Hello! A few notes: first off... if you have not read American Gods... well, you definitely should! But you also probably should not read this website until you have done so, because there are some plot spoilers involved here. Sorry. Okay, you've been warned. Also: because of translation and etc., most gods, goddesses, and other mythological beings have widely varied name-spellings. I tried to stick with the ones used in the book, and list a few of the most popular alternatives. If a character is referred to by multiple names in the book (i.e. Wednesday and Odin), their main entry will be given under their mythological name. But don't worry, they're all cross-referenced! At the end of each character's entry is the page number they first appear on. The page numbers I've used are from the American hardback edition. This page has been greatly improved by the input of many, many people, who I have tried to mention individually throughout the page. But here, a collective thank you to everyone who has sent me additional information of any sort!
If you're interested in the geography of American Gods, I've set up this page, which tracks Shadow's travels across the country.
And the god who everyone forgets now has his very own page, with collected clues and theories regarding his identity.
Allvis | Anansi | Antinous | Anubis | Ashtaroth | Banshee | Balder | Baraka | Baron Samedi | Bast | Bielebog | Bilquis | Brahma | Coatlicue | Czernobog | Damballa-Wedo | Delirium | Eagle stones | Easter (See Eostre) | Elegba | Eostre | Frau Holle | Ganesha | Gorgons | Golem | Gwydion | Hadrian | Hershef | Hinzelmann | Horus | Hubur | Ifrit | Johnny Appleseed | John Chapman (See Johnny Appleseed) | Ka | Kali | Kitsune | Kobold | Kubera | Leucotios | Leprechauns (See Mad Sweeney) | Loki| Low-Key Lyesmith (See Loki) | Maahes | Mad Sweeney | Mama-Ji (See Kali) | Mawu | Mead | Mike Ainsel (See My Ainsel) | Mithras | Mr. Jacquel (See Anubis) | Mr. Ibis (See Thoth) | Mr. Nancy (See Anansi) | Morrigan | My Ainsel | Norns | Odin | Ogu | Pan | Ratatosk | Rusalka | Salim (See Ifrit) | Sam Fetisher | Set | Sha Wujing | Shadow (See Balder) | Shango | Shiva | Skanderbeg | Soma | Thoth | Thunderbirds | Vishnu | Warrior Twins | Wednesday (See Odin) | Whiskey Jack (See Wisakedjak) | Widow Paris | Wisakedjak | World Tree (See Yggdrasil) | Yggdrasil | Zaka | Zorya
Also called Ayida-Weddo, she is the voodoo rainbow serpent goddess. She is the wife of Damballa-Wedo (or Hwedo) and is considered equivalent to the African Mawu.
In Norse mythology, the son of Vindalf and king of the dwarfs. He was known for his wisdom-- "Allvis" means "all wise"-- but was turned into stone when, having been promised the hand of Thor's daughter Thrud, Thor questioned him until sunrise.
(From Johan: "["Alviss"] is grossly misspelled. It should be Allvis. A double consonant
means that the preceding vowel should be short, single consonant means
a long vowel.
In the case of "a", "attar" vs. "are". If you wan't to get even close
to the original sound, use English pronounciation (even that isn't very
"Allvis" is a compound word, like windsurfer or bodybuilder. Decomposed
it is "all vis", meaning "all-wise" or more nearly "all-knowing".
Seeing as how Allvis is a mere dwarf, the epiteth "all-knowing" is a
major affront to the gods.") (110)
Appears as Mr. Nancy. West African trickster. Not a god, but he is the intermediary for Nyame, the sky god. He is a spider, and although he is sly and crafty, he can be helpful: he taught humans how to plant grain. Sometimes he is considered to be the creator of the sun and moon, and even of the first human beings, who Nyame then breathed life into. (97)
Lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. When Antinous was found drowned in 130 AD, Hadrian deified him. Antinous is often considered an aspect of Osiris, the Egyptian protector of the dead, who also drowned in the Nile. (404)
Anubis (Mr. Jacquel) was the ancient Egyptian lord of the dead. He was eventually replaced by Osiris. He is usually represented as a jackal or wild dog. He weighed the hearts of the dead, and lead the worthy to Osiris. Anubis was also the god of embalming. (73)
Ashtaroth is the plural name for Ashtoreth, the Phoenician moon/fertility goddess, called Ishtar by the Accadians and Astarte by the Greeks. More obscurely, Ashtaroth, or Astaroth, was a demon and the Treasurer of Hell. He encouraged sloth and idleness. Wednesday only mentioned the name in passing, but I would assume he was referring to the goddess, not the demon. (107)
Also known as the Bean Sidhe. In Irish legend, the Banshees wail before someone's death. If caught, they are obligated to reveal the name of the person destined to die. (176)
Balder: Evidence suggests that Shadow is actually the Norse god Balder. Balder is the Norse god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation. He is the son of Odin and Frigg. According to legend, Balder was concerned with his own death, so his mother extracted an oath from every creature, object, and force in nature, to never harm Balder. However, she forgot about the mistletoe, and Loki, who was jealous of Balder, tricked Balder's blind brother Hod into stabbing Balder with mistletoe. When Mr. World (Loki) is talking to Laura about Shadow, he says, "When this is all down with, I guess I'll sharpen a stick of mistletoe and go down to the ash tree, and ram it through his eye." (410) Additionally, Balder is traditionally very concerned with justice and fairness, which could certainly also be applied to Shadow. (His deal with Czernobog, his returning money to the waitress in San Francisco, etc.) And Shadow is, of course, Odin's son. (Thanks to Tim and Sorn for additional information!) (3)
"Blessing" or "God's favor" in the religion of Islam, as well as Swahili, Sufi and other languages.
Related to Legba, Baron Samedi is a voodoo Ghede, or god of the dead. He is also a guardian of the crossroads, and can be prayed to for intercession to the loa (deities concerned with the lives of humans.) [In a bit of an in-joke for Sandman fans, his avatar is Didi from Death: The High Cost of Living.] (Thanks, Jose!) (382)
Also known as Bastet, Bast is the Egyptian goddess of the sun (and later, the moon.) She is represented as either a lioness or a cat, or a woman with the head of a cat. Bast is one of the "Eyes of Ra", who seeks revenge on the enemies of Egypt.
Also known as Bylebog, the Slavic god of happiness, order, and luck. He is the opposite of Czernobog. "Bielebog" translates literally from Russian as "white god". (Thank you, John!) (63)
Bilquis, also called Bilqis or Balkis, was the legendary Queen of Sheba. In the Bible and the Koran, she met with King Solomon of Israel. Tradition also says that she bore his son, Menelik I. She was also believed to be half-jinn, and was reknowned for her beauty and for her wise leadership. She was called Makeda by her own people. (Thank you, Christina!) Legend also says that she had very hairy legs, which the Bilquis of American Gods notices. (22)
In the Hindu Trinity consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, Brahma is the eldest god, and he is the Creator. (342)
When Mad Sweeney meets Shadow in Cairo, he says "I sweartofuckenBran." According to this website, ""Bran was the name of a legendary king of Britain, is the original Fisher King of the Grail Legend, and appears in both Welsh and Irish literature, each time connected to Mannanan MacLir/Manawyddan MabLlyr." (Thanks, Andy!) (169)
In certain regions of Native American life in North America, notably the Great Plains and the Southwest, the buffalo has been and continues to be a highly revered a force of key importance in traditional spiritual, ceremonial, and physical life. (Thank you, Jacquelyn! Jacquelyn recommends the Native American Studies program at the University of California, Davis, for serious scholars of American tribal peoples.)
In Shadow's dream, she is described as a "...womanlike thing:
her naked breasts hung flat and pendulous on her chest,
around her waist was a chain of severed hands, both of
her own hands held sharp knives, and, instead of a
head, rising from her neck there were twin serpents,
their bodies arched, facing each other, ready to
attack." She is the Aztec earth mother. Additional information from Pearla: "After the conquistadores hit Mexico & destroyed many
Aztec temples, Coatlicue became the Virgen of Guadalupe, a
manifestation of the Virgin Mary (by way indigenous pagan beliefs).
So, even more mythological complexity there: a combination of
Christian and Aztec-pagan..."
(Thanks, Josh and Pearla!) (46)
Also known as Crnobog or Chernobog, he is the Slavic god of the dead, the night, and chaos. He is the opposite of Bielebog. "Chernobog" translates literally from Russian as "black god". (Thank you, John!) (58)
Also spelled Damballah-Wedo, he is the central god of voodoo. Damballa is a snake-god, and the god of fertility. He holds the earth in his coils, and his movements cause earthquakes. (258)
Fans of Neil's Sandman might recognize the confused girl with the dog in San Francisco as Delirium, the youngest of the Endless. (240)
From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable: "Yellow clay ironstones supposed to have sanative and magical virtues. They are so called because they are found in eagles’ nests. Epiphanius says, “In the interior of Scythia there is a valley inaccessible to man, down which slaughtered lambs are thrown. The small stones at the bottom of the valley adhere to these pieces of flesh, and eagles, when they carry away the flesh to their nests, carry the stones with it.” The story of Sindbad in the Valley of Diamonds will occur to the readers of this article (Epiphanius: De duodecim gemmis, etc., p. 30; 1743).
It is said that without these stones eagles cannot hatch their eggs."
Readers of other Gaiman works might remember that in Sandman #17, "Calliope," one of Richard Madoc's books is called Eagle Stones. (227)
Also called Esu or Eshu, Elegba is the West African god of all roads and opportunity. He is a trickster god. Elegba lives at crossroads, and encourages people to achieve their best. In voodoo mythology, he is called Papa Legba, but this version of Elegba is an elderly man. (256)
Also known as Ostara, she is the Anglo-Saxon personification of the dawn. She is a fertility goddess and a friend to children, and she changed her pet bird into a rabbit to amuse them. Eostre is equivalent to the Greek Eos and the Roman Aurora. (240)
In Northern Europe, Holle is the Queen of Winter, and makes it snow. She is related to the Russian Baba Yaga. (107)
Hindu god of wisdom, prudence, and learning. He is most often pictured with an elephant's head, and is the remover of obstacles. He also leads the troops of inferior deities. (Thanks, Jose!) (359)
Described as being "the blank gray color of good Polish clay: the word inscribed on his forehead meant life," Michaela noted that, "During the 16th century persecution of the Jewish people in Europe, 'The Great Rabbi of Prague' created a man from clay, using a mystic Kabbalistic formula. The purpose of the "golem" was to protect the Jewish people. Some stories hold that this was done effectively saving many Jews in Prague, while other accounts claim the golem rebelled and become a danger itself so that the Rabbi was forced to return it to a state of inanimate clay." Thanks, Michaela! (381)
In Rhode Island, Shadow and Wednesday visit a woman in a "darkened bedroom" who will not let them see her face. This suggests that she is a gorgon, of Greek mythology, who were monstrous creatures, who would turn anyone who looked at them to stone. (Thanks, Ben! [Several people also emailed me about this, so thanks to everyone! It's just that Ben was first])
Joe emailed to add: "If I remember correctly, Shadow found she had Ziplocks
with mice and insects in them - food for her
snake-covered head?" I'm currently in London with my copy of AG back in the states, and I will be for a few more months so I can't give a page number or 100% confirmation, but I'm pretty sure I remember that, and I love that detail. (284)
Okay, I had a lot of confusion about Gwydion. Many thanks to everyone who emailed me with additional information!
Brief summary ganked from here :
Welsh druid of the mainland gods; wizard and bard of North Wales. Prince of the Powers of Air; a shape-shifter. His symbol was a white horse. Greatest of the enchanters; warrior-magician. Illusion, changes, magick, the sky, healing.
More information can be found here here, and here for starters.
However, people have also mentioned a possible connection between Gwydion and Arthurian legend, I did some looking around at websites like this one and this one and apparently there's some speculation that either Mordred and Gwydion are the same, or that Arthur or Merlin are based on the Gwydion, or that Gwydion is another name for Arthur, or for Mordred.
So, I don't really know. I'm not terribly familiar with Arthurian legend. Life's so hard.
(But it's slightly easier thanks to Jose, Wynne, Gail, Megan, and Susan!)
Here's some information from TJ that makes sense: "If my research is correct, in ancient druidic/celtic britian it was customary for a child when he was born to be giving a childhood name by his mother which was then changed when he came of age. and according to some of my research Gwydion was the name used for both Arthur and his son, Mordred before they came of age. Sort of like how the romans had certin names they would use for their sons, like Guias Julius Ceaser is what the famous Emperor from the house of Julie was called in his youth. and each of the first born sons in his family from far before him and prolly for a long time after where named Guias.
Also Merlin (as historical and not mythological evidence have shown) was actually a politcal position held by many men over thousands of years. It was a druidic office, the messanger of the gods, who would travel unceasingly around the country, carrying news and wisdom between the tribes, temples, and rulers. "
Thanks, TJ! (334)
Roman emperor from 117-138 AD. When his young lover, Antinous, died, Hadrian had him deified. (404)
Also called Arsaphes or Herishef, he is an Egyptian god of water and fertility, depicted as a ram. (Thanks, Ste!) (46)
Hinzelmann is the name of the most famous German Kobolds. He allegedly haunted the castle of Hudemühlen from the years 1584-1588. Hinzelmann especially loved children, and would frequently take the form of a child to play with other children. He was very mischevious, but he was kind to those who respected him, and often gave them gifts. (Thank you, ArielLeFay, for all the information!)
Also: "Hinzelmann" is a
german folktale written down by the brothers Grimm. It says (as you mention on your
page) that he haunted the castle Hudemühlen in Northern Germany (quite funny,
because I actually know that castle...) and did a lot of work in the household. He
mentioned that he originally came from the Black Wood.
He was very friendly and helpful, as long as he was respected and as long as he got
warm milk and food every morning. Nobody ever saw him, they only heard his voice, a
child's voice, and one occasion, some people saw a little hand. At that time he was
in the castle, people sometimes saw a strangely-clad child, dressed in old-fashioned
red velvet, playing with the other children, but it would disappear as soon as they
talked to him.
The master of that castle persuaded Hinzelmann to let him touch his face, and he
felt only bone.
Hinzelmann would become very angry, when somebody accused him of being a demon or
some devilish creature, he pointed out that he was a Christian boy.
One day, the cook persuaded Hinzelmann to show himself to her, and he told her, she
would have to take two buckets of water and come to the cellar at night.
She did, and when she entered the cellar, she saw a hole in the ground, and in it lay
the body of a four-year-old child, stabbed by two swords and all bloody. She
fainted, so Hinzelmann then poured the water over her to wake her up again.
Hinzelmann left Hudemuehlen after four years had passed and left three things there:
a straw hat, a small, hollow cross and a leather glova embroidered with pearls. He
told the Lord that as long as these three things be kept together, the family would
prosper. If the were separated, the family line would die.
Eventually the lord gave the tokens away, I don't know what has become of the family.
(Thanks, Britt!) (197)
Additionally, the tales that Hinzelmann tells, i.e., the buck jumping out of his skin, Hinzelmann's grandfather freezing his family during the winter, the music from a trumpet freezing then thawing, etc., are generally drawn from the Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a popular book series first printed in 1785. More information can be found here. (Thanks, Kris!)
An Egyptian god; there are many different Horuses. However, they were all leaders and associated with the sky, and are usually depicted as hawks or men with the heads of hawks. Horus the Elder is most similar to the Horus described in American Gods, he was the ancient creator god as a falcon, and was also a warrior god. His eyes are the sun and the moon, and when neither of these are visible in the sky, he is blind. (157)
Also known as Tiamat, she is a Babylonian Primordial goddess. Her title "Mummu Hubur" means "Mother of Monsters," because she gave birth to the creatures of the zodiac. She is also depicted as a dragon, and is a goddess of chaos apart from her role as a mother goddess. When her son Marduk killed her, he split her body to Heaven and Earth, which created the Universe. The "Enuma Elish," which tells this story, is the oldest written creation story. (Thanks, Ste!) (46)
(Salim, taxi driver) The Ifrits are the second most powerful class of Jinn, who are Arabic half-human, half-demons. There are five classes of Jinn: Marid, the Ifrit (or Afrit), the Shaitan, the Jinn, and the Jann.They were created from fire. They are mortal, although they have a long life span. They often inhabit lamps, like in 1001 Nights. Jinni can be both good and evil, but enjoy punishing humans for wrongs done to them. In Islamic tradition, they tempt humans away from Allah's path. (141)
"Isten of the Hungarians" was the supreme Hungarian god, the creator of all things and the personification of all that is light in the world. (Thanks, Iwona!) (398)
In Christian tradition, the son of God. (Thanks, Jeremy!) (161)
American folk hero. Originally named John Chapman, he crossed the plains planting apple trees in the early 1800's after his fiancee died. Some of the orchards he planted still thrive today. (273)
See: Johnny Appleseed.
In Egyptian mythology, the ka was the most important part of the spirit. It took the place of the physical body in the world of the dead. It could not survive without the body, however, which was why mummification was so important to the Egyptians.
(Mama-Ji) The Hindu mother goddess. She is a destroyer of ignorance, and she keeps the world in order. (What a good mother!) She also blesses those who seek God's wisdom. She is most often pictured dripping with blood. She is a triple goddess: creation, preservation, and destruction. (46)
The "five young Japanese women" Wednesday and Shadow have a "meal of pleasantries and politeness" with in Colorado are most likely kitsunes, Japanese fox spirits.
Andrea adds: They are legendary tricksters, and often disguise themselves as young women, but the observant often notice their fox tails and catch
them. In Gaiman's "The Dream Hunters", one of the main characters is a kitsune. (285)
In German folklore, the kobolds are mischievous spirits. They are ugly (small, hairy, and vaguely demonic in appearance), and often harmful to humans. They dwell in mines, and may be helpful if the whim strikes them-- but it usually doesn't :) (107)
Also called Dhanapati, he is the Hindu god of wealth. (Note: Kubera's presence on this page is not meant to imply that Kubera is the forgettable god. Kubera is mentioned in passing when Wednesday is talking at the House on the Rock, which is why he's listed here.) (107)
Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun, an Irish sprite. I've found conflicting information regarding the size of leprechauns-- I've gotten a few emails saying that they were actually quite tall, like Mad Sweeney, and that referring to them as the "little people" is irony, which is also confirmed by Mr. Ibis at Sweeney's wake ["... even of the leprechauns, the little people (and was that not the biggest joke of the Irish, for the leprechauns in their day were the tallest of the mound folk)...]. However, the Encylopedia Mythica, which I usually have found to be pretty reliable, and the Encylopedia Britannica, among others, have referred to them as quite small. (In many legends, the leprechauns make shoes for elves, but never a pair, only one shoe. According to Encyclopedia Mythica, the word is derived from the Gaelic luacharma'n, "pygmy"; or leith brogan "maker of one shoe".)
And here's some information from Laura: Just as a background thing,
the Irish "little people" are descended from the Tuatha de Danann.
When the Milesians came to Eire (this is according to the Book of
Invasions) they conquered the T. de D. and forced them to live under
ground--thus they became the sidhe.
When the Christians came along, they convinced folks that the sidhe
were unimportant--little. Therefore, these godlike beings who were
quite frightening to the earlier Celts were divided into two separate
classes: some of the good ones were incorporated into Christianity,
becoming saints (you know, like Brigid and so forth), and the minor
ones were downgraded to "little people."
Leprechauns, therefore, are decended from that second group. The word
"luchorpain" means "little stooping Lugh" (Lugh being the Celtic god
of light--similar to Apollo). There are lots of possible etymologies
of the word, but if you go by that one, you figure that the REAL
leprechauns musta been more like the T. de D. than the Catholic church
would have you believe. Sooo...when I read the book it didn't even
occur to me to see Mad Sweeney as anything but one of the oppressed
and misunderstood T. de D., badmouthed and minimized to the point that
their best gig is on boxes of Lucky Charms. (Thanks, Laura!)
Blake adds to the leprechaun debate: The thing about the daoine sidhe is this: according to
the post-Christianisation version of the story, the
daoine sidhe are the Tuatha de Danaan, diminished in
size as they diminished in importance. The conversion
of Ireland meant there were very few to no followers
(which isn't to say people didn't believe in
them--faery belief was fairly common in Ireland up
until the twentieth century, in rural areas--there's
even recorded executions of people due to faery
possession as late as the 1900s). But the point is, as
the Tuatha de Danaan decreased in importance, they
decreased in size. This isn't the original version of
the story about the origins of the sidhe, but it's the
existing version--Irish mythology often has the gods
and sidhe existing side by side, often at odds with
one another. The sidhe were a realm until themselves
that even the gods were wary of consorting with." (Thanks, Blake!)
Celtic god of lightning. He is described in the museum of forgotten gods as carrying a drum, fitting for a lightning god (since thunder accompanies lightning). (Thanks, Sarah!!) (46)
The Norse Trickster figure, and is associated with fire. He is also considered quite wise, and is both a friend and foe of the gods, depending on circumstances. Some consider him one of the Aesir, and some consider him a giant but NOT a god.
(This entry used to refer to him as a "god", which resulted in a storm of email informing me that he wasn't a god but a giant, so I changed the entry to reflect that, and promptly got a handful of emails stating that Loki IS a god. On this, Sorn wrote to add: "The two main tribes of the gods are the Æsir and the Vanir, but there are also the Jotun (giants). Loki is of the Jotun, as are Skadi (goddess of winter, hunting, and, according to some, vengeance), Jarnsaxa (consort of Thor and mother of Modi and Magni), Ægir (god of the ocean), and Hel (ruler of the underworld), just to name a few. So, even though Loki was not born an Æs, one doesn't necessarily have to be of the Æsir to be counted one of the gods; as far as as tru folk are concerned, Loki is very definitely a god." Rick pointed out that "While not a god in the sense that he isn't AEsir nor Vanir, he IS a god in the sense that he is a divine being who has worshippers.") Anyway, whether you consider him a giant or a god, you probably don't want to be on his bad side.
Toria noted that he has a "scarred smile," (AG 3) because "Loki once made a bet with the dwarves, wagering his head, and he lost. He tried to trick the dwarves by saying that there was no mention of his neck in the bet, and they couldn't take his head without harming his neck. In revenge the dwarves sewed his mouth shut and left him tied to a tree."
Loki was responsible for the death of Balder, the god of light. As punishment for this, he is confined to a cave below the earth. A poisonous snake constantly drips its venom above him, and his wife Sigyn catches it in a bowl. When the bowl fills, she must empty it away from him, and in these moments the venom splashes his face.
(Thanks, Toria, Sorn, Rick, and others!) (3)
Egyptian lion god, the protector of the innocent. Wednesday mentions him in passing, referring to him as the "Lion-God." (107)
Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun, an Irish sprite. Maire adds:
"Mad Sweeney appears to have been more than just a leprechaun. He was a 12th century poet named after a 7th century Irish king," and Blake says, "The name Mad Sweeney is very likely take from the Irish mythological story, Buile Suibhne, or the Frenzy
of Suibhne/Sweeney. In it, Suibhne, son of the king of Dal Riada (a
kingdom in northern Ireland) is driven mad by a curse,
and only regains his sanity after running the entire
length of Ireland from north to south."
Wikipedia has a very thorough entry on him.
Mawu is the supreme goddess in the mythology of Benin (Africa). She is the moon goddess, and the goddess of night, joy, and motherhood. She created the world with her husband, Lisa. (256)
The drink of the gods. In Norse mythology, it was made from the blood of the wise Kvasir and honey, and made anyone who drank it wise and a poet. Most pantheons have a similar drink, such as the Greek/Roman nectar, Hindu amrita, and the Mayan miel. (Thank you, Rebecca, for the correction on nectar!)
See: My Ainsel.
Also known as Mithra, he is the Persian god of light, contracts, and friendships, and he maintains the cosmic order. The cult of Mithraism was highly popular among Roman soldiers around 100 AD. He is also the Vedic god Mitra, but Mitra was never as revered as the Persian Mithras. (161)
Irish war goddess (or goddesses, sometimes a triple goddess). (Thanks, Paul!) (398)
(This one is really interesting, I think...) Not a god, but from a fairytale, "my ainsel" means "my ownself", which is obviously significant to Shadow's psuedonym "Mike Ainsel". "My Ainsel" is also the title of Part 2 of the book. You can read the tale here. (Thanks Jose for the link, and Audrey for pointing out that I had neglected to mention the obvious title of Part 2.)
Also, Justin adds, "The name reads as M.Ainsel, literally the "main sail" of a boat, without
which all the bluster in the world won't do a lick of good. Doubtless, I
thought, a nod to Odin's role as a weather god, and his relationship with
Shadow. Likewise, a suitable title for a novel's primary character, only
slightly less gauche than Neil Stephenson's Hiro Protagonist of the oft
Or perhaps I misread."
Which I thought was interesting, although perhaps merely a coincidence. Make of it what you will. (190)
In Norse mythology, these three sisters are the demi-goddesses of destiny. They are Urd ("fate"), Verdandi ("necessity") and Skuld ("being"). They live at the base of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. They pour water from the Well of Fate over Yggdrasil to try to prevent it from decaying. They also had another task: Urd made the thread of everyone's life, Verdandi measured it up, and Skuld cut it. (Thank you Maria!) (94)
In Norse mythology, king of the gods. He is also the god of war, wisdom, poetry, and magic. He gave an eye in exchange for a drink from the Well of Wisdom. The day Wednesday, or Wodensday is named for Odin (also known as Woden.) His two ravens are Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, and his two wolves are Geri and Freki. Geri and Freki always follow him, and Huginn and Muninn constantly scout for him. He is often called "Allfather", because he is father to the gods.
Troels wrote to add more of Odin's nicknames: "Svipall (Changing), Bölverkr (Ill-doer) and Glapsviðr (Swift in deceit). For more
bicks see http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin.
