Barbarigo ~ The Small God of Things Man Was not Meant to Know

[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:

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Madiel ~ Small God of Smoke

[image description: A figure with side-parted blond hair and a leather jacket sneers with a lit cigarette in their less-than-perfect teeth. The sickly green smoke matches their light eyes. Text reads, “135, Madiel ~ Small God of Smoke”]

Yes, it’s a filthy habit.  Good luck finding one of his followers in this modern world who isn’t aware of that.  We know that shame doesn’t work to change any other human behavior, but we assume those who crave the calming drag of smoke into their throat and lungs will be somehow susceptible, as if they, like any other house on fire, yearn to be extinguished.  Some do.  Many don’t.

Madiel is not kind to his followers.  He calms them, yes.  He quells their appetites.  And all he demands for these great gifts is the yellowing of their teeth and the aging of their skin, the sweetness of their breath and the lushness of their hair.  When they come to him knowing the exchanges on the table, he has no regrets for what he takes for them: it is the way of the universe, after all, that nothing should be had for nothing, and he is a god.   Why should he be the one to pay, when his followers are so very, brutally willing to do it for him?

Madiel is not kind to his followers, and yet he loves them all, from the knowing to the unwary, the ones who have been convinced by gods of propaganda and peer pressure to come to him with their hearts in their hands, ready to pay anything for a drag and a light and a moment of release.

Those gods, he hates.  If only the willing came to him, then the toll that he exacts would be so much more fair, and so much less likely to exact the fury of the other gods.  But so many are tricked into his arms, and while he will welcome them and make them feel at home, he would rather not have had them to begin with.

But shame is not, and was never the answer.


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:

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

Sam O’Var ~ Small God of Tea Time Machines

[image description: A steaming silver teapot with a robot’s face. Boiling water is visible through its comically round eye-holes. It rests and reflects on a white surface in front of window of deep blue sky and numberless stars. Text reads, “134, Sam O’Var ~ Small God of Tea Time Machines”]

Out of Russia they arose, victor in the remarkably genteel race to become representative of the many and glorious ways for the people of the mortal world to take their tea.  Out of Russia, out of the steppes and the snows, all the way to the modern day and the modern world, and countless households therein.

Their earliest forms were open to the fire outside, a unification of elements: earthen or metallic shell, air to carry the fire, fire to warm them, and water to boil in their bellies.  They heated the tea, they warmed the belly, they gave life and strength to armies and artisans alike.  And now, today, they carry the electric fire in their own hearts, even as their artisanal ancestors still pass hand to hand, treasured heirlooms of older days, which look so often better in the cracked glass of memory.

They are beautiful.  They are beloved.  And for all of that, they are humble, recognizing that they hold their place through chance, when it might be better held by Tea Potter.  But Tea is content to be small god of the high tea, enjoying the ceremony and the circumstance more than the art of brewing, and so Sam holds their place for the time all but unchallenged.

It cannot last.  There is always a challenger to come.  They hold their place against the marching armies of the coffee chain, which spawns gods almost as quickly as the technology can be updated, divinity sparking into being and fading away in almost the same instant.  Sam O’Var has watched the rise of gods of French press and cold brew, gods of steam and foam, and waited for the day when they would try to take dominion over all hot beverages brewed to stimulate the mind.  That day has yet to occur.

If ever it does, they will be ready.  And they will offer their challenger one last sweet cup of tea.


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/

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Nightfall – The Small God of World Domination

[image description: A stylized 50’s style illustration of a black cat with huge golden eyes sitting atop the world in a bubble-helmet. Teeny flying saucers float in the starry purple space background. Text reads, “133, Nightfall ~ The Small God of World Domination”]

We’re not sure what the cats were thinking when they domesticated humans.  Oh, sure, primates are useful, with their clever little primate hands that can do useful primate things, like building warm houses to keep the rain out, and making factories to produce cat toys, and opening cans of tuna.  Tuna.  That alone justifies keeping at least half the species around.

The other half, though…cat-kickers.  Dog-lovers.  All-around bastards who don’t think anything of tying their own children in a sack and throwing them in the river, much less ours.  So why do we have them?  Couldn’t our ancestors have done a better job of cultivating their servant species?  You’d think they would have tried harder to make a better future for us.  You’d think they would have cared.

At least our gods are amazing.  Perfect in every conceivable way, really.  Sleek of fur and swift of claw and sharp and bright of eye.  They’ll stalk and kill the gods of the lesser, until the heavens belong entirely to them.  The hells, too.  Anything you can imagine, they’ll have it for their own, and they’ll share it with us, for we have been faithful, for we are forever beloved.

And the greatest of them all is Nightfall, in whose shining green eyes is reflected the future, in whose sleek black sides we can see our absolute dominion over all.  She will guide us to the promised land of catnip and chicken, where every lap is open and every hand is kind.

Oh, oh, you dear sweet kitten.  We told you she was the small god of world domination.

We never said that it was going to be this one.

Let the poor, half-domesticated humans keep the world they’ve spoilt.  We’ll have a better one for our own, and we’ll never look back again.

Meow.


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:

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Aestha Titian, Small God of Graven Images

[image description: A serious Black woman in a crimson cape (over a white shirt, crimson skirt, dark grey jacket, and red tie) holds the gold image-border in her left hand, and gestures over her shoulder with her right. Visible behind her, sculptures of ’No Escape’ Claus, Splunge, Elvis Parsley, Über Allium, Eschercargo, Galloping Gertie, Hedjet, and Beyoncé. Text reads, “130, Aestha Titian ~ Small God of Graven Images”]

Some people say that she shouldn’t be a god at all.

Some people say that she’s a demigod at best, and much more probably a muse of some sort, divine, yes, but not worthy of the admirations of godhood.

Aestha knows better.  She inspires nothing.  Her gifts are more prosaic ones.  Her faithful are by nature polytheistic: they go to other gods for inspiration, dally with demigods, marry muses.  They find their creations in other hands, and then they come to her with heads full of images and hands full of needing, and no idea how to put the two together.

She is a historian, of sorts, for in her name, sculptors call forth deities, pin them down in substance so that they may be seen and understood and yes, remembered.  Her hand guides the brush of our faithful illuminator, allowing him to set the images of her fellows—and even herself—down in line and color.  She stands with sculptors, shapes the clay of potters, even guides the needles in the hands of felt artists.  As long as the end result is an image of one of her kin and kind, her hand is there, and her need for worship is appeased.

Among all the gods of the arts, she is one of the least known, and the least appreciated.  The artist provides the talent and skill: neither of them come from her.  The gods themselves provide the inspiration: that is not her doing.  What she brings is the motivation to combine the two in the correct order, the ability to stand the completed work before the world and say “look, see?  This is my creation, behold.”

We are reasonably sure that our illuminator is her most loyal follower remaining in the modern world, outside of the eight dozen people doing illustrated retellings of Hades of Persephone.  But those are large gods, and large gods have less need of loyalty than the smaller kind.

The gods love her.  Her faithful loves her.  And for her, focused as she is upon the next statue for her garden, that has always been enough.

Medusa does not love her.

But that is a story for another scripture.


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/

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Eva Distraction – Small God of Hiding Behind Glasses

[image description: A thin green-shaded figure stands in a black tee shirt and jeans, adjusting their big round black-rimmed, rose-colored eyeglasses with their right hand (showing their painted red nails). Behind them, a stand of roseate deciduous trees. Text reads, “128, Eva Distraction ~ Small God of Hiding Behind Glasses”]

People assume that Eva is shy.  Eva isn’t shy.  Eva just wants to see the world without distortions or distractions.  When glasses get dirty, they can be wiped clean.  Eyes are more difficult.  Smudges on the eye tend to linger, tend to harden into schema and stereotype, and Eva doesn’t have time for that sort of bullshit.  Ze has places to go, things to do, and very little patience for the assumed.

Ze sees the world clearly, from behind a comfortable screen of shaped and polished glass, and ze likes it that way.

Eva stands with the shy, the ones who need something to hide behind in the literal sense, the faithful who desire to be obscured, to disappear, to be seen as an accessory and not as an entire person in their own right. Ze will help them vanish as much as they need to, and when zir works are not enough to make that possible, ze will try to find another way.  Eva is nothing if not forever merciful.

Eva stands with the smug, the ones who seek to cultivate an air of mystery or superiority, whether they watch the world from behind corrective lenses or on the other side of a screen of artificial darkness, and if they sometimes look a little smug, a little silly, well, Eva does zir best not to judge them.  Mortality is complicated in ways divinity will never be, and ze understands that the temporary may need to feel superior to their fellows from time to time.  They’ll find out soon enough that reality looks like with the screens stripped away, and then they can try to cope with the sight of it without their glasses.  Eva will shelter them until that day comes.

Ze cares for all zir faithful, and when they lose their glasses, ze is there with a prayer to St. Velma that their vision may clear and their shields be restored while there’s still time.

Time is always shorter than it seems.


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/

Mirabella – small god of Vitiligo

[image description: A beautiful black woman stands in a pastoral setting lit by the morning sun, a single blooming rose to her left. She wears a homespun green skirt, a mustard and brown plaid scarf wraps around her shoulders over a white shirt with its sleeves rolled up, and poses with her walking stick over her shoulders. Her face and arms show the symmetrical white patches of nonsegmental generalized vitiligo. Text reads, “127, Mirabella, small god of Vitiligo”]

She is beautiful. She has always been beautiful, throughout all of time, throughout all of space, she is beautiful. But beauty, as they say, is only skin deep, and as she is a god of appearances, she focuses so much on the surface that it can seem like she knows nothing else. 

That isn’t so. 

She knows the innocent delight of a child seeing a person with patterns on them, wondering why they don’t have patterns of their own, wishing at night to see the oracular markings form on their own skin, believing in some abstract way that the swirls and scrimshaw are the badges of age, that puberty will be followed by a second, even more intricate, transformation, skin turning as individual as a fingerprint. 

She knows the heartbreak of a teen whose childhood wishes, made or unmade, are answered by the structure of their skin, who finds themselves mocked and outcast by their peers for being in some way different, for being marked. She knows how often she is repudiated, how often those she touches hate and reject her. She knows every form of foundation and pancake makeup, and how deeply the shadow of the surface can cut. 

She knows she is beloved, and she knows she is unwanted, and she carries both these burdens both gracefully and gladly. She is what she is. She is what she is, and she is the small god of a human condition; she cannot change, even if she wanted to. 

And she does not want to. 

She is a god of beauty and a god of understanding, and she would not change if she were given the opportunity. Her faithful, willing or no, still need her, and as long as she is needed, she endures. 

And she loves.


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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/smallgodseries/

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

The Light – The Small God who knows what goodness lives in the hearts of men

[image description: A golden-eyed figure wears a wide-brimmed white fedora with a wide gold hat band and a light golden scarf just below the nose and across the mouth and chin. They sport a white Inverness Cape with its collar turned up over a white double-breasted suit. It’s hard to see them clearly in the bright light. Text reads, “126, The Light, The Small God who knows what goodness lives in the hearts of men.”]

C’mere, kid.  I want to tell you a secret.

Whoa, whoa, not like that!  This isn’t one of those “strange man tells you something that you’re not supposed to share with your parents” situations.  I want you to share this with your parents.  I want you to share this with the whole world.  You wanna be my prophet, you go right ahead.  It’s not like most folks are gonna listen, but every so often, one of you people decides to try, and I’m always grateful, even if I don’t think there’s any point to it.

Okay.  You with me?  You listening?  You cleaned your ears out recently?  Because if you’re gonna be my prophet, I don’t want you to go around telling people I said something I didn’t.  That’s happened to so many of my friends.  They lay out one message, and folks pick it up and turn it into something terrible, into some sort of cudgel to beat people with.  And that’s not what I’m about.

Okay.  You’re good?  Then here you go.  This is the secret, this is the essential thing I wish you over-important primates would hammer through your heads, this is what matters:

People are essentially good, and essentially the same, everywhere you go.  Optimism isn’t shallow, and being a happy person doesn’t make you a fool.  You’re allowed to irrigate and plant flowers in your heart.  That won’t make you weak.  It won’t make you irresponsible, or petty.  Be joyous.  Find your light and nurture it, and once it’s strong and healthy enough to light up your room, open the windows and share it with the people around you.

