlde gods either. (It helps that I’m dedicated to a very chaotic deity who’s just as happy to interrupt my life technologically as she is doing it the old fashioned way.)

…I may need to start make offerings to Mercury and to Brighid of the Forge before using my computer…

– Leithin Cluan, worshiping the gods through her iPhone since 2010.

What do you think? Which modern gods have dominion over modern art, iPhone app development, or live indie music? Which of them help insecure temp workers on minimum wage and invisible exploited child workers in the overseas factories that churn out our clothes? Which of them seek justice for the black people killed by police in the US, or for families killed eating their breakfast, their house flattened thanks to mistaken intelligence reports?

And how can both ancient and modern gods inspire our own campaigning, struggles for justice, and efforts to survive in an increasingly hostile modern world? I’m wondering if there’s a god who has taken responsibility for the victims of disability hate crime, who I could call on when I’m going down the street on my scooter and being shouted at about benefit scrounging. Or if there are old gods of migrants helping desperate people in new migrant camps at Calais, guiding us to be their hands and feet as we search helplessly for ways to bring change when anything we could do would be illegal – and rewarding those who do find ways to help.

I’m thinking about which gods I could call on in these days of complex life in the city. Cities where the problems are the same as they ever were – hate, greed, exploitation, injustice, violence, poverty, wars for capital and resources. Are we so different from our ancestors in Roman cities and Celtic tribes? Are our gods so different?

Urban druid seeks new blessings from old gods.

11 thoughts on “Modern Gods and Urban Druids

  1. I’ve certainly found that Ogou Feray, one of the Vodou lwa, is quite adept when it comes to tinkering with modern appliances and computer technology. He’s traditionally in charge of fire and iron, so he kind of shrugs and points out that as far as he’s concerned, all our toys are just fire (electricity) and metal of one kind or another. He’s as liable to make it malfunction to send you a message as he is to help you out by fixing it, though, so it’s a mixed blessing ;-)

  2. In my experience, Sophia is very supportive of the fight for sex worker’s rights, and she considers it among her duties to be support and comfort for victims of rape and sexual assault. Samael, shaitan that he is, enjoys finding loopholes in our legal codes and contracts. Lilla is definitely a feminist deity and big on consent. All of them have used songs on the radio or my phone to get messages across to me; this was also a big thing with Loki (who has taken to the modern world like a kid to a candy store).

  3. I’m probably biased here, but I can see the ableism/disableism (dialects, meh) and the desperate people in the migrant camps as Brighid’s purview, as she stretches out her mantle to cover and comfort the people society treats as second class, while in her aspect of Brig Ambue she advocates for equitable treatment for the disfranchised.

      • I don’t disagree with either of you in principle, but I don’t know that side of Brighid, and sometimes wonder if she manifests differently in different places. Brigantia, on the other hand, who is very present in the land I’m in, has a strong warrior justice energy for me.

  4. Your response is absolutely fantastic, Nay. I am trying to make these very connections with my own gods, because I have a bad habit of falling back on the older stuff and not seeing the connections to the world I live in.

  5. It’s interesting, this idea of Gods of things, activities, values. When I think about deity (which to be honest is not that often) I think more in terms of gods of place. The gods of here are, well, here, regardless of what I might be doing. And while I think better with a pen and notepad (still relatively modern technology) where there is typing, there is, sooner or later, a glimpse of the awen.

  6. Love this post and the ideas behind it. I think the Gods don’t care about the times having moved on, they adapt. The Morrigan enjoying the fights for women’s equal rights, as well as a good roller Derby and mosh pit. Brighid watching over single parents and children in need as well as inspiring engineers to try something new. Would this also have Gods of Plenty watching over super markets, then?

  7. I love this idea! It very much resonates with my own experience – Manawydan, for example, being very concerned with seeing through ‘spin’ to the heart of the matter being presented, has been a guiding inspiration in my research and my tentative involvements in politics; it is also not at all what I would have expected from him, yet makes perfect sense now I come to think about it…

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