Divine Intervention page 8 Picture

In which Hermes addresses some common gripes

Yeah, this was a bit lazy of me. Some of these are a bit silly, but a lot of them relate to problematic things I see a lot in pop culture adaptations of mythology. One of the most common is the assumption that all mythologies are the same. More often than not, it’s a case of sticking Christianity in where it’s not wanted: assuming that the king of the gods is effectively Yahweh, that whoever opposes him is effectively the devil (or at least evil, and let’s not get started on the anachronistic idea of evil…). There’s also this annoying habit of assuming that gods who are similar are the same, that the Norns are the Fates, that Isis is Hera, that Loki is Anansi… To be fair this is a very ancient problem, the Romans did it a lot, but at least the Romans were familiar with their gods. The problem is that assuming that they’re all the same kind of ignores the important differences that reflect the cultures that create them. Plus it ignores something far more interesting: they’re not the same gods, but they “evolved” from a common ancestor (in Indo-European cultures, it’s largely due to Hittite influence).

One of my least favourite “theories” that keeps popping up in pop culture (especially this year, Ridley Scott you disappoint me) is the “ancient astronauts” idea. Ye gods, I hate this thing. It’s the idea that various ancient peoples were visited and aided by space aliens and that these space aliens are the gods. I don’t have too much of a problem with this turning up in sci-fi once in a while (I’d rather it didn’t but, hey, Stargate was fun) but some people genuinely believe it and this bothers me. Why? Well it assumes that ancient peoples weren’t capable of the things they achieved. Stonehenge was not built by space aliens, it was built by skilled and dedicated craftsmen who managed to lug enormous bluestone monoliths all the way from Wales. The pyramids of Egypt and Mesoamerica were not built by space aliens, they were built by people with a sophisticated knowledge of engineering and geometry. The Nazca Lines were not made by aliens, they were made by people who, we think, revered the mountains and waterways that surround them. Akhenaten was not a space alien, he was a radical zealot with a funny shaped head (and though we don’t know where his body lies, we’ve studied the remains of his children and I think people might have noticed if they were aliens). Sure, there are a lot of ancient monuments that we don’t understand because we don’t know enough about the people that created them, but we don’t need to invent aliens to explain them. Doing so rubbishes the talents and capabilities of very sophisticated and determined human beings. Suggesting that their gods were aliens that dazzled early peoples with their technology is equally insulting. Ignoring my own personal spiritual beliefs, this idea reduces ancient peoples to primitive savages. It’s all a bit post-colonial and xenophobic and worrying. And what’s more worrying is I’m noticing it more and more in popular culture. Please, guys, look at the art, the literature and the technical achievements of these peoples. They were far smarter than we give them credit for.

And yes, the mythology of the Celts is a major influence in stories about fairies and the Fae, to the point that it's explicitly said in some translations of the myths.

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