Of old gods and new

Thor is a norse god of thunder. He is also a Marvel comics superhero. He was a god once, an actual god who found worship in homes and hearths and had temples devoted to him. He was prayed to and his name was spoken with, among other things, devotion.

The Thor you and I know better was last seen in a Hollywood production by the name of Avengers. He was found fighting an onslaught of warlike aliens in defence of the American city of New York. He was seen working in partnership with a spy organisation (again American) and was almost beaten by the product of an unfortunate laboratory accident. The likeness of his mighty mjolnir can be ordered from online stores, to be used by children for their playtime needs.

The Marvel version of Thor also explains Asgard away in terms of cosmology and some amount of speculative science. While none of this is necessarily an ‘evil’ and creative new interpretations must always be welcome, I can’t help but feel a small pang of sadness at the thought of a pantheon that no longer lives the way my gods do.

If Hinduism dies out (Don’t look at me like that. Anything is possible.) perhaps there will be cinema featuring a dashing Rama fighting a monstrous Ganesha for the safety of America.

Don’t get me wrong. Superheroes are fine. But they can’t be all there is to a god. Especially when it comes to living gods like the ones that prevail in India. An entire culture rests on the shoulders of Rama and Ganesha. They are ideas yes, but more importantly, they are ideals. Their existence is spread out over temples and sacred spaces all over India. This distributed physical existence is bound to be different from one based on shopping malls, toy stores, cinema halls, and action figures.

To be fair to America, they have no gods. So they do the next best thing. They appropriate other cultures’ icons to satisfy their imaginative needs. I guess Norse myth could have ended up in worse places than Marvel studios.

#culture, #gods, #hindu-mythology, #new-gods, #norse-mythology, #old-gods, #religion, #thor