[image description: A series of beautifully painted matryoshka dolls stand in the snow in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral. While most of the dolls ‘open’ horizontally, the largest opens vertically like the Iron Maiden she is. She holds a hollow heart in her painted hands, through which the brutally sharp spikes that line her interior can be clearly seen. The smaller dolls look trapped and alarmed. Text reads, “157 Железной Леди ~ SMALL GOD OF BAD MOTHERS”]

She has so many more faithful than she desires, or than realize their loyalty to her.  Fully half of those who worship her with unflagging devotion would be horrified beyond all measure if forced to clearly confront the damage they have done, if forced to see with open eyes that they betrayed their own ideals.  She despises them for refusing to look at their children without preconceptions, for refusing to understand, for refusing to see as they are seen.

To some, a mother is an architect.  She builds a house, one brick and board at a time, from the substance of her own body, sacrificing blood and bone alike to give her child a place to all their own.  But all too often, those mothers forget that when you give something away, you surrender the right to dictate its every use.  Their children decorate the house as they will.  They build new additions or cut away old construction that doesn’t suit them.  And at some point, a failure to accept this will move the mother into a new religion, as the Iron Lady takes her toll.

To others, a mother is a collector of beautiful things in need of nurturing and protection, and has no part in the original construction, but only and essentially in the ornamentation.  And in those cases, she must still find a way to accept that her child will one day change out the wallpaper, or hang new curtains, or discover rooms neither of them were aware had been built in the original blueprints.  Those mothers, too, must master the art of stepping back and saying “I see you, I know you, I love you even if you are not exactly as I assumed.”

Too many assume the Iron Lady owns only the hearts of those who are actively abusive, intentionally cruel, the ones who hit or deprive or withhold their affections out of malice.  But rot has no morality, and even those who mean the best can damage without understanding the depth of what they’ve done.

She has too many faithful.  She can turn none of them aside.  She only hopes that kinder gods will see the scars of those she does not claim, and take mercy, and lead them to a safer haven, a harbor, and a home.

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:

Tumblr: https://smallgodseries.tumblr.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/smallgodseries

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Homepage: http://www.smallgodseries.com/

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