What do we believe? We believe it can be hard to keep track of all the gods – old and new – wandering the country. To help keep track of the many deities who have joined American Gods in season two, here’s a brief primer on who these powerful beings are and where they come from.
Episode three saw the debut of Kahyun Kim’s New Media, the updated, upgraded replacement of Old Media. Gillian Anderson’s character – who represented things like television, film, and music – didn’t die, but rather evolved into this new incarnation. ( Neil Gaiman explained to us how and why that frequently happens with new gods). She humorously acknowledged her past when she used her Marilyn Monroe Snapchat filter.
A goddess of global content who can manipulate the masses through social media (#Branding), New Media is a powerful and intimidating force wrapped up in an emoji.
Mama-Ji, who introduced herself as a god of death, is the Hindu goddess Kali, which in Sanskrit means “she who is black” or “she who is death.” As the goddess of time, doomsday, and death, she is often depicted either naked or almost entirely nude. She has many arms to carry weapons like knives and swords, as well as severed heads. She also wears a necklace of skulls and a belt of arms.
Despite her fearsome image, she is also associated with both sexuality and motherly love. A symbol of feminine power, even to some modern day scholars (a little extra worship never hurts when you’re a god), Mama-Ji is an apt name for this powerful deity.
As Wednesday said, this is not Odysseus’s loyal dog from Homer’s The Odyssey. The giant Argus Panoptes, which in Greek means “All-Seeing,” had a hundred eyes covering his entire body. Since they did not all sleep at the same time, Argus could always keep watch over all others. That’s why Hera, sister-wife to Zeus, used him to keep watch over the Princess Io, whom Hera had turned into a heifer. She wanted to keep her husband away from the beautiful woman, but Zeus sent Hermes in disguise to kill Argus. It’s said Hera took the eyes of her trusted and beloved servant and put them into the peacock’s feathers.
The Argus of the show is a memory of the god Hera sent to America after his murder, where he had been working for the new gods as the god of surveillance.
Like Mr. Nancy, Iktomi is a trouble-making trickster spider god of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Sioux tribes. A shapeshifter, he is sometimes depicted as a human-sized spider, and other times entirely in human form with black around his eyes. Smart, cunning, and mischievous, some see him as an evil figure, but he can be a symbol of both good and evil (how much depends on individual tribes). Iktomi can also manipulate men like they are puppets, especially fools, to make them do what he wants. He can also make potions that can even change or control other gods. Much like he represents the fine line between wisdom and stupidity, it’s not always clear if he is respected or feared, though stories about him tend to be entertaining and educational.
We imagine the kind of lessons learned at the “Corn Palace” where he is growing his business are not quite the kind he used to teach.
(And yes, Iktomi is the spider god referenced on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.)
Only named in episode three’s end credits, the Jinn’s friend is an evil spirit born of an incestuous relationship between two destructive Native American spirits. Better known as Gnaski (and sometimes the Crazy Buffalo), he is a feared figure who appeared in disguise as the good god of wisdom Ksa. The ruse allowed Gnaski to make people do terrible things, and it resulted in Ksa becoming Iktomi, which is why the two have a close affiliation.
Played by Uni Park, she was named in the end credits as one of the gods who attended Wednesday’s meeting at the House on the Rock. A celestial Japanese goddess of the dawn, Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto is also the goddess of dancing, revelry, and joy. It was her dancing that lured the sun goddess Amaterasu out of a cave, which returned light to the world. Thought to embody the female principle, she is the wife of the earthly god Sarudahiko, who embodies male sexuality.
Another House of the Rock old god we only know from the credits, actor Al Maini represented Ahura Mazda, the supreme god of Zoroastrianism, a Persian religion that predates Christianity. “ The creator of the universe and all the things in it, being at the same time wise and good,”he protects and favor just and good men who behave in a righteous manner and uphold the law.
Warrior Woman God
Played by Yvette McKoy, we don’t know anything specific about this warrior goddess.
It’s not clear exactly which goddess at the House on the Rock actress Colleen Reynolds played, but based on the deity she represented, it was almost certainly the one in all white seen very briefly in wide shots. Frau Holle, a figure from German fairy tales, comes from the Germanic goddess Frau Holda. Sometimes looking like a beautiful young woman and sometimes like an old hag, she is the protector of domestic arts, children, and agriculture who was usually adorned in snow white. She would punish lazy housewives and reward those who worked hard.
The Grimm fairy tale about her could be how she came to America.
Beautiful Woman God
This striking blue-haired goddess played by Sonya Cote is an unnamed deity, just like many others seen at the House on the Rock. The others include Jack Foley (Unknown god), Edward A. Queffelec (MJ Hobo God), John Stoneman Sr. (Old Wizard god), and Mike Scherer (Thuggish Man god).
Mr. Town (Maybe)
Some will insist he is definitely a god, but some name him as nothing more than a human lackey for Mr. World. In the books he is one of World’s many “Spooks,” which does include Mr. Tree, an old god we saw in season one. (He was the desk that grew into a monster at the police station, killing all the officers).
If Mr. Town is a god he is a new one who represents the nebulous worship of the charming man about town, a savvy, successful businessman who knows how to get what he wants, no matter what it takes. A lesson Shadow learned the hard way.
Did we miss any gods? Let us know in the comments below!