Greetings, Fantheon, it has been far too long since last we reconvened. Welcome to the third installment of The Wicked + The Divine Deity Field Guide, detailing brief profiles on the series’ deities and their cultural/historical roots. Though we still know virtually nothing about the elusive final goddess Tara, far too many divine goodies have been revealed to put off this installment any further. In that spirit, let’s dive right into the holy mess that we encountered in the last six issues. Please be mindful that the bio for Persephone contains a major spoiler for #11.
Translation: Unclear, possibly related to trees
Dionysus is known in modern times primarily as a god of wine, drunkenness, and debauchery, but the mind-altering effects of alcohol had more religious significance in ancient Greece than they do today. Dionysus is important for his association with “ritual madness” and “religious ecstasy”, both temporary, ethereal states that were believed to bridge the gap between the earthly and the divine, bringing people closer to the gods. In The Wicked + The Divine, Dionysus’s mere presence seems to work like a drug, and rather than belligerent drunkenness, everyone around him seems to feel a sort of inspirational ecstasy. At the rave he hosts in #8, the gods and soon-to-be gods literally mingle on the dance floor and interact in a way they don’t seem to at other Pantheon events.
The Norns (Urðr, Skuld, and Verðandi)
Translation: Past (Urðr), present (Verðandi), and future (Skuld) tense of the Old Norse verb verða, “to be”
Though there are many Norns in Norse mythology, all responsible for determining fate, Urðr, Skuld, and Verðandi are the most well-known. While the concept of fate and inevitability is and always has been a mixed bag, Norns are dreaded, to some extent, because they determine apparently at random how and when people will die. Interestingly, the Norns as a whole are most associated with “transitionary events” like battles and death, and Cassandra, who becomes Urðr, is a trans woman, whose life has obviously been subject to a major (and possibly ongoing) transitionary phase. She is also the last of the pantheon to be revealed as a deity, which left her in narrative limbo for parts of the story until this point. Unlike The Morrigan, the Norns are not a system of three deities in one body, or a single deity split into three. Rather, Cassandra and two members of her staff all become separate Norns, yet are still considered one deity as far as the pantheon is concerned.
Translation: Most likely pre-Greek in origin, possibly from Sanskrit persephatta, meaning “thresher of corn”
Persephone is both a vegetation goddess and the queen of the underworld. Greek myth explains that she spends most of the year living with her mother Demeter on Mount Olympus, but a third of the year living in the underworld with her husband Hades. This accounts for the winter months, when nothing grows in Persephone’s absence. In a strange twist, the main character, Laura, who has wished to be a god since the series began, is revealed to be Persephone. She asks how this can be, since there are only twelve gods in the Pantheon, but before any of this can be explained, Ananke kills her. This sudden emergence into godhood and then immediate death may be related to mythic Persephone’s association with the impermanence of springtime. Laura’s friendship with Baphomet and The Morrigan, who reside in a sort of liminal Underworld of their own creation does tie her to the “Underworld” in some sense, but both of these connections are somewhat vague. WicDiv’s Persephone may yet reveal more connections with mythic Prsephone, for as we know from The Morrigan, death is not always what it appears to be in this series.
The only loose end left hanging is Tara, whom we only know through Lucifer’s disdain and a few offhand mentions by the other deities. Considering how deliberate and nuanced most of the choices in the series have been thus far, I can only assume that her absence is relevant to her character. By process of elimination, however, her symbol is clear in the wheel now: the frowning and smiling masks. With so many questions still unanswered even as nearly all the gods have been revealed, I think it will be necessary for me to do an overview of mythic and religious connections in the series as a whole, and tie in any new revelations about Tara in the future. You aren’t done with my ramblings, Fantheon, so keep your eyes peeled for future installments.