Gods of Thieving

Arkane Curiosities

In the various mythologies around the world, we can find plenty of luck and gambling deities. Yet there are very few gods of outright theft. Saint Nicolas (yes, the Santa Claus guy) comes close with his breaking and entering, but he’s the patron saint of reformed theives. Who exactly are the gods of thieving and outright stealing?

Hermes the Trickster

One of the most famous gods of mischief and trickery is Hermes, who started his career in crime as a baby. It seems the infant god had a hankering for some beef and left his cradle to wrangle up fifty cattle belonging to his brother, Apollo.

To keep the theft secret, Hermes marched the cattle backward, thus disguising which direction the cattle were traveling. Hermes also invented sandals to hide the shape of his feet. All of this so he could roast up a good side of ribs.

He was eventually caught, but Apollo was so amused by the youngster’s trickery that the two became fast friends. Apollo even gave the trickster god a golden caduceus, becoming a symbol for Hermes ever since. 

Santa Muerte

The newest addition to the small pantheon of criminal deities is Santa Muerte, also known as Señora de las Sombras (Lady of the Shadows) or La Santísima Muerte (The Most Holy Death). The phrase Santa Muerte means good death and comes from a Catholic prayer asking for a peaceful passing into the afterlife. Since then, Santa Muerte has become the beloved saint of any who are dispossessed. 

Figures of death have been a common fixture  in Catholic iconography since the thirteenth century, originating with the European plagues. Santa Muerte’s first appearance was in a 1797 inquisition report on the practices of indigenous worshipers. She was mentioned again in the novel Los hijos de Sánchez by American anthropologist Oscar Lewis. 

However Santa Muerte exploded into celebrity with the season three episode of Breaking Bad (No Mas), depicting the Santa Muerte shrine. Since the early 2000s, the cult of Santa Muerte has grown exponentially.

She is popular with migrants as well as sex workers and those in LGBTQ communities. Santa Muerte is associated with those who live precarious lives or are engaged in dangerous undertakings. Worship of her derives from indigenous practices including elements of Spiritualism, Santería, and New Age ideas about spiritual energy.

Santa Muerte’s appeal lies in her non-judgemental nature. She will grant wishes in return for a pledge or an offering. She holds no moral judgment over your actions. 

Both the Catholic Church and the Mexican government oppose and outlaw the worship of Santa Muerte, despite the millions who pay homage to her. 

Laverna the Lost Goddess of Thieving

Laverna was the Roman goddess who answered the prayers of robbers and thieves. The Porta Lavernalis on Aventine Hill was named after her. 

Little is known of this ancient goddess. She may have originated with the Etruscans, where she was venerated as a goddess of the underworld. Since most thieving happens in the dark, the connection is obvious. The word Laverna derives from the Latin latere (to lurk) and levator (a thief).

To honor Laverna, you pour libations with your left hand. This ensures that you have a successful heist without getting caught. She might have also been a goddess of vengeance. In a Plautus play, a cook calls upon Laverna to seek revenge on some thieves who pilfered his tools. Perhaps Laverna served the person who called upon her first (or offered her the most). Or maybe she simply gets annoyed with thieves who were bungling enough to let their crimes be known. 

Tim Kane

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Food of the Gods

Arkane Curiosities

In 1904 H.G. Wells wrote about the Food of the Gods, which transformed regular animals and people into gargantuan proportions. The title was apt, because like us mortals, deities must also feast in order to survive.

Magical Goat Food

Perhaps the most famous divine nourishment would be the ambrosia consumed by the Greek gods on Mount Olympus. Before they discovered this magical foodstuff, gods had to inhale vapors from their dead enemies, akin to taking in the soul of the vanquished. 

As the god Zeus grew from a baby to a full-grown thunderbolt-wielding god, he was nursed by a goat (or possibly a nymