[image description: 3/4 view caricature of a pale smirking light-eyed man with a jaw as large as his forehead is small. His hair is slicked black and he wears a suit. Behind him, Polaroid snap shots of other large-jawed men are taped to the wall in rows. Text reads, “17, Oliver Jasper Throatwarbler IV, the Small God of Superior Jaws”]
Oliver Jasper Throatwarbler IV has always known that he was living on borrowed time, and that knowledge has made him petty, and cruel. Neither pettiness nor cruelty are unique among the small gods; they are jealous guardians of their domains, and envious coveters of the domains of their peers, and when the opportunity has arisen for one of them to overthrow another, it has all too frequently been taken. The past is littered with the bones of gods who failed to rise to their own defense.
So pettiness and cruelty are not a part of his domain.
He was no more born than most of the small gods—some, like Medusa, have been elevated from the ranks of the living by their actions, or by the actions of others, but most have ascended into godhood from the airy realm of thought, or ideology, or, in some terrible cases, prejudice. Oliver found his voice in every mother who praised her son for having a strong chin, a noble profile, the face of kings. He found his visage in the mirrors of those same boys as they grew toward manhood, convinced that the shape of their bones made them superior to everyone around them, made them somehow better than those without their genetic gifts could ever hope to be.
There are more obvious gods of racist thought, gods of skin color and gods of genealogy, gods arisen on the back of centuries of white supremacy. It would be more surprising if there were not. Gods arise where humans place importance, and however repugnant some find certain ideas to be, there are others who believe them with their whole hearts, and thus grant them a power they should never have possessed. For Oliver Jasper Throatwarbler IV, his blood and breeding will always make him better than you. His heritage alone should buy him honor and respect.
He cannot be taught. He cannot be improved. He can only be defeated, denied, and hopefully, one day, destroyed. He knows this, and it makes his hatred burn all the brighter. If he cannot win, he will besmirch everything he can before his time is finished.
Some ideas are poisonous ones, and the gods they spawn are little better.
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: