Will The Real God of Stories Please Stand Up?
Who is the God of Stories?
Humans have a tendency to see Gods everywhere.
Put it down to the same proclivity of our brains to see human faces in light sockets and on the front of cars (Pareidolia, I think it’s called). We just can’t help from anthropomorphizing the world around us.
I’m a story guy. I’ve spent years studying the works of Joseph Campbell, Aristotle, Gustave Freytag, and some less recognizable names (I always think how Campbell might be surprised to hear his name connected to story and story structure — he was a mythologist and a comparative religion guy, not a story theorist).
As a story guy, I’ve often find myself asking a very Campbellian question — mythologically speaking — Who is the god of story?
Google seems to think it’s Anansi — an African spider god. But, from what I can tell there’s really only one myth that connects him to story — and that’s a tale where he steals stories from sky God and gives them to mankind. He is the subject of a lot of stories but, like Campbell, I wonder if he’d be surprised to hear himself so strongly connected to the subject. If stealing something or being closely connected to a thing made you the God of it, Prometheus would be the God of Fire and Jesus would be the God of nails.
Google also names Loki as the God of stories — I attribute that more to Keiron Gillen’s run on the Tales of Mystery comic book for Marvel than I do the actual Norse myths, though.
So, if I don’t think it’s Anansi and I don’t think it’s Loki, who do I think it is?
Well, to answer that question, I look to the structure of stories. Stories, as Aristotle defined them, have 3 parts: a beginning (a character wants something), a climax (faces an obstacle), and a resolution (the character is changed). If you think of those 3 parts as a teeter-totter, two sides pivoting on a central point, the obstacle becomes a fulcrum. The obstacle becomes the most important part of the story — the thing that elevates a story to something more than anecdote or mere reporting.
So, if a story is (largely) defined by the obstacle it describes then the God of stories could be imagined as the God responsible for removing obstacles. For me, the God of stories is the Hindu God, Ganesh. Now Ganesh is often referred to as the God of art, science, intellect, and wisdom — all close cousins to story, but to my knowledge (I’m not a practicing Hindu) he isn’t held up as the God of stories. So, I realize these may be uncharted, potentially heretical waters.
My approach to magick, the Gods, and general esotericism borrows a lot from Peter Carrol and the chaos magicians. Magick is powered by belief and beliefs can take on a fairly elastic nature. Because of that, I have little hesitation around assigning areas of patronage to Ganesh that are rarely, if ever, attributed to him.
I am building a practice. I work daily as a magician and storyteller to find the place where the circles (magick and story) overlap to form a Venn diagram. The more I work with both, it seems less like a Venn diagram and more like one single circle. Story is magick. Magick is story.
I heard Jason Louve describe magick once (and I paraphrase) as making a representation of your will and putting it out into the world. That not only works as a definition of magick but it’s a pretty good definition of story. Both are abstractions. Both are works of sympathy. This represents that.
So my practice is to tell stories. Stories about what I want. Stories about my will for the world. Some of these stories are told in public. Some are private. Some are written, some are drawn and some are acted out. I tell them to Ganesh. And after I tell them to him I lay sweets in front of him (Ganesh loves sweets) and I chant, “Om Gum Ganapate Namaha,” loosely, LOOSELY, translated, “Hi Ganesh, remover of obstacles, I offer my salutations to you.” My own translation is more along the lines of, “Hi Ganesh, remover of obstacles, listen to this story, then do your thing.”
As far as practices go, it’s highly personal and fairly egocentric — but I tend to think the best practices are. High magick is full of precise rituals and rites — I do some of them. But the chaos magician in me, the anarchistic magician as Mitch Horowitz would call it, believes in personalizing occult processes. My track record with magick is fairly good. When I say fairly good I am inviting the reader into Robert Anton Wilson’s Chapel Perilous where they are left questioning if results are mere coincidence or the result of effective spell casting. I largely reject the former and believe I have benefited from the latter.
I believe Ganesh is happy with his new title as the God of Stories. I tend to think he’s flattered by or at least patient with my reasoning. Through a process of ritual magick, communing with dead family members, and this Ganesh working, I have seen car accidents barely avoided, monies in my account in the nick of time, positive medical results (positive meaning good), and large dominos knocked over whose chain reaction, ultimately, changed my entire life.
So, hail to Ganesh, God of stories. I’ve seen too much to doubt your mighty hand. Or trunk. Whatever.