The point is, that while Odin was a god of war, and could grant an army victory in
battle (which they tried to ensure by sacrifices), he was all of the above things as
well. During a battle he might turn against the side he supported and suddenly help
the enemy instead. As said, I find it relevant, since his deceitfulness is a major part of
> A.G. "
Thanks, Troels! (17)
Also Ogun, Ogum, Ogoum, or similar, he is the West African and voodoo god of iron and creator of tools. He is also a warrior god, and the patron of blacksmiths. (258)
From Michaela: "Pan, a satyr and the Greco-Roman god of fertility, forests, and livestock, arrives at he base of Lookout Mountain with the other old gods. Don't ask me what comedian he was. I have tried and failed (so far) to find out." (I poked around a bit and couldn't find anything either, so if anyone has any ideas please feel free to let me know!) (381)
Two suggestions on which comedian Pan might have been:
From Rick: First, Pan's comedian persona. I believe he may have
been Larry Semon, a silent film comedian whom died in
1928 from pneumonia. Looking at his pic, I'd say he
has a definite "fae" look to him. You can read more on
him at http://www.goldensilents.com/comedy/larrysemon.html.
From Robert: My two cents is that Pan is Fatty Arbuckle. He was a silent comedian who in the 20s was embroiled in a big
sex scandal (Sept 5, 1921 Virginia Rappe ran screaming and crying from his bungalow. Four days later she
died). The third trial ended with him acquitted, but his career in ruins. See http://www.ralphmag.org/fatty.html
In Norse mythology, he is the squirrel who climbs up and down the World Tree. His name means "swift teeth" and he loves to talk and gossip. (359)
Michaela says: "The Rusalka are Slavic water spirits, similar to mermaids. They are believed to be the vengeful, angry spirits of drowned women, or the ghosts of unbaptized infant girls. They are believed to appear as beautiful woman who lure travelers to watery deaths. Along the Danube river they are referred to as *vila*." Thanks, Michaela! (381)
Thanks to Pat for pointing this out! "When Shadow is eating in the prison food hall, he speaks with Sam Fetisher, an inmate of indeterminate age who warns him about the storm. A fetisher is another word for a Bokono, or vodun priest." (8)
Egyptian god of chaos and destruction. Ibis mentions that he left two hundred years ago, and hasn't been heard from since he and Jacquel received a postcard from San Francisco in 1905 or 1906, around the time of the great San Francisco earthqake and fire. (Thanks Ilsabet, and Kirsten for the earthquake suggestion!) (157)
From OS Yim:
"'The first head is mine,' said a very tall Chinese man, with a rope of tiny skulls around his neck. He began to walk, slowly and intently, up the mountain, shouldering a staff with a curved blade at the end of it, like a silver moon."
"This is, of course, Sha Wujing from The Journey to the West (Sagojo to the Japanese). Westerners are probably more familiar with his name of 'Sandy'. Originally a heavenly general, he was condemned to become a sand demon for the sin of wrath. He wields a spear with a spade on one end and a crescent blade on the other (or, in some accounts, only the crescent blade). His defining feature is perhaps the necklace of skulls he wears, purportedly the leftovers of various monks who attempted to cross the River of Sand on the way to India. After his defeat at the hands of 'Monkey' and 'Pigsy', Xuanzang recruited and ordained Sha Wujing as his 3rd disciple. At the end of the journey, Sha achieved Buddhahood." (Thanks, OS Yim!) (Page 545 of the HEADLINE paperback-- I'd add the hardback page # to be consistent with the rest of the site, but I don't have the book with me at the moment.)
West African god of thunder, and the ancestor of the Yoruba people. He was once Yoruba's 4th king, and was immortalized after death. He has the power to grant wealth. (258)
In the Hindu Trinity consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, Shiva is the Destroyer. (342)
Skanderbeg: The Albanian in Texas is probably Skanderbeg, the Albanian national hero. He helped his country fight off Turkish oppression in the mid 15-th century, and, although he wasn't actually worshipped as a god, he has been immortalized in poetry and song, and there are records of the Turks using his bones for good-luck talismans. (Thanks Jeff!)
Alternately, Sarah suggests: One thing I noticed in reading the book is that although the Greek pantheon is probably one of the most familiar to modern readers - THE most familiar if one considers that most of the gods in the Roman pantheon are renamed Greek gods, so it's pretty much really all one pantheon - there are no obvious members of this pantheon in the book. (I did notice that some of the suggestions for the forgotten god come from the Greek and/or Roman pantheon.)
