[image description: A fancy little cactus with many stalks and spines and many flowers, including blooms for its eyes is holding (or growing?) a bouquet of flowers and wears a white t-shirt that says “I <3 (a spiny green cactus heart) YOU.” Taller cacti are visible in the rising dust behind. Text reads, “224 Mescalia small god of cactus”]
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When the rest of the world locked down due to plague and privation, they thrived. Dictators of the indoor garden, pampered children of the windowsill. Resistant to so many dangers, sturdy enough to survive a shifting climate, delicate enough to require constant devotion, they put forth spiny arms, and they held the world close.
They still do.
Some of their children are endangered, pushed out by shrinking habitats, threatened by the human desire for beautiful things, but others of those children spread their spiked embrace across the world, propagated by gardening groups, uplifted by Instagram and the aesthetic. They find the next best thing to immortality in a distributed root system and a slow but steady expansion of their domain. After all, everything will be a desert eventually.
(But that is reductive thinking: they don’t only thrive in deserts, can take their nutrients from any soil. It’s just that the belief of the people shapes the function of the god, and people believe the cactus belongs in a desert setting, sand beneath its roots, sunny sky above its arms. So the god, for all that they stand for all cactus, everywhere, appears almost always in the desert.)
They are a god of green and growing things, of brown and gray, and of plentiful, glorious, profligate color, flowers coating branches, life spreading wide to nurture entire ecosystems. Sweet fruit and safe cubs, birds nesting high and bobcats in branches. They support a world unto themselves, and they are perfect.
They would really like a hug.
There are gods who do not yearn for touch, gods who would, in fact, prefer never to encounter the brush of another being’s hand. There are gods who exist only for the sake of physical contact. Mescalia comes from the high desert, from places where the survival of a system depends upon their presence and their health, and to be brought from there to the comfort and confinement of a walled garden leaves them lonely. If they can’t have a woodpecker, a lizard, and a lonely bobcat, they would accept a human embrace. They would take anything.
Only let them love you. Only love them as they have always been loved before, and give your blood to the god you have already come to worship.
Only nurture them.
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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: