Today I discovered that if you go to google and type in “Thor’s Mother” google will tell you that it’s Frigga – at least it did for me and my household. This is not correct. Thor’s Mother is the Earth Goddess Jörd. We have Marvel to thank for Google’s inaccuracy and oh does it piss me off (1). Pop culture, amusing though it may be, is all too often so polluting. It also inevitably caters to the lowest common denominator. It’s bad enough that one can’t do a search for “Odin” or “Loki” without Marvel images coming up. It makes me wish that our pop culture had just a little more piety, or even accuracy (2). Granted, this was a problem even in the ancient world. Even the Homeric corpus came under fire by certain philosophers for the impious way it treated the Gods. I think the difference is that then the dominant worldview was polytheistic and so piety was reinforced elsewhere. In our world, it’s attacked on every side (3). This makes the influence of pop culture far more significant than it otherwise would be.
I’ll admit, I like some aspects of pop culture. I just don’t base my personality and reason for being around it and I certainly don’t put it ahead of my devotion. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying a movie or game though. I think we just have to consider carefully what we want to give space to in our minds. What are we going to allow to take up mental and emotional space? What furthers our respect and reverence for the Gods and what doesn’t? What makes us better people and better devotees, and what chips away little by little at our piety? Every person has to make those determinations for him or herself and individuals will find that these things affect them each differently. The important point is to consider the media we take in, and to make conscious choices about it, because these things have long term consequences. They build habits of mind.
One of the problems with Marvel Thor is that we’re getting people coming into our traditions thinking that this nonsense is canon (and they are usually unwilling to self-correct) (4). There are Mysteries inherent in the relationships between our Gods, and that is all muddled and lost if one has the nature of those relationships awry. Secondly, it’s a matter of proper devotional respect. I don’t think we should encourage the erasure of any of our Holy Powers, which is what errata like this do, especially when we have people taking this as truth. Finally, how long until Marvel/Disney attempts to copyright or impose royalties on any use of “Thor,” even when that usage is devotional and not part of their shit franchise? Think I’m overexaggerating? I know several polytheistic artists who are also devotees of the God Hermes who have had to fight various professional art/sales platforms because the handbag company Hermes has laid exclusionary claim to the term, that term being the name of one of our Gods. This is when I start wanting to burn it all down.
Most disturbingly of all, a fellow-traveler on twitter commented that he’d seen the same type of thing with pop culture and newcomers to Hellenic polytheism and noted – quite accurately, I think – that it almost always goes hand in hand with a certain misotheism, hatred of the Gods. That’s the real and pressing problem, one already found throughout our communities far, far more than it ought to be.
So what to do? Horn and Hearth had THE best answer and it’s one that I will cherish: loud piety. On our blogs, in books, in song, in offerings, in the stories we tell, in videos, in shrine making, everywhere. Loud piety. I can be loud.
- Why can’t google note the disambiguation: Thor’s Mother- Norse Myths: Jord; Marvel movies: Frigga. I wouldn’t complain about that and this is standard practice in most other cases of disambiguation on google. Why wasn’t it done here?
- I’ll stop complaining about this when Marvel includes Jesus and Mohammed in the list of sacred figures they appropriate. Oh, but that won’t happen. Christians would complain and doing this with Mohammed might get people killed. Our community doesn’t care enough about its Gods in general to recognize the disrespect and long-term disadvantages inherent in such depictions. They’d rather pollute their minds unthinkingly in the name of fun. (Have fun but recognize that these things aren’t innocent. Approaching them and engaging consciously makes it much less likely that there will be any lasting negative imprint in our minds and hearts. I personally may not choose to watch Marvel movies but I acknowledge that they can be enjoyable. Just realize that consuming anything uncritically is dangerous to the integrity of our devotion.
- This is the case not just for polytheists but for monotheistic traditions too. The modern world is very hostile to any but the most negligible of devotions.
- I cannot tell you how many hits I get on my article “Freya is NOT Queen of the Valkyries.” I’m not sure where this fallacy started, but it has endured far beyond what it ought to have done.