[image description: A tiny Oriole sits cheeping on a branch. But this wee bird has tied a big colorful toucan beak over his own, and added a bright red-orange comb. We see him against a bright green rainforest background. Text reads, “18, YUCAN TU, the small god of faking it until you make it”]
Sometimes education isn’t enough. Sometimes you can study and study and try and try, and never quite cross the last bridge between where you are and your heart’s desire.
Sometimes you need to tell the perfect little lie to get there.
Once upon a time there was a small god of goldfinches named Yucan who wanted nothing more in the world than to be a god of toucans, to manifest himself as a big, beautiful, tropical bird that people would stop to ooo and ahh over when they saw it in the trees, something impressive. It was a good thing to be a god of songbirds. There weren’t as many of them as there had been before cats became quite so popular as house pets, and the ones remaining needed all the divine intervention they could get their wings on. He appreciated their attention and their worship, but he wanted, so very badly, to be more than his nature was allowing him to be.
So he hatched, over the course of several slow decades, a plan, and one night, with no warning whatsoever, his faithful woke and found him gone. He had abandoned his divine duties, flown the coop, left the nest, and no one could find a single feather left behind! All the little birdies were distraught…but not for very long, as little birdies have short memories, and there were other gods of songbirds around to serve. If it wasn’t quite the same, well, nothing ever is, not even following the same god from one day to another. They adjusted. They adapted.
And far away, a very small god with a very big dream put his plans into action. He donned a false face, he told everyone who met him that he was the god of endangered tropical birds, and if no one had ever seen him before, well, some of those birds were very endangered. Deforestation and poaching, don’cha know? So many dangers to evade. So many fledglings to protect. So he lied, and lied, and pretended, and did his best to live up to his own lies. He protected those who came to him, he spread his wings over the nests of species unknown to science, and he tried, and he lied, and he tried.
Until one day, the mask would not come off when he went to go to nest. One day, he noticed that his wingspan was greater, and he no longer heard the prayers of songbirds, but of the birds he had claimed…and of more than them. Of frightened high school drama students and would-be figure skaters, of novice computer programmers and new-made lawyers.
They had their own lies to tell.
And Yucan Tu would be with them every step along the way, singing goldfinch songs in their ears and spreading his wings to defend them from the risks of their own actions.
He is a god of falsehood, yes, but also of sincerity, and of effort.
Artist Lee Moyer (The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, Starstruck) and author Seanan McGuire (Middlegame, Every Heart a Doorway) have joined forces to bring you icons and stories of the small deities who manage our modern world, from the God of Social Distancing to the God of Finding a Parking Space.
Join in each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many tiny divinities: