Anne S. Baumgartner,
Ye Gods!
(Lyle Stuart, 1984)

If you're seeking god -- any god, actually -- Anne Baumgartner has the place to look.

Ye Gods! is a fact-filled tome that lists and defines gods from Abaasy to Zvoruna and many, many in between. If they ruled over any land at any time, chances are good their names and brief descriptions are found here.

But Baumgartner didn't compile a dry dictionary, which would be too simple a task. She approaches the gods with a touch of wit that blows the dust off their histories no matter how dusty they might be. For the Mayan god Hunahpu-Gutch, for instance, she writes: "One of the 13 gods who created human beings. Nothing much good ever comes out of a committee." The Melanesian god Marawa "made human beings mortal because he was unfamiliar with their basic construction." Upon noting that Zeus, the Greek god of the sky, is also the "guardian of law and upholder of morality," she adds, "Given his amorous tendencies, the latter bespeaks a certain contradiction in Zeus's almighty nature. However, as he is armed with the thunder and lightning, it is impolitic to raise this point."

She defines "theology" as "a rational discussion about gods. This is a contradiction in terms."

Baumgartner didn't limit herself solely to the divine, but also provided brief definitions for spiritual entities such as ghosts and zombies and places including Valhalla from Scandinavian lore and Egypt's Island of Flame.

There is, if you're curious, no entry for "God," which is not surprising, nor for "Jehovah," which is. Yahweh does make an appearance, however, in his original form as a Semite storm god who doesn't play well with others.

Since Ye Gods! is, after all, a dictionary, this isn't the sort of book you'll want to curl up with on a lazy evening by the fire. But it's an extremely handy reference and is also fun to browse at random to learn more about the rich and varied tapestry of divinity that has sprung from this world.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 13 March 2004

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