by April BulmerBefore moving to Cambridge, I did graduate work in religious studies at the University of Windsor. There I studied a pantheon of gods, some of whom are associated with poetry and writing. Several cultures identify such gods and goddesses and invoke them when they are involved with creative work. Here I identify some of those deities (as well as a couple of other divine sources), their mythological backgrounds, and their unique interests.
Hermes. A major player in the pantheon of Greek gods, Hermes is known as a trickster, messenger of the great Zeus, and the guide of the dead into the underworld. He is identified as the inventor of the Greek written alphabet and thus is the god of writing, as well as speech and dreams.
Apollo. As the Greek god of the sun, Apollo was also a god of music and often depicted with a lyre. He was also, at times, seen as the protector of poetry, reciting and dance—anything that was associated with the public playing of the lyre. It is believed that his music was inspirational in developing written work, inspiring the artist to produce thought into a document.
Muses. The Greek muses inspired and protected dance, poetry, writing and dramatic stories. Today, they are still associated with modern theatre, music, science and research. The muses are not true gods, but they are the focus of many Greek minds and literary inspiration. The muse who protects poetry is Kalliope.
Odin. Chief god of Norse mythology, Odin is lord of wisdom, poetry, war, death and magic and is provider of the runic letters. He is the Norse equivalent of Woden who was honoured in pre-Christian Europe and England. He is considered sire of many other gods and co-creator of the cosmos and of humans. It is thought that Odin/Woden may have originated in the Wild Hunt, the traditional mythology of Germanic peoples that tells of thunder storms being developed by the loud gallop of spirits of warriors. In another story, Odin becomes wise by hanging upside down in the World Tree for nine nights without food or drink, dying from a self-inflicted wound with a spear. There he discovered magic runes and learned nine inspired songs and returned to life with wisdom which is associated with letters.
Sarasvati. In the Rg Veda, one of the early sacred Hindu texts, Sarasvati was the personification of a sacred river that bore her name. Aryans performed religious rituals on its banks. As the river-goddess, Sarsvati was associated with power, purity and fertility. She is recognized as the inventor of the Sanskrit language and as the goddess of wisdom and learning, speech and eloquence. She is also patron of all arts and sciences.
Devi Sarswati. Hindus also honour Devi Sarswati who is the goddess of knowledge, books, literature, and alphabets. Each year they celebrate a day in her name. They pay her respect by not reading any book or engaging in writing. They believe the goddess, herself, resides in books. They never touch books or writing material with their feet because they are considered a mean part of the body. If, by chance, such materials are touched by feet, they hold them to their forehead, as it is considered an honourable place where knowledge resides.
Thoth. Thoth was a moon god in early Egyptian mythology. He was associated with the sacred bird called the ibis, perhaps because its bill resembled a crescent moon. As the moon became more significant in the Egyptian religious rituals and its calendar, Thoth became associated with calculation, magic, the organization of time, and writing. He was the inventor of hieroglyphics and became known as the “Lord of the Holy Words.” He was also scribe of the gods. He kept accounts and records of them and the divine archives. He also recorded the histories of the kings of Egypt. He wrote their names on the leaves of a sacred tree.
Gabriel. The Judeo-Christian archangel, Gabriel, is the angel of creative writing and literature. She aids the writer in beginning the writing process and helps keep thoughts clear while writing. If one asks for guidance, it is said she works though a person to write divinely-guided thoughts. She inspires and fuels ambition. She even helps to get the work published. If you wish to summon an angel, burn a pink candle. It is believed that Gabriel and other angels respond to the colour pink.
Sources: Internet: “Gods of Writing,” by WolfWikis. “Is there a god or goddess of literature, books, reading, writing, authors, etc.?” Yahoo.
In 2008, Serengeti Press published my book, The Goddess Psalms. Below is one of the poems from that book that was inspired by my relationship with a divine goddess.
The rains came and
the well water
was clean and sweet
a covenant of dirt and heaven.
I bury ashes
among old roots
where witches gather
to raise the moon:
arms lifted toward her veil:
crown and torn tulle.
And I bury my prayers
in the cradle of a tree.
Bear water and shadows:
a new mythology.
April Bulmer has published six books and four chapbooks of poetry. She holds Master’s degrees in creative writing, religious studies and theological studies. She has been published nationally and internationally in many prestigious journals including Harvard University’s Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. In 1998, her second book, The Weight of Wings was nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman. She is long-time member of the Cambridge Writers Collective. She also belongs to Voices Israel, the International Women’s Writing Guild and the League of Canadian Poets.