Monday, June 11, 2012

The God Who Dies

WILSON TAYLOR saw the real world, and he wrote about it. It's a world where magic works and where the greatest of all wizards, Tommy Taylor, died and was resurrected to bring us a message of peace and love.
If that sounds familiar, we're not supprised. The story of the god who dies and then is returned to life was so powerful that it created echoes through all the other worlds and all through time and all through the traditions of other religions. The first ever resurrected god long, long before Jesus Christ - was the Sumerian god TAMMUZ. Yeah, that name sounds familiar, too, doesn't it?
The real world of Tommy retroactively creates worlds in which Tommy is just a story. But it's OUR world that's fictional, and now the cracks are starting to show. When you stop believing in the fiction, you'll wake into the reality. Tommy is already here, to show you it's possable to show you the way.
- The Unwritten #37
by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

In The Unwritten, Tom Taylor, the inspiration (or result of) the Harry Potter analogue Tommy Taylor, achieves messianic status among some of his most devout (and possibly mentally unbalanced) fans. Tommy dies but returns to the living, which is what gods tend to do. Lots of gods.

Of course the reference to Jesus is most obvious, since in contemporary Western culture he is the most famous god who died and came back to life. But, in terms of religious mythology of the world, Christ wasn't the first. Nor was he the last.

Like most myths, the stories about the Sumerian god Tammuz varies. The Summer Solstice, after which the days begin to get shorter, marked the annual death of Summer and the god Tammuz. The people traditionally mourned for Tammuz. Such ritual is even referenced in Ezekiel 8:14.* But like Summer, Tammuz always returned, and was resurrected for six months of the year before returning to the underworld.

Other mythologies are peppered with instances of gods dying and returning. While on the surface it may seem like the story of Jesus was influenced by these myths (and subsequent myths were influenced by the increasingly popular Jesus story), the details disrupt this apparent similarity. Yes, Tammuz died, but he returned every year for six months...before dying again. That doesn't bear too much resemblance to the Jesus story. Likewise, the details of the deaths of other resurrected gods, like Baal, Orpheus, Osiris, and Odin (who sacrificed himself by hanging from a tree!) display great discrepancies from the details of the cross and the empty tomb we know so well.

Instead, I imagine the death and resurrection of a god is a common archetype among the stories humans tell. From well before Christ to well after Christ, we've been telling stories with similar themes and similar characters. It doesn't mean that all of them are true, but it also doesn't mean that none of them are true. From a story telling point, a hero in danger is very compelling. So what could be more compelling than a hero dying, especially when that hero is a god that shouldn't be able to die?

The following is incredibly hypothetical and entirely heretical. That should always be assumed with the contents of this blog, but I'd just like to give you a warning as a reminder.

The part about the story of Tommy Taylor echoing through time and manifesting itself in the history of our reality reminds me of Grant Morrison's book Supergods. At one point he suggests, "Who knows? In a universe where time is fundamentally simultaneous, the idea that events that have already occurred in the future might influence the past may not be entirely far-fetched."

Following this wibbly wobbly, timey wimey perception of time, could it be possible that the event of Christ, especially his death and resurrection, was so momentous that it impacted not just future events, but rippled into the past as well, influencing the myths of gods millennia ago? Probably not, but it's an interesting narrative to consider.

*For people out there with too much time on their hands that like to read way to much into things (like those nuts that would write extensively about theological references in graphic literature), my date of birth is 8/14. Read into that what you will.

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