Jack Torrents – small god of Writer’s Block

[image description:  A wine-colored monochrome portrait of an increasingly frustrated and deranged white man lies over a page of text. Though each line is different (and all seemingly misspelled) they are to the effect that ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. There are unsettling blood stains at the bottom of the page. Text (in Courier font) reads, “206, Jack Torrents, small god of Writer’s Block”]

• • • • •

Never has there been a more perfect more infallible more glorious god, worthy only of praise, no censure, no critique.*

(*Anne O’Tate is a god of research and form, not composition, and I have to hope she can protect me, if I cast my text into her domain.  So: Jack.  Jack is the small god of writer’s block.  He offers suggestions, offers comforts and concern, and his company can seem like a blessing, when it comes at the beginning of such an affliction.  Here is someone who KNOWS.  Here is someone who UNDERSTANDS.

But if we give him our worship and our attention, here is someone who LINGERS.  Someone who feeds every excuse, every bit of precious fragility.  “Oh, I can’t write, I saw a bad thing on social media.”  “Oh, I can’t write, Starbucks was out of Pumpkin Spice muffins.”  “Oh, I can’t write, I don’t feel it in my heart.”

All of that is Jack.  He will feed the worst parts of you, will enable and encourage, will refuse to leave unless made to do so.)

And because he is such a perfect god, there is no need for someone as small and insignificant as I to attract his attention for even a moment.  He has far more important things to do with his time, far more essential worshippers to care for and defend.**

(**I am going to kill you for attracting his attention to me, even for a moment.  I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I know I’m going to do it, because how dare you.  It’s my job to write these things down, and now here I am with Jack Torrents looking in my direction, and no ability to shift his gaze away, save for hiding myself in footnotes and praising his name.  How DARE you.)

All praise to Jack Torrents, small god of writer’s block, so essential, so desired, so glorious in his munificence and his generosity, so perfect in divinity.  We are fortunate to be found worthy in his sight.***

(***I think he’s gone.  I need a drink.)

• • • • •

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SQUIRT – the small god of THRIFT

[image description:  The last bit of toothpaste (which has a happy little face) emerges from a now-completely-empty tube against a black, grey, and green marble background. Both the tube and the toothpaste are pink, white, and mint green striped. Text reads, “205, SQUIRT, the small god of THRIFT”]

• • • • •

They have followers and they have believers, and those are not the same thing.

Squirt was born of necessity, of stone soup and chewed paper patching cracks in the window.  They came into being the first time someone boiled grass and called it tea, the first time a child, denied a doll, dressed a stick in a cobweb gown and sent her dancing at an imaginary ball.  Some grow up with them, knowing their worship from the beginnings of their lives, and some come to them later; some come willingly, and some less so.  Some speak of them with scorn and others with reverence, but it’s all the same to Squirt.  Squirt welcomes them all, and they don’t care if you believe in them, because they believe in themself, and that’s enough.

They know how to make do.

They are the last drop in the shampoo bottle, the last squeeze in the toothpaste tube, the last bite of the bread; they are discount meat and making do.  They are mending and darning and repairing what’s broken but not quite past salvation.  They are a saver of everything, and that includes the lost and the broken.  No one is too battered from past experiences to be beyond the point of saving.

So come: let them take you to the thrift shops and the discount grocery stores, the stands where they sell the imperfect produce and the flea markets where lightly used goods are available for those willing to take the time.  Let them freecycle your faith, and when you leave them for more generous pastures, they will gladly wave you on, knowing you have been enriched by your time in their company, knowing they will never be truly forgotten.

They are the salt at your table forever after, and the reminder to be kind to those who have less, to lift up instead of pushing down.  They are a moment and a memory, or a lifetime, and they are always a lesson.  They will teach you how to work with what you have, and when they are no longer right for you, they will let you go.

Every time, always.

• • • • •

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Fox Mason – the small god of ACTUAL Cancellation

[image description:  A tiny spaceship is caught like a firefly in an airless canning jar. Its golden exhaust providing the only light in the scene. Text (molded into the glass of the jar) reads, “204, Fox Mason, the small god of ACTUAL Cancellation”]

• • • • •

Gods are made of belief.  Humans believe.  Humans, small and weak as they are individually, must therefore be said to make gods.  Gods can do epic, amazing things that humans could never accomplish, but which humans are capable of dreaming of, for a human couldn’t imagine it, a god couldn’t do it.  That is the one true limitation of the divine: it is bounded by the limits of human imagination.  But here is the secret: human imagination has no limits, and thus the only limitation of the divine is no limitation at all.

Humans believe.  Humans secrete story, making pearls out of every scrap of sand that works its way into their psyches, and they spread those stories around, making a cultural moment out of believing the same pretty lies.  Stories are incubators for gods, warm, safe places where belief can take root and grow.  More than a few gods have begun from such seeds.  The others do not shame them for such beginnings, for they are not chosen, but granted.

As time has passed, the shapes of those stories have changed, and the methods by which they may be shared have changed along with them.  No longer is it single storytellers around fires at night: it is entire productions, attractive people in shining costumes, industries built on dreams.

But a dream is a fragile scaffold unless it attracts belief to itself with speed.  Far too many dreams, built too high too fast, find themselves collapsing under the weight of their own industry.  That’s where Fox comes in.

Fox is where dreams go to die.  Fox lures them in with pretty words and shiny trinkets, promises them a pantheon, and then, when they fail to bring the believers in quickly enough, or when those believers belong to the wrong demographic, they pull the scaffolding away and leave the dream to collapse.

What Fox cancels does not return.  What Fox jars does not rise again.

And yet dreamers keep following their light, believing that this time, it will be different.  And it is, just often enough to make their beliefs understandable: sometimes, Fox takes mercy.

Not often, though.

In Fox’s den, dreams die.

• • • • •

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Lulah BYE – small god of A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

[image description:  A lovely Black woman lies back against the deep blue night sky as the world spins around and behind her. Whether the orange on the horizon is the earliest dawn, or deepest dusk we cannot know. She (and her stuffed sheep) lie in comforting spirals of cloud-like gold. To either side lie forms that resemble the shelves that hem in Sleep Miser. But where those shelves were full of distractions, these are nothing but empty peaceful shapes. Text reads, “203, Lulah BYE, small god of A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP”]

• • • • •

Her faithful are many; she inspires multitudes.  Most children come to her when they close their eyes, but it is a skill too many lose as they age, slipping from her hands like the sand they credit to all gods of slumber and of dreaming.  They become adults in uncomfortable beds, their shoulders bowed with stress, their dreams clouded with concern, and they move away from her.

So she tries to tell them how to return to her arms.  She tells them, replace your mattress if you can, find something that suits the curve of your spine and the comfort of your hip, hard or sort of anywhere in-between.  If replacing your mattress is too much to ask of bank and budget, replace your pillows, find something soft and sweet to cradle you, and wash your pillowcases and your sheets.  Find a soothing drink to ease you into my arms, turn off the television, put away the phone.  Please, please, come home.  Come home to me.

She tries to pull them from Appalla’s arms, for nothing disrupts a good night’s sleep like doom scrolling until the walls of slumber close in; she tries to tell them to protect their time with her as they would protect their time with any lover, that yes, she will ask them for hours upon hours, but she will give them so much of their waking lives back again that they will not resent the lost.  She is the salt in the soup: she will make all things that much richer and more flavorful.  She begs, when she must.  She does not often win, but oh, when she does.  When she does, she celebrates.

She is not a god of pleasant dreams, cannot promise you fine fantasies or comfort, but she is a god of waking rested and content, able to face the world.  She comes for all, the wicked and the divine, the rich and the poor, and while she understands that some lives are more suited to her comforts, she tries to reach us all.  She yearns to grant us her compassion.

Each night, she stands in battle with the Sleep Miser for our survival.  We have a choice.  We can dedicate ourselves to only one of them.

Lulah hopes we will choose joy, and dreaming.

• • • • •

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THORN – the small god of PROTECTING FRAGILE BEAUTY

[image description:  A portrait of a very pointy being. They have a sharp elfin face, golden eyes, long pointed ears, luscious red lips, a deep brown widow’s peak, and even-sharper green brown nouveau armor and tiara. A five-petalled pink flower with a yellow center nestles atop their sternum. Text reads, “202, THORN, the small god of PROTECTING FRAGILE BEAUTY”]

• • • • •

Some beautiful things are vast and impossibly sturdy.  Mountains are beautiful.  So is the sky.  So are tigers, rainbows, Saturday afternoons.  Beauty comes in many forms and levels of resilience, and while all beauty must be protected, not all of it requires its own good.  Daniel, small god of tigers, spends less time protecting his charges and more time trying to convince them not to hunt and eat people.  Iris, small god of rainbows, rarely has to do much in the way of protecting.  Their jobs have their own challenges, as all portfolios must, but protection is rarely a requirement.

And then there is Thorn.

She protects the delicate things, the fragile things, the beautiful things that would be all too easy to destroy.  She protects the wildflowers and the butterflies, all apart from the gods who direct those things in specific, for her protectorate is not her portfolio.  Thorn is not quite unique among the small gods, but rare, in that the things she takes her title from are not her faithful.

Oh, occasionally there may be a delicate creature who becomes aware of their benevolent protector and changes allegiances, but on the whole, that which thorn protects goes about its business unaware of her, not realizing the essential service she provides.

Thorn’s faithful are those who admire what she protects, the ones who see the necessity of her, who embrace her, sharp edges and all.  They will be here long after her protectorate as it currently exists is gone, for there is always something fragile and lovely and worthy of protection, over and over again, throughout the universe.

She will always be required.  She never rests.

She’s never seen the need.

• • • • •

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Laurel Bay – the Small God of Topiary

[image description: Smiling Black girl in stands outside on a sunny day. An Oread? a Dryad? In any case, she has bright green foliage where humans would have hair – and it’s been fashioned into the shape of a rubber duck. A leaf pattern winds around the neck of her tunic. Text reads, “112, Laurel Bay, the Small God of Topiary”]

• • • • •

Her portfolio serves no purpose beyond making people smile, and she’s perfectly content with that.  Let other gods control fate, or time, or love, or war, even down to its smallest attributes; she will conjure the laughter of children and the delight of lovers, the joy of gardeners and yes, even the fear of those whose automatonophobia has been stirred to terrible heights by unkind horror movies.  She delights in them all, for she is a joyful god, and she sees no reason to be anything other than who she is.

Sculpt a rabbit or a robot, and she’ll be standing gladly by your side, clapping her hands and exalting in your skill.  She has inspired her own Pygmalions, although she lacks the gifts of Aphrodite, to bring their glorious creations further into life than the green growth of their limbs, the healthy splendor of their branches.  She can inspire life.  She can shape life.  She can encourage life. She cannot give it, much as she might wish she could.

But she can, upon occasion, move it from one place unto another.  The starving child whose family has been lost to the wilds may find themselves reborn in growth and glory; the beloved dog whose people bring them beneath the branches to soothe their passing may find that they have not gone, simply relocated.  And Laurel finds her own joy in tears, on those occasions, in the pain she cannot prevent but can at least reduce a bit as the future moves forward, and carries, as always, a bright new spring.

For that is the one truth she carries above all others: that always, no matter what else happens, there will be another spring, and as long as the green endures, she will be there with it, glorying in the growth of that which lives for joy.

• • • • •

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RIVER ALGOOD – the small god of the Gender Fluid

[image description: A chipper character wearing a red and deep blue plaid shirt and newsperson’s cap. They hold a bottle in their right hand and point at it with their left. The classic symbols for ‘Male’, ‘Female’, are entwined with a question mark — these symbols appear to be spinning differently on the bottle front than on its neck. Inside the thin golden bezel cameo oval that may (or may not) be shifting its orientation is an impressionist mix of magenta and blue. outside it, five colored horizontal stripes  — Pink, White, Magenta, Black, and Blue.Text reads, “201, RIVER ALGOOD, the small god of the Gender Fluid”]

• • • • •

“Okay, kid, so you found the bar.  Good on you.  That means you need to be here.  No, there’s no cover charge, and we don’t care how old you are—think of it as a public house or an inn as much as it’s a tavern.  Or hell, go with coffee shop.  That’s a modern way of saying ‘gathering place with drinks and plenty of chairs, where you can be yourself with other people who are also being themselves, and not need to worry about anybody seeing you.’  This idea that bars are only about the alcohol is a lot more recent.  But then again, so is clean water.

