Galina Krasskova (whom I once had the pleasure of meeting) writes about a controversy over the use of the word “lame” to refer to the smith god Hephaestus (Vulcan, for you Roman fans).
She starts by pointing out that the Norse tradition, too, has its deities with disabilities:
I practice a tradition that has many impaired and disfigured Gods: Odin is missing an eye, Heimdall by some accounts his ears, Hodr is blind, Tyr lost a hand, and other Gods are scarred and so on and so forth. There’s power and tremendous wisdom in each account of how these Deities became as They are. Sometimes, as with Odin, the act of disfigurement is a hugely important part of His mythos, one of the defining moments of His nature as a God. So when I come upon a Deity that has specific epithets that refer to, as in this case, lameness, I pay attention.
While it would be less than polite to refer to a person with mobility issues as lame, Krasskova argues that the use of the word in describing the god is a different case:
Homer presents Him as having crafted delicate, almost sentient automatons (the first AIs!) for instance, and almost never refers to Him as the “lame God” without also referencing His strength and vigor. It’s as though the two are inextricably linked. For this reason, not to mention simple respect for these Gods, we ought to be careful before we strip those holy titles away.
Like Krasskova, I am pleased that our gods are imperfect, for that helps us to understand our own disabilities and abilities. One thing I find troubling is that imperfections — lameness, missing limbs or eyes, scars — are far more common in historical descriptions of male deities than female. This offers us — Krasskova, me, and other Pagan women with disabilities — a challenge, to create our own mythos and role models.
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