Come with me in your imagination to an old land, a Demi-Olympus, a fabled and possibly invented land to the north of Mount Olympus, home and throne of the fabled Olympian gods. It is to this Other Olympus that the gods have retired. Now they reside in the Divine Rest Home whose proprietor is a black goddess. Not African black, She is as black as space, and if we look closely at Her, we can see galaxies and constellations and comets in Her. She is the Ur-Goddess, the Divine Creatrix, eldest of all, and She answers to the name Mama. (Note: many years ago, I actually saw this goddess after an all-day asthma attack that nearly killed me. She was in the ER with me.)
Helping Mama run the Divine Rest Home are Gaea, the mother of all life, and the Titans and Titanesses, who are older than all the gods who have come to the Divine Rest Home to…well…rest. The Titans and Titanesses held numerous important stations in the primeval universe and should probably retire, too, but they just keep going. That’s probably a good thing, as most of the retired gods need a great deal of attention.
Zeus, for example, has a troubling history, though if he visited the White House right now, he’d fit right in with all the privileged white men. One myth about him tells how he saved the life of his sister/wife Hera; a truer, perhaps more historical, version is that Hera was the Great Goddess of pre-Olympian Greece until Zeus and his generals and armies from the Caucasus invaded and raped the land and its women. As John Dryden wrote about Cleopatra, Hera “dwindled into wife.” If there had been a #MeToo movement in the days of Hesiod and Homer, nearly every queen and princess in Mediterranean lands would have signed up, including Antiope, Callisto, Danae, Europa, Leda, and Persephone, all raped—“boys will be boys”—by the king of the gods. So now Zeus is resting in the Divine Rest Home. Is he sorry for his misconduct? It’s hard to say. He’s calmed down, but the stories are still being told and he beams with pride every time he hears about a giant swan or a shower of gold. And, remember, he taught all his sons (who are old, too) to behave as he did. What has changed in three thousand years?
Let’s check out the Divine Rest Home’s sun porch, where the old warrior gods can get some exercise. Most of them would rather fight than do anything else. But Huitzilopochtli is suffering from a severe molt, Indra can’t get up on the elephant anymore, and Thor has been turned into a superhero…well, that’s only in the movies. Actually, he’s had too many concussions to engage in real swordplay. But the warrior gods keep challenging each other. They hear great clanging swords and shields, as noisy and shiny as their egos…but all that is only in their imaginations. Let’s just leave them to their fun and games for now. They’ll be back to watching the daytime soaps pretty soon.
Back in the central parlor, we see two of the more highly aggressive gods. They’re playing chess, and you can bet they’ll both take advantage of their queen (the chess piece that happens to be the most powerful piece on the board). Sitting at one side of the table is Jehovah. His sisters Asherah (the goddess some of the male writers of the holy book turned into a demon), Sophia (Holy Wisdom), and Chokmah (the goddess of wisdom who wrote the Proverbs) stand behind him. On the other side? Allah and his aunts, Allat, Manat, and Al’Uzza, three ancient goddesses who lived in Arabia long before Allah and the Prophet he dictated to in the dark cave ever arrived. The good news, however (and hopefully), is that these two gods now seem to recognize that they’re closely related (maybe brothers?) and perhaps there’s no reason for them to prosecute each other or persecute each other’s followers. (Let’s hope the fanatics who worship these two gods get the message, too: no need to go to war over religions that have much in common.) Osiris, who is smarter than the two competitors, is standing by to take on the winner of each day’s match. His sister/wife Isis, who is smarter than everyone else put together, is standing beside him. She’s a primary investor in the Divine Rest Home.
Every Wednesday afternoon, Isis invites other goddesses and creatrixes to visit the Rest Home and conduct seminars for the retired gods. After they play games (“Who’s got the comet?”) and drink hot chocolate and eat pastries toothless gods can eat, the goddesses get down to business. Their goal is to persuade the old guys to revisit their patriarchs, presidents, prophets, and preachers. Isis knows she has to keep it simple, so she gives her lessons one at a time:
- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Hearing this, Chokmah, who wrote it, nods and smiles.)
- “In order to be followed as an example, be a brother to others. … Be a son to the elders, and a father to the younger ones.”
- “…by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.”
- “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
- “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven … It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes….”
“Okay, gentlemen,” says Isis. “You got that? Think about mercy. Think hard.” The gods start thinking, a new experience for some of them. She nods. “Now you go out and talk to your patriarchs, presidents, prophets, and preachers, and talk to them until they understand. Got that??” Even retired gods dare not disobey Isis.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.
16 thoughts on “When the Gods Retire by Barbara Ardinger”
Your vision here of the “divine rest home” is truly priceless, exceedingly inventive, much fun to read, thanks so much, Barbara Ardinger. Can we say that our elected officials are in need of retirement too or maybe a new vision? I have to add however that Elizabeth Warren is a true exception, wonderfully out of place at Mt. Olympus. And maybe Senator Warren could actually help us rebirth a new form of leadership, especially if she runs for President, and what a joy that would be, that is, hello to a real democracy, a real hope for true equality, and also, like the queen in chess, women able to move any number of squares in any direction — wow, how wonderful that would be. Yes, it’s time for the first woman president, it’s possible, truly amazing, and for women absolute happiness.
But of course! Many of our current elected officials–especially the Abuser-in-Chief–need to start thinking. And pay attention to the golden rule. Let’s see what happens on Tuesday. Vote!!!
Yes! Very inventive, as usual, Barbara. I think your process of reimagining — particularly when it’s leavened by your wicked sense of humor — is a good exercise for all of us, especially these days.
Perhaps the Center for Retired Deities could add a 24-hour sports channel to its entertainment offerings. That might mesmerize “the boys” sufficiently to keep them out of further trouble.
Twenty-four hour sports for the retired gods. What a splendid idea! But shouldn’t most of the football players retire, too, before they’re all concussed? Yes, indeed, let’s add a 24-hour sports channel to the wall-size TVs at the Divine Rest Home. And give Mama the remote so she can turn down the volume.
I love this! So mote it be!
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I love your image of “Mama”, Barbara A. It resonates with me.
I hope the voters elect people who have integrity and commitment to the common good of the people.
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What an enjoyable scenario—I like it very much! Thanks, Barbara.
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Lovely! I truly love this line – “She is as black as space, and if we look closely at Her, we can see galaxies and constellations and comets in Her.” Thanks.
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That’s what She looks like. I saw Her. I had an all-day asthma attack that nearly killed me. Two friends took me to the ER, where I had a near-death experience. Then She was standing somewhere past the bed I was lying in. I couldn’t see Her face, but I know She was looking at me.
Yes, please, they need to retire soon, and their human counterparts need to retire even before that.
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Nancy, you’ve sure got that right! That’s why I wrote this story. Ever hopeful……..
Write on, right on, and may death be peaceful and soon for these horrible “Deities” formed in the patriarchal imagination.
Barbara I hope you will do a series on #MeToo and Greek mythology