[image description: A woman wears 18th Century dress accented with two huge pearl necklaces, pearl earrings, and a rakishly tilted tricorn hat. She sits at a round inlaid table. Behind her velvet curtains part to reveal Venice’s Grand Canal. She sits amid smoke and holds a burning tarot card over a table that shows 6 others in the light of a single candle. Text reads, “136, Barbarigo ~ The Small God of Things Man Was not Meant to Know.”]
Hey, kid. Sit on down and draw a card.
No, I don’t care how old you are. Why would I care about—ah. No, you’re still a kid to me. All humans are kids to me. Even the ones who’ve sold essential slices of their humanity to gods of time and foolish secrets in order to live forever are so much younger than I am that there’s really no difference between the very oldest and the very youngest of you. You’re temporary. You’re transitory. You were born at the start of this conversation and you’ll die before it’s over, and that sucks, but it’s just the way things have to go.
Oh, don’t look at me like that. I didn’t make the rules. None of the small gods did. You want rules, you need the big gods. They set the terms of reality, they decide how things are going to work, and we just do the best we can with the scraps. They’re the building managers. We’re the third floor janitorial staff, and we’re doing the best we can.
You going to pull a card or not?
So what does it mean for something to be a thing man was not meant to know? It means that if you knew it, you wouldn’t be able to keep on being a human the way you’re supposed to be. Maybe you want to know exactly when you’re going to die, or when everyone around you is. Great. But if you can’t change it, does that make you fearless or paranoid? And is that fearlessness even human? Maybe you want to know the truth of the matter, always, no matter what. Look how well that worked out for Cassandra. Truth without proof is just another form of propaganda, and it doesn’t make anyone a better person.
The universe needs secrets and uncertainties and unwritten futures to function smoothly, and humans need a smoothly functioning universe to be human. So I keep the things you need kept away from you locked behind walls, and when you come asking around, I remind you that you’re temporary, and make sure the cards do the rest.
Later, kid. No, don’t get up. You’ll just hurt yourself if you try.
Thanks for playing.
Artist Lee Moyer (13th Age, Cursed Court) 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: