Religion, like everything else in society, evolves with time. Many ancient gods were there to impart a valuable moral lesson, teach a philosophical concept, or explain a natural phenomenon that the best science of the day couldn't crack. And while it's mostly for the best that we've evolved beyond "We could probably use a penis god, because those things are weird" and into more nuanced religious views, we've lost some incredible deities along the way. So, whatever you believe, let's all take a moment to appreciate ...
Ancient Egypt's complicated mythology features over 2,000 gods, all of whom lacked the power necessary to launch Gods Of Egypt as a franchise. The most well-known ones today, such as Ra and Isis, were responsible for fundamental matters of life, death, and the creation of the Universe, while obscure deities like Qebhet existed mostly to offer refreshing water to the spirits of the dead as they awaited mummification and judgement, in what feels like the divine equivalent of a college internship. And then there was Babi.
Babi represented aggression and male sexuality. He could be considered both dangerous and beneficial, implying that ancient Egyptians had a better grasp on the worrying entitlement of horny men than half of modern America. On the "you don't want to piss this monkey off" side of the ledger, he would kill people to feed his ravenous hunger for human entrails, and would also devour the souls of the dead who were judged to be unrighteous. Remember, you need both entrails and souls to have a balanced diet.
But Babi could also be helpful to humans. His aggression was considered aspirational by leaders, hopefully minus the entrail-eating, and he could ward off danger, like snakes and rough waters. He was also, in a nod to the infamous sexual appetite of baboons, one horny monkey. Men could petition him to ensure that they'd be able to enjoy sex in the afterlife, and he could supposedly control darkness and the sky because "his phallus is the bolt on the doors of heaven."
Babi's dingus was so important in mythology that he was usually portrayed fully aroused, and his erection was sometimes shown as the mast of the ferry that took the dead through the underworld to their final judgment. And, as a publication that's built a life out of such jokes, we can appreciate any cosmology that says "When you die, you go on a challenging journey to reach a test that determines whether you will enjoy eternal paradise or suffer endless unrest. Also, you have to look at a baboon's enormous turgid manhood the whole time."
To be clear, that is a decapitated woman standing on top of two gods having sex while her neck spurts blood into the mouths of both her attendants and her own head. And yes, we are making plans to get that airbrushed onto the official Cracked van.
This is all symbolic, of course. To create life, you must also consume and one day die, because creation and destruction are part of the same endless cycle of the Universe. Motherhood requires both raw sexual desire and painful self-sacrifice. Existence is full of challenging contradictions to puzzle over and come to terms with. Also, you should pick the places you bone in carefully.
But there's symbolism, and then there's cutting your own head off and barging in on a couple's coitus to make them watch as you and your assistants drink your own blood because your religion doesn't mess around. Imagine if Jesus had grown tired of fish and bread and decided to mix things up with this kind of parable. The Western world would look a little different, and a lot more metal.
It's easy to giggle at the thought of a toilet god, and we just did, but go back far enough in history and it makes perfect sense. Human waste was collected as fertilizer, and a famine was but one bad harvest away, so why not pray for some really good fertilizer? Also, going to ye olde toilet was an unpleasant experience -- it was dark, it reeked, and there was always a chance that you might fall in and drown. And so Japan had Kawaya Kami, a toilet god who would protect you when you were doing your business and ensured that you, uh, did your part for the agricultural effort.
To keep the god appeased, toilets were kept clean, and were even decorated on New Year's. It was also a New Year's tradition for families to eat rice in front of the toilet, because Kawaya Kami had, in a roundabout way, helped to produce it. Kawaya Kami also fought poop stereotypes by being gorgeous, and pregnant women could ask the god to make their baby beautiful. But if you left your toilet dirty, your child would be born ugly and unhappy. "I'm seven months pregnant, so you clean the damn bathroom this week unless you want a dumb garbage baby" must have been a handy argument.
Still, any deity that maintains clean public restrooms is aces in our book.
And before you rush to the comments to joke about how weird Japan is, keeping their toilets pristine may be one reason Japan has historically dealt with fewer outbreaks of disease than the Western world. Besides, the Japanese were far from the only culture to beseech the spirits on fecal matters. Rome had Cloacina, Goddess of the Sewers, because the Romans were well aware that a breakdown in their plumbing system would lead to some major health issues. So maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to seek the aid of a higher power the next time you gamble on a gas station burrito.
One of the biggest misconceptions about religion is that it's perpetually dour, existing only to make you feel judgment and shame. But laughter is as much of a part of life as sorrow and sin, and so the Bible told dirty jokes, the Prophet Muhammad liked goofy zingers, and the Innu, the indigenous inhabitants of Quebec, have Matshishkapeu, the omnipresent spirit of the anus. And when you fart, he is literally speaking through you.
Matshishkapeu isn't very good at talking through people's buttholes, so the Innu have to try to interpret what he's saying as best they can, with some folks being considered better fart whisperers than others. He often tries to predict the future, but it's not considered a big deal if his prophesies are wrong. He also inserts himself into debates, although whether it's considered a good sign that the fart god is on your side is itself debatable.
If all of this sounds very silly, that's because it's supposed to be. Matshishkapeu is a reminder of the humorous side of life and the spirit world, and his, uh, communications are often associated with breaking up the tedium of hunting and foraging, or defusing tense moments during important public discussions. He encourages spontaneity and amusement, and interpretations of his messages should be witty.
He can get serious, kind of. In one legend, Kanipinikassikueu, the Master of the Caribou, wouldn't provide caribou for the Innu to eat, so the starving people asked Matshishkapeu for help. Matshishkapeu told Kanipinikassikueu to stop being a caribou hog, Kanipinikassikueu refused because he was being a stingy jerk, and so Matshishkapeu cursed him with constipation so intense that he would have died if he hadn't given in and let the people eat. And now, to this day, Matshishkapeu will inflict severe constipation on those who don't share their food. So if we can get the Innu's permission, we'd like to repurpose him as the god of vengeful roommates who have been stuck with 90% of the grocery bill.
For more, check out Why Homer Simpson Might Be God - After Hours:
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