“Huh?  Yeah, I do talk about it like I was there, because kid, I always have been.  Go all the way back to the creation, to the first people we’d recognize as humans, standing there all hairy and muddy and naked, and there were always the ones who felt like they were one thing when people said they were something else, or who were something different today than they were yesterday, than they’d be tomorrow.  You’re nothing new.

“Honey, you don’t gotta look so scared.  You’re here.  That tells me you belong here, and that tells me you’re one of mine.  If you weren’t, you’d never have found the doors.  I’m not going to judge anything except that nail polish—it looks like you didn’t use a base coat, and it’s going to stain your cuticles.  But you’re young, you’ll learn how to do your nails without dyeing your skin at the same time.  Unless ‘necrosis’ is the look you’re going for.  In that case, you’ve got a lead on the competition.

“Anyway, you’re nothing new, and you’re something valid, and no one gets to tell you who or what or why you are except for you.  All those choices are yours to make, all those futures belong to you, and I’m just the lucky god who gets to guide you along the way.

“My pronouns?  Kid, I’ll take any pronouns you’ve got.  I keep ‘em in a bucket in the back.  Some of them can get kinda frisky sometimes, but they’re all good.  If you need new ones, you can fish ‘em out of the bucket.

“Oh, which ones am I currently using?  I find that ‘divine/divinity’ works pretty well for me.  If that’s too much of a mouthful, you can use my name—River—or ‘they/them’ is almost never entirely wrong.  But really, anything’s good by me.

“I am the god of the changing and the questioning, the malleable and the multiple, the ones who don’t conform, and the ones who won’t, or can’t.  I belong to all of them, all of you, and I will keep you as safe as I can.  It’s not easy.

“Nothing important ever is.

“So you found the bar.  That’s the first step.  Now here’s the question of the hour: what are your pronouns?  Speak, and we can know each other better.”

• • • • •

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PROMYTHEUS – the small god of NEW GODS

[image description: A strange segmented blue metal being sits cross-legged and floating. Points rising from its knees, elbows, shoulders, and head, and a scarf/cape hangs from behind its shoulders. It holds a glowing largely-orange orb in its lap and many other such orbs orbit around it. Behind it, a green flare, and in the lower left, Hummel (who can’t quite think of what to say). Text reads, “200, PROMYTHEUS, the small god of NEW GODS”]

• • • • •

They have always been, and they do not care for the beliefs of mortals.  We are as motes of dust to them, inconsequential, save in the immune response we can sometimes summon from the universe.  When it breathes us in too deeply, when it inhales too many of our kind, it sneezes, and the results are not tissues and chicken soup.

The results are gods.

When these cosmic sneezes occur, Promytheus is there, ready to gather the new divinities close and nurture them until they waken to their place in the pantheon.  They care for their charges with the utmost delicacy, protecting them from the mortals as well as from the other gods, for newly-born gods are fragile things, still settling into themselves.  Too many are lost at this stage.

Miss Dixie, small god of kitten rescue, has often commented that she and Promytheus are siblings of a kind, both fighting to keep tiny things alive when the universe may have other intentions for them. Like kittens, very new gods are not very good at keeping themselves together, and must be fought for constantly. They are delicate. (Miss Dixie’s actual sibling, Anthro Paul, small god of animal rescue, has very little to say about his sister’s attempts to adopt other gods.  They’re like kittens.  She won’t be happy until every one of them has a home.)

As for Promytheus themself, they seem to be content with their lot, with the constant rounds of bottles and incubators, fighting against the odds to nurture generations of gods who, once they are ready to move into the world on their own, will never look back, never remember how tiny they once were, or how much they needed the love and care of the god who protected them when they were weakest.  Promytheus is fulfilling their purpose, and we who are their acolytes honor them well enough to sustain them.

They are not much believed in for themselves, but they are well believed in, and well-appreciated, for the terminus of all their labor.

Without them, so many others would not be.

• • • • •

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Sleep MISER – the small god of INSOMNIA

[image description: A scary looking light blue face sneers. It might be a puppet face from an unknown Rankin Bass Christmas animation. Its eyes are glowing embers, its nose and chin pointed, its black cloak and ragged hair are filled with stars. The 10 wooden shadowbox sections frame the portrait to either side and contain: a Victorian era lock, a woman’s burnt sculpted face, an old electrical outlet, a left-facing seahorse, an ancient cylindrical ivory box in front of an equally-aged telescope, A two-legged clay pot with a protruding horned face from Mexico, A traffic light turning amber, an ovate sedimentary stone, a curious URL, and a sculpted silver globe. Text reads, “199, Sleep MISER, the small god of INSOMNIA”]

• • • • •

“Man, you look like hell.  Up all night playing video games?”

“I wish.  I went to bed at nine-thirty.”

“So what happened?”

“I just didn’t sleep.”

He is not a nice god.  We try to see the positive of even the unpleasant entities we document, to present them in a fair and measured light, to avoid attracting divine vengeance down on our own heads, but in this case, we have to come out and make a clear statement: he is not a nice god.  He does not have your best interests at heart, and his worship is better left avoided.

Oh, his faithful—for he has them; every god has them, or they would no longer have their godhood—will try to tell you that he serves the ambitious, the creative, and the determined, that if you can work when the world is sleeping, you will have a greater life.  What they don’t tell you is that “greater,” in their eyes, means a life of irritability and exhaustion, of slow psychic poison as your brain fails to reset itself through dreams, of withering relationships and lost compassion.  To them, all that matters is that when your life is done, you’ll have made the most money, worked the most hours, refused the most indulgences.  In their eyes, sleep is a luxury to be earned.

Lulah Bye, small god of a good night’s sleep, says that sleep is not a luxury: sleep is a gift given to you upon your birth, to be treasured and enjoyed.  It is the one thing you have that costs no money, is forbidden by no king, and is not socially shameful to speak of.  She would drive the Sleep Miser from the pantheon if she could, for he brings no blessings, and torments her faithful when they have done nothing to deserve it.

Sleep Miser himself has no regrets about his position.  He enjoys it.  He’s not getting any sleep.

So why should you?

• • • • •

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TINK – SMALL GOD OF PANDEMIC PETS

A pyramid of precious toilet paper has been disrupted by an even more precious white and cream colored kitten who leans forward over a sideways roll. Text reads, “198, TINK, small god of PANDEMIC PETS”

For so many, the last two years have been a time of fear and unhappiness, outside forces conspiring to make the world smaller while the people we have always trusted to make that world larger and safer seem more focused on the pennies in their pockets than they are on the lives of the people who depend on them. It’s been difficult. People have been turning to whatever comfort they can find, and for some, that’s meant food, baking bread and perfecting recipes. For others, crafts, knitting the perfect sweater or painting the next great masterpiece.


And for many, it’s meant welcoming new lives into our families, bringing home sweet little bundles of wordless joy that we can nurture and tend to even when the days are at their darkest, helping them to thrive.


Enter Tink. Small god of pandemic pets.


Her role is a specialized one: she stands for the quarantine kittens and the pandemic puppies, the stay-at-home snakes and the furloughed fish. The pets people welcomed into their worlds when those worlds narrowed to what we’ve always offered to the majority of our companion animals. Their antics brightened our days, their plaintive cries for food reminded us to feed ourselves, and self-neglect is harder when there’s something counting on you.


And count on us they do. As restrictions loosen and the world begins to widen, bit by sometimes inadvisable bit, those pampered pandemic pets mirror the anxiety we felt when we were bringing them home: where are we going? Why are we leaving them? When will we be back? They don’t know how to live without us.


Our worlds have changed forever, but we are their worlds, and they were counting on us to stay the same.


Tink hears their cries, and she purrs for every one, tries to soothe and comfort them when their companion animals put on shoes and coats and leave them behind. She’s not as good at is as we are. She’s not the one they want.


But she’ll make sure they’re not alone.

• • • • • 

Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world:

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