There are a number of gods referenced in the play that come from Greek, Roman and Celtic pantheons. Judith’s religious beliefs are never solidified, although her practice of multi-pantheon worship is typical of neo-pagan religions such as Shamanism, Wicca, Druidism and many more. These practices are becoming more popular as society begins to imagine new ways of living in harmony with nature as an attempt to return to our roots and sometimes even as a reaction against major religious doctrine like Christianity.
In terms of the Welsh Celtic pantheon, a couple of characters from the Mabinogion make an appearance (a book of medieval Welsh tales comprised from earlier oral traditions). One such character is Bran, a giant and king of Britain in Welsh mythological stories.
“According to the myth, Brân had been mortally wounded and requested his companions to cut off his head. He instructed them to take the head with them on their wanderings, telling them that it would not only provide them with marvelous entertainment and companionship but would also remain uncorrupted as long as they refrained from opening a certain forbidden door. If that door were opened, they would find themselves back in the real world and would remember all their sorrows. Eventually, they were to take the head and bury it on the White Mount in London. All happened as Brân had prophesied, and his companions passed 80 joyous and delightful years. The head was buried in London, where it kept away all invaders from Britain until it was finally unearthed.” [Britannica.com]
Although not technically a God, he is sometimes deified nonetheless due to his place in myth. ‘Bran’ is another word for ‘Raven’ in celtic, an animal that was said to be a messenger to the ‘otherworld’, and carries reverence for its connection to the Morrigan, the God of Death. The head was worshipped by Iron Age Celts as the seat of the soul and capable of life after death of the rest of the body and as being able to whisper prophecies.
Rhiannon is another popular celtic Goddess that manifests as a beautiful young woman dressed in gold riding a pale horse, with singing birds flying around her that can wake spirits or grant sleep to mortals. She is known as the Divine Queen of Faeries, and was born at the first Moon Rise, and associated with the Maiden archetype of the Triple Goddess. She is the Goddess of fertility, rebirth, wisdom, magick, transformation, beauty, artistic inspiration and poetry.
“While our riding one day, Pwell Lord of the Kingdom of Dyfed, saw a gorgeous woman dressed in gold and riding a white mare. Pwell chased after Rhiannon, but could not catch Her, no matter how fast he rode. Finally, Pwell called to Her and She stopped. When he asked Her why She had eluded him, Rhiannon replied that he had only to ask Her to stop. Rhiannon and Pwell were married and Rhiannon gave birth to a son called Pryderi. When the infant was three days old, on the night of May Eve, the nurse-maids charged with watching over Pryderi fell asleep. When they awoke they found the baby missing and in a panic smeared puppy blood on the lips of the sleeping Rhiannon and accused Her of killing and eating Pryderi. Rhiannon was found guilty of infanticide and was ordered by Pwell to spend seven years seated at the city gates confessing Her crime to all who approached and then carrying them to court upon Her back.
Meanwhile, a beautiful mare owned by Teyrnon gave birth to a foal every May Eve and every May Eve the foal vanished. He decided to keep watch inside the stable and just as his mare gave birth, a huge clawed hand reached in the window to grab the foal. Teyrnon hacked off the hand with his sword and the foal was saved. Teyrnon ran outside to capture the thief but found no one . When he returned to the barn he discovered a beautiful baby boy, whom he and his wife adopted. After a time the couple noticed that the child had an affinity for horses, had supernatural powers, and had begun to resemble Pwell. Teyrnon deduced that the child was Pwell and Rhiannon’s son and so returned him to his parents. After Teyrnon told the story of how the child was found, Rhiannon was exonerated and again took Her place in the palace as Queen.” [sacredwicca.com]
Cerridwyn is the last Celtic Goddess mentioned. She is associated with the Crone archetype of the Triple Goddess. Her name is derived from the Celtic word “cerru”, meaning cauldron. Like the Goddess herself, the cauldron symbolises the transformative power of magic, wisdom, rebirth and creative inspiration.
Now on to the Roman pantheon. Venus is identified with the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and serves much the same purpose as the Goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility. She is often depicted in the nude, and you may have seen her rising from a clam in Botticelli’s famous painting, The Birth of Venus.
Pandora is a reference to Greek mythology you are probably familiar with. The first woman created by Zeus, she is an early manifestation of Eve that deals with the original sin being committed by a woman who succumbs to temptation. (See Mae West for a delightful re-imagining of Eve.) After Prometheus stole fire from Zeus to give to humanity, his revenge is to give Pandora the wedding gift of a box that must never be opened. By opening it, she unleashes evils and disease into the world. [greekmythology.com]
There are two Norse Gods named. Odin is the principal Norse God and associated with Shamanism, due to his abilities to interact with the spirit world. In outward appearance he is a tall, old man, with a flowing beard and one eye (he gave the other away in exchange for wisdom). He is usually depicted wearing a cloak and a wide-brimmed hat carrying a spear. Tyr is the god of law and justice, and associated with war.
“The dreadful wolf Fenrir was only a pup, but he was growing quickly. The gods feared for their lives, so they endeavored to tie up Fenrir in fetters from which he couldn’t escape. When Fenrir laid eyes on the chain that would eventually bind him, he was suspicious, and declared that he would only allow the gods to put it around him if one of them would stick an arm in his mouth as a pledge of good faith. Only Tyr was willing to do so. When the wolf found himself unable to break free, he bit off Tyr’s arm.” [norse-mythology.org]
“It should be noted that, from the Germanic point of view, there is no contradiction between the concepts ‘god of War’ and ‘god of Law.’ War is in fact not only the bloody mingling of combat, but no less a decision obtained between the two combatants and secured by precise rules of law.” [norse-mythology.org] It is then no surprise that both Gods demonstrate in their physical appearance of the rules of justice: to get something, you must give something in return.
Jeff Bezos is revered in the world of The Clouds as a God. He is a man alive today and the founder of Amazon, worth 111 billion dollars and one of the richest men in the world. With a wave of his hand, Bezos could wipe out world hunger – an immeasurable amount of power for one person that arguably seems God-like. Much like the other Gods, Bezos teaches us something through his life story about what we should strive for: the image of success that comes with vast wealth and profit. He is out-of-reach for us, as far away as Venus was to the Ancient Romans. If Bran was a man mythologised for his achievements as a King, will Bezos be the stuff of myth and legend a thousand years from now? Do people like Bezos, billionaires and celebrities, fulfil a role in our society that Odin and Rhiannon did in the past? Is this an inevitable part of human nature, or something we should fight and question?