I think that Gaiman is having a bit of fun by suggesting that the Greek gods are refusing to go along with Wednesday's scheme. Note that Wednesday refers to Albanians, plural - "Fucking Albanians. Like anybody cares." Wednesday's ticked off, so he's implying that the Greek gods aren't even really Greek, they're Albanian. This might be a reference either to the fact that Mt. Olympus is in northern Greece - albiet not all that near the Albanian border - or to the fact that what we call the Greek pantheon didn't actually arrive in what's now modern Greece until 2200-1900 BC - see http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/Greekhistory&gods.htm>.
In Indian mythology, Soma is the moon god. However, he is also amrita, the nectar that keeps the gods immortal. As the gods drink Soma, it exhausts him and causes the moon to wax and wane. However, in American Gods the term seems to be used a little differently-- Wednesday describes it to Shadow as "concentrated prayer and belief, distilled into a potent liqueur." (224)
Eleanor also pointed out that soma is the drug used in Brave New World to control the masses.
Joe added, "In the post-Joycean world, everyone can pretty much feel entitled to drag in any kind of meaning they can construct. With that as my excuse, I would point out that "soma" besides being the Vedic elixir is also the Greek-based root that we find in words like 'psychosomatic,' and it means, roughly, 'body.' While the Vedic reference is adequate and ample, the added sense of a god being nourished by the bodies of his underlings does not feel out of place. That kind of cannibalistic/eucharistic confusion seems one of the more common features of religion as we know it."
Thoth (Mr. Ibis), also called Djeheuty, was the Egyptian god of wisdom, the inventor of writing, and the patron of scribes. He is most often shown as a man with the head of an ibis. Thoth was the messenger and mediator of the gods, and supported Horus's claim to the throne. He was present with Anubis at the judgment of the dead. (73)
Many Native American tribes have stories and histories concerning the sky beings known as Thunderbirds. In some cases, these powerful beings act as teachers, guardians, and law enforcers. (Thank you, Jacquelyn! Jacquelyn recommends the Native American Studies program at the University of California, Davis, for serious scholars of American tribal peoples.) (227)
Kaitlyn also adds," In 'American Folklore and Legend' (Published by Readers Digest in
1978), it mentions that 'to dream of thunderbirds meant one must go to
In the Hindu Trinity consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, Vishnu is the Preserver. (334)
From Sarah: "The 'two small boys each the size of an apple tree' are almost certainly the Warrior Twins or Hero Twins known to the Maya as Hunahpu and Xbalanque and to the Dineh (Navajo) as Toba'djictcini (Born for Water or Child of the Water) and Na'ye' ne'zyani (Monster Slayer)."
As their name implies, the two are great warriors. However, Monster Slayer is the more aggressive and warlike, and Child of the Water is more cautious and thoughtful.
Laveau was a "free person of color" living in Louisiana. When she was 25, she married Jacque Paris, who, shortly after the wedding, disappeared and was presumed dead. She then began calling herself the "Widow Paris." She learned voodoo, and by 1830 was one of several voodoo queens in New Orleans. Many legends about her persisted, notably one of her eternal youth (which is easily explained by her look-alike daughter Marie Laveau II, who followed in her footsteps.) (261)
The Trickster is known by many names, depending on which Native tribe is telling his story. He can be hard to define: he is neither god nor man, good nor evil. As a teacher, he exposes the dangerous and the ridiculous and reminds humans of their mortality. In many areas, Trickster takes the form of an animal. (Thank you, Jacquelyn! Jacquelyn recommends the Native American Studies program at the University of California, Davis, for serious scholars of American tribal peoples.) (272)
In Norse mythology, the World Tree. It is a giant ash tree that connects all the worlds. At its base are the Well of Wisdom, the Well of Fate, and the Hvergelmir, which is the source for many rivers. (355)
Zaka, or Azacca, is the voodoo god (loa) of agriculture. He is usually pictured as a simple peasant, and is a hard worker. Zaka is watchful of details. (258)
The three Slavic dawn goddesses. Utrennyaya was the morning star, Vechernyaya the evening star, and Polunochnaya the midnight star. Their duty was to guard a chained dog who continually tries to break loose and eat the constellation Ursa Minor, the bear. If this should happen, the universe would end. Nuitari also sent me this link that's chock full of detailed information about the Zorya. (Thanks, Nuitari!) (58)
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