6 times in 3 posts
In times and places gone by, much of the world felt that their survival was based on the will of the gods. So, they were eager to appease the gods that they believed in with sacrifice, violence, and worship. Thus, the old gods came to expect these things from people. However, in the modern world, they are not worshipped as they formally were, and thus, they must find new ways to keep themselves alive. Otherwise, they will find themselves in Shadow’s dream-hall of dead gods.
The old gods have attempted to adapt to a modern society by finding professions that will allow them to continue to be worshipped in some form or fashion. For example, Bilquis has become a prostitute who convinces her customers to worship her as they consummate which allows her to devour them. Ibis and Jacquel run a funeral parlor that allows them to be near the dead. Czernoborg slaughters animals with his hammer just as he used to slaughter human sacrifices. All of the gods try to stay near what they used to do when they were at full god status.
However, now that the old spiritual gods are waning, it becomes clear that it is difficult for divinity to adapt to new situations. Gods arise out of a situation or a pattern of worship, and once that situation or pattern changes, it is difficult for the god in question to change their ways. They still need the power that worship and sacrifice used to give them, but they are no longer receiving it.
When surviving in America was a primary concern, the old, spiritual gods retained power. Yet, when Americans passed the ‘survival’ stage, they began to create newer technological and material gods. These new gods arose out of the situations that Americans found themselves in. There were new forms of transportation, new forms of entertainment, new forms of payment. The more time that Americans spent on these things, the more time they spent worshipping the new gods.
At this point, more emphasis is placed on having than on existing which shows a break in spirituality. People are more concerned with what they have, what they own, what they can buy, than more philosophical pursuits. Gaiman is commenting on the this break in spirituality, in magic, in belief, and how it affects Americans today.
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never say a common place thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..." ~ Jack Kerouac