This post is motivated by a link from the Northern Tamarisk blog, to a series of Orisha photos by James C. Lewis, who has also done a series on what some of the characters out of the Bible may have looked like. The images are quite stunning; and I will also admit that they inspired me to wonder for a moment about how the gods I follow might appear. This is a high compliment to the photographer, because I do not often pay much attention to this topic. I tend to perceive the gods in much the same way as the Celts did, prior to the influence of Rome; that is to say, I consider the gods largely to be amorphous, or in some cases capable of shapeshifting to the extent that a god’s appearance is for me largely a symbolic matter.
I am inspired in this perspective not just by the ancient inhabitants of Northern Europe, but also by Physics: when trying to find something that cannot be readily seen, look for its effect upon its surroundings. To some extent, this approach can also be seen in Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country, when Spock uses the fact that all space ships emit some sort of exhaust as a way of ‘finding’ a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey (yes, I know, it seems an odd example … but the Star Trek franchise is filled with all sorts of inspirational moments!). When I am seeking the gods in the world around or within me, I seek them by the effect they have on things, as their actions tend to concern me much more than their appearance. From my own perspective, insisting that the gods are human-shaped would be anthropo-centric at best, arrogance at worst, and in most cases simply too limiting for my understanding of the gods – this is a perspective, I’d like to point out, that I apply only to myself, and do not consider anyone else who perceives differently to be arrogant, anthropo-centric, or limited in their understanding of the gods.
I do, however, think such artistic concepts have value, in that they demonstrate not only what qualities we associate with various gods; but also show what qualities we either wish we humans might have more of, or accentuate those qualities within us that we have and wish to more greatly admire. To that end, I would like to share a couple of graphics I have done over the years. The one is inspired by Odin, and depicts the eye he sacrificed for wisdom, rimmed by the runes, on the web of Wyrd and floating within the well of Mimir. The second is inspired by the Cailleach. Neither of these graphics are of the quality of those linked to above – I’m not a graphic artist, but rather someone who likes to tinker with Gimp from time to time. I had both of these printed up to a suitable size sometime ago, and they have been hanging in my living room for a while.