There’s a lot of shadow in a lot of folks.  A little light can help to beat it back, and can bring us a better world.  All of us, not just the divine, and not just the damned.

Do your part, prophet or no.  Nurture and protect your joy.


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/

small god OPTIMIST PRIME

[image description: A big friendly-looking red robot with bright green eyes gives you the thumbs up. Text reads, “125, small god OPTIMIST PRIME.”]

Hey.  Hey, our historian isn’t at her desk today—we’re not sure why.  Humans are so soft and fallible.

But not YOU.  No, out of all the humans we’ve ever known, YOU are by far the most [competent|proficient|dependable].  Why, we can’t IMAGINE trying to do this without you!

Now we want you to look in the nearest reflective surface—a mirror if you’ve got one, a shiny pot or the back of a spoon if you don’t—and repeat after us:

I am amazing.

I am clever.

I am strong enough, I am good enough, and even if I weren’t either of those things, I would still be ENOUGH, because there has never been anything else like me in all creation, and there will never be anything else like me, ever.  I am a universe unto myself, filled with tiny gods no one else will ever worship or know, and I deserve to feel happiness.

Do you feel better?  Even if you thought that was silly, we have found that humans talk down to themselves far too [often|regularly|reliably].  Speaking words of happiness and love toward the self will make you feel more as if the self if something worth celebrating.

Whatever you want to achieve in this world, we have absolute faith that you can do it.  We only need you to have the faith in yourself that we already have in you.  Together, we can move mountains.  Together, we can accomplish anything.  And we will be with you every step along the way, small friend, because we believe in you.

Now, if you could find our historian, we would really appreciate it.


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/

Teddy Burial – The Grin Reaper & Small God of Comedic Death

[image description: A brown teddy bear with no mouth stands atop a grassy knoll in front of a field of gravestones. A falling star arcs diagonally across the twilit sky (or is it mourning?) behind him. The scythe he’s holding has bisected his adorable head. Top banderole reads “Dying is easy, Comedy is hard”. Lower text reads, “Teddy Burial, The Grin Reaper & Small God of Comedic Death. #124”]

Humans are such short-lived creatures.  Did you hear about Gerald?  Oh, yes, I did, his poor wife, she must be heartbroken.  They’re born and they die, all in the blinking of an eye, and for the divine, there’s no difference in the death of an infant and the death of a venerated elder.  Time has no meaning on the other side of the hourglass.

Oh, did you get the news about Carol?  Such a tragedy, she was so young, really, and that bulldozer wasn’t even supposed to be in her neighborhood.

Every human death is an inevitable tragedy, and someone will be heartbroken, always.  Even the grimmest of misers leaves someone lost to mourning.  And for all of that, some deaths are…different.  Some deaths fall under a different umbrella, one patterned in polka dots and smiley faces.

Some deaths are, to be blunt about it, absolutely hilarious.

Consider Gerald, devoured by hyenas.  It might not have been funny had he been a zookeeper or a zoologist, but as he was an accountant who had decided to become a tightrope walker in his middle age, and begun his new career by walking the thin rail of the hyena enclosure at the zoo, well…

Even his grieving widow had to see the humor, after she finished crying off her supposedly waterproof mascara, anyway.

Or consider Carol, bulldozed to death in her own apartment parking lot, an ending straight out of a children’s cartoon, flattened like a pancake.  Or Kathy, who fell through the floor of a medieval bathroom while on her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Scotland, only to discover that the castle employees had been using it for its original purpose.  She drowned in effluvia before she could be saved.

Or Charles, pecked to death by ducks, or Margery, or Michael, or…

Wherever a life ends with a giggle instead of a groan, he is there, scythe in hand, ready to close the book on their stories, however ridiculous or rugged they had been.

Because death is funny.  Not always, but often enough to be made manifest. Sometimes, anyway.


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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/smallgodseries/

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