Hecate recently quoted the new American Poet Laureate:

Isn’t that what it’s about –
pretending there’s an alert cat
who leaves nothing to chance.

And all the jokes about Ceiling Cat aside (srsly!), this made me think of one of the best fictional depictions of a pantheon and its myths that I’ve ever encountered, which occurs in Diane Duane’s Feline Wizards books.

Set in the same universe as her Young Wizards series, all species know that there is the One, the creator, and the Powers That Be, who serve the One, and the Lone One, who is the force of entropy but a necessary part of creation nonetheless. Each species has its own versions of these, though, and sometimes multiple versions. In The Book of Night with Moon, cat wizard Rhiow and her team struggle with reenactments and revisions of feline mythology and its intersections and interactions with other species’ myth and history. In the latest installment, The Big Meow, we get a vital addition to the mythology explaining how the feline version of the afterlife came to be.

So overall there’s a pretty viable pantheon, with their stories told in a comprehensive myth cycle that covers creation, the purposes of life, why death happens, and what comes after. Although the cats don’t practice formal rituals as such, there are also plenty of examples of how different cats relate – or don’t – to their deities. All in all, if someone wanted to work with this setting, they could. But would you?

Some ideas of working with imaginary pantheons are simply not tenable for me; I couldn’t keep a straight face through even a self-subverting chaos magic ritual that called on Star Trek characters, for example. But things like the ha-ha-only-serious rituals of Caffeina, or even chaos magicians working with Bill the Cat or with ferrets, those I can all imagine doing. In my particular urban area, I have learned to offer incense and to give praise and thanks to my own dear Asphaltia, Our Lady of Traffic and Parking Spaces.

This is one of the interesting things about not being constrained by the Christian emphasis on belief. I don’t have to believe that Bill the Cat is anything other than fiction; if the ritual does something for me, (even just a good laugh) that can be a good enough reason to do it.

On the other hand, the more I work with Asphaltia, and the more I get unexpected results from those workings, the more I wonder if she’s not actually a contemporary aspect of the deity of travel and travelers who has had many forms throughout the ages.

Star wrote recently about how we don’t create meaning ex nihilo, and that our relationships with the Powers That Be include ongoing revelation. Can some of these new deities – or old deities in new forms – be part of that ongoing revelation? Does it matter if that revelation comes originally in the form of fiction, like Duane’s work, or loving humor, like Caffeina?

What do you think about fictional or invented or “found” deities or powers? Do you work with them? Only with certain ones? Why?

Finally, I raise this question because I’d also like to find out if there would be any interest in me posting a creation myth I wrote based in part on Diane Duane’s felines. I adapted the pantheon slightly and told the story in form more similar to most Wiccan myths. If you’d like to see it, just leave a note in the comments or “like” this post.

19 thoughts on “The Great Cat in the Sky

  1. I have found that working with Asphalta, Cafeina and Kyberia (Goddess of the Internet) actually does bear fruit. I am also certain that these are a new generation of Goddesses and that we have not finished being enlightened by their generation.

      1. I’ve been using that name for years now. It’s like Asphalta planted her name in the minds of receptive people all over the country….

  2. I can’t speak to working with “found” deities, but of course I’d love to read that story.

    And as I think we’re in more or less the same geographic area, I understand perfectly why Asphaltia would be a comfort to you, and I only hope she’s not been too overburdened lately. She’s got her work cut out for her around here.

    1. Thanks!

      I’ve found that Asphaltia is very much prefers a little advance notice. A stick of incense ahead of time is worth three afterwards. And as part of the “ritual can be worth it anyway” line of thinking, a little prayer to her can help me stay calm and focused in traffic, which can be helpful in and of itself.

  3. “All gods begin in my realm.”–Morpheus, Sandman.

    I have thoughts on this, but fear blundering inadvertently into offense. Please believe I mean this as agreement, worded as best I can: In my own view, all things which are not physical objects are equal in their non-physicality, which is to say that Love, Justice, YHVH, Anansi, Asphaltia, and Bill the Cat all belong to the same broad order of being.

    1. That doesn’t offend me! “Broad order of being” is a good way of putting it. I think there are interesting differences between deities that have been worshipped for a long time, ones whose worship is no longer active, and ones whose worship is being invented/found currently, but I agree that they’re all real or unreal in some basically similar ways.

      1. Glad it wasn’t offensive! I would include never-worshipped and fictional entities in the same category, since otherwise it gets difficult to explain something that wasn’t worshipped in the past, but now is. (I see no reason to privilege one deity over another merely on the basis of how long people have worshipped it.)

        Um… why is the icon next to my name a purple swastika? I’m… honestly a little uncomfortable with that. (Surprised to find it bugs me, actually, but it does bug me a little.)

        1. I don’t know if it’s privilege, exactly, but I have found that entities with a long and still active history of worship are different from entities with a long but long-extinct history of worship, which are again different from “found” deities. But that may be for another conversation…

          The automagically generated icons are, as far as I know, abstractions based on email addresses or somesuch. I can try turning it off if it really bothers you, but FWIW, it doesn’t look remotely swastika-like to me, other than that it has roughly four-fold symmetry.

  4. (My apologies if this comment shows up twice. I’ve tried to post this before, but WordPress seems to have eaten it. Fingers crossed it works this time.)

    While I don’t worship any deities myself – being an atheist – I have to admit I find the topic of “modern” deities quite interesting. If nothing else, the kind of deities we invent can tell us a lot about ourselves. To elaborate a little: The fact that people came up with Asphaltia, Caffeina and Kyberia in the first place can already reveal something about the society we live in, even if it’s just done as a (half-serious) joke.

    Thus, let me introduce you to Diurnalis, responsible for proper sourcing, citation and references. Hey, it’s an important thing in the Age of Kyberia.

    1. (Found one that got caught in the spam filter because of a link – I tried to pull it out of spam, not sure why it’s not showing yet. Perhaps a prayer to Kyberia is needed?)

      Tell me more about Diurnalis, please! *sits back with childlike joy for a good story*

      1. (Ahh, thanks – I wasn’t aware of that filter, but it’s probably a good idea. Probably best to just delete the filtered comment, though, if you can do that; the one that did go through is actually slightly revised in both formatting and content, so having both comments would just be needlessly confusing.)

        As for Diurnalis, I’ll be happy to share an entirely too long myth I’m making up as I go along. She’s actually one of the older “new” gods – been around for about as long as the scientific method itself – but she hasn’t ventured beyond academia until fairly recently. Proper citation and verification of sources is vital to the scientific method, but always saw little use elsewhere, as incovenient facts were often disregarded.

        There was a change after Kyberia’s birth, however. You see, when Kyberia was born, she was much, much smaller than she was today. She knew few stories, and she could only talk to handful of selected mortals because she was so small. But the thankful people shared their own stories and their own knowledge with Kyberia, and introduced others to her glory; and their stories and knowledge, in turn, helped Kyberia thrive.

        But eventually, the sheer amount of information started to become overwhelming. Even worse, she was still young and for all her knowledge, she could not decide between truth and falsehood. A terrible sadness overcame the people of Kyberia, and they cried out for help – they didn’t want to see Kyberia lost.

        Diurnalis heard the cries of the people. Kyberia was like a sister to her, and she couldn’t stand to see her suffer; after all, most of Kyberia’s original believers came from Diurnalis’ acolytes! And thus, Diurnalis reached out to aid Kyberia, and thus, Wikipedia was born, and with it the policies of the neutral point of view and the enforced sourcing of claims and many many more. Of course, it’s not perfect, but it’s still better than some Geocities website.

        … yeesh, talk about a textwall. My apologies, I kinda got carried away.

        1. Please don’t apologize; that’s fascinating! I’d actually like to talk with you more about this and consider making it a guest post on the blog. If you’re interested, you can reach me at literatahurley SPLAT gmail.

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