38

In chapter 6, Wednesday says to the council of old gods,

When the people came to America they brought us with them.

So what happened to the lands that they left? Do they no longer have gods? Or like Jesus, are there other versions of Odin/Anansi/Kali in the native lands? Or new ones who formed to take place of the ones that left?

63

In the appendix to the novel, it's made clear that people carry their gods with them and that when they alight in a new place, those gods are made anew in the image of the old god. There's an Odin in Norway and an Odin (Wednesday) in America at the same time but they're not the same being.

The old man nodded slowly. He said, “My people went from here to America a long time ago. They went there, and then they returned to Iceland. They said it was a good place for men, but a bad place for gods. And without their gods they felt too…alone.” His English was fluent, but the pauses and the beats of the sentence were strange. Shadow looked at him: close-up, the man seemed older than Shadow had imagined possible. His skin was lined with tiny wrinkles and cracks, like the cracks in granite.

The old man said, “I do know you, boy.”

“You do?”

“You and I, we have walked the same path. I also hung on the tree for nine days, a sacrifice of myself to myself. I am the lord of the Aes. I am the god of the gallows.”

“You are Odin,” said Shadow.

The man nodded thoughtfully, as if weighing up the name. “They call me many things, but, yes, I am Odin, Bor’s son,” he said.

“I saw you die,” said Shadow. “I stood vigil for your body. You tried to destroy so much, for power. You would have sacrificed so much for yourself. You did that.”

“I did not do that.”

“Wednesday did. He was you.”

“He was me, yes. But I am not him.” The man scratched the side of his nose. His gull-feather bobbed.

Apparently, Jaquel met another Jesus in Afghanistan

“That’s good,” said Jacquel. “So, yeah, Jesus does pretty good over here. But I met a guy who said he saw him hitchhiking by the side of the road in Afghanistan and nobody was stopping to give him a ride. You know? It all depends on where you are.”

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  • 7
    So it's kinda like Zeus vs. Jupiter? – Admiral Jota Feb 26 at 17:29
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    @AdmiralJota Kind of. – JAB Feb 26 at 23:08
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    So how far do you have to go to make a new god? Would there be a different Wednesday in, say, California, compared to New York? Or do you just get one copy per land mass? What about South America? What about Cuba? – Bob says reinstate Monica Feb 27 at 11:29
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    @BobsaysreinstateMonica - Apparently there are lots of Jesuses. All you need (evidently) is some believers and a sect that believes something slightly different or has traveled to a new place that the original god can't go (over the Atlantic is apparently enough of a gap) – Valorum Feb 27 at 11:47
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    @BobsaysreinstateMonica I guess it's like a language/culture separation. Once you got a few generations separated a new culture/language arises based on the mother language/culture. Religion being a cultural aspect is not different – jean Feb 28 at 17:58
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When the gods came to America, they did not leave their original lands. Depending how you look at it, the gods either sent a version of themselves abroad, or they left versions of themselves behind. Originally the two versions were (almost) the same, they may even have remained the same for a while, but over time they diverged.

It was more than a hundred years before Leif the Fortunate, son of Erik the Red, rediscovered that land, which he would call Vineland. His gods were already waiting for him when he arrived: Tyr, one-handed, and gray Odin gallows-god, and Thor of the thunders.

They were there.

They were waiting.

So the gods traveled with their original believers, and stayed in the land they visited even if their believers disappeared (in this case, they were all killed). But once their people stay, and change, then their gods change too.

Later on, the American version of (presumably) Kali says:

Back in India, there is an incarnation of me who does much better, but so be it.

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    I think the proper way to look at it is that the people who left their native lands took their gods with them, and the latter evolved after arriving. – Gallifreyan Feb 26 at 21:18
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    @Gallifreyan My impression was slightly different; "people stay, and change, then their gods change too." My take-away from the book was that the gods were far more strongly shaped by their believers than they could change on their own. – DavidW Feb 26 at 21:21

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