Season 1, Episode 8 “Come to Jesus”
“Worship is a volume business.”- Technical Boy (New God of Internet)
American Gods concluded its first thrilling season just last night on June 18th, 2017. As a historian, finding the many Easter eggs of religious mythology was thrilling to me on so many levels.
I have been enamored with American Gods since someone first suggested I watch the program on its home network Starz. I love getting invested in television dramas but we all know it’s difficult to commit the time and energy into a new show.
After the first season, however, I am thankful I became a disciple to the brewing battle between the Old Gods and the New.
This episode began with a return of one of my favorite deities, the Bespoke Trickster, Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones). Jones stole the show in his previous monolog during The Secret of the Spoons episode to African slaves on a Dutch ship. Many have speculated he may be Loki; however, he represented West African animism in the forms of tigers and monkeys. He is a deity known as Anansi.
The episode began with him tailoring suits. Spiders crawled throughout the threads. This is because, in the original Ashanti tales of the trickster god, the West African deity Anansi (the ancient name for Mr. Nancy, the trickster) is both man and spider. Like Prometheus, he stole stories from the great sky god and gave them to the mortals down below.
He decided to practice his favorite past time by recounting a story to Shadow and Wednesday from 864 BCE in the Temple of Bar’an.
“Our queen’s power which is the power of all women is the power of rebirth and creation.”- Mr. Nancy
The Flashback sequence began under the light of a Red Moon. Red moons have existed as part of mythology since the dawn of time and they normally spell feasting time for the gods. Bar’an was no exception. Mr. Nancy described in great detail that kings rose up to challenge the goddess of femininity.
All of them met the same fate as the hapless online date we saw Bar’an ingest in her divine lady parts in the pilot episode. This was her backstory. After her popularity had waned, Bar’an survived through the ages while still ingesting the love of others. It showed her in the 1970s in love with another woman.
At her partner’s deathbed, the camera panned to a golden serpent bracelet around her partner’s wrist. The serpent has long been a mythic figure associated with male energy and dominance. The serpent cost Adam and Eve their innocence in the Garden of Eden. In the hospital, it also cost Bar’an her most precious treasure. Much like losing Paradise, she lost her way in life as well.
Then in 2013, Bar’an was shown to be living as a homeless woman. It was a gods-to-rags story. She helplessly watched her old temple destroyed by ISIS, some of the most notable religious misogynists of the modern era.
After her temple fell, the Internet arrived for a meeting. He handed her a phone with a pre-loaded dating profile. He explained it was a new altar to replace her old. This explained why she was consuming new followers from online dating in the pilot episode.
We returned to the present to find Shadow and Wednesday discussing their plans for the upcoming battle. Shadow was still shaken up by the death of Vulcan at the hands of Wednesday in the last episode we saw them. Wednesday explained to Shadow he was confused, not angry. Mr. Nancy seemed to like the anger he saw in shadow:
“Angry gets shit done.” Mr. Nancy
Shadow had another vision of the great tree and the creature with the flaming eyes. This is clearly a sign that he will play a role in the major Ragnarok/Armageddon to come.
After he woke up, we discovered that Mr. Nancy designed a purple suit for Shadow. Purple is a color of royalty for the Ashanti people in Africa. Perhaps the royal color is a clue to Shadow’s origins or greater importance?
Then the episode took its most delightful turn when Shadow and Wednesday traveled to Kentucky celebrate Easter. There they found a house full of Jesuses.
(I double-checked and found that Jesuses is the plural of Jesus!)
All of the sons of Yahweh had arrived to celebrate Easter with the goddess herself. I knew immediately that the pagan goddess of the holiday would feature into this episode when I saw Wednesday and Shadow pass the bunnies on the street. Bunnies and eggs have long been symbols of reproduction, normally associated with the sacred feminine.
The episode perfectly highlights and makes a good joke out of the Christian hijacking of Easter. The Easter goddess is called Ostara by Wednesday. This is because Ostara was the name of the spring goddess in Old German. She is also known as Ēostre, Ēastre, or simply Easter.
The Jesuses represented all the different forms of the Christian savior throughout the denominations. Wednesday said that when various believers closed their eyes and prayed, they all saw a certain form of the Christ.
One funny sight gag was a Jesus holding handfuls of candy eggs that rapidly fell through the stigmata in his palms. This may be construed as an error because stigmata really occur in the wrist. The wrist is the spot where men were nailed for a crucifixion because the tendons of the hands can’t support the weight of a man.
HOWEVER, I would say it is not an error because the image of the gods is based on belief. Wednesday makes it clear that gods exist because people believe in them and how they picture the god determines their appearance. Since stigmata is so commonly believed to be in the hands, it is actually more likely that stigmata Jesus would have appeared the way he was most commonly perceived.
Wednesday also had a hilarious moment where he told one of the Jesuses plainly, “It’s her day you took it.”
To his credit, the Jesus seemed to feel very bad about the whole hijacked holiday. I hope the script’s direction read, “Jesus wept”. I prefer to believe it did, so based on American Gods rules, that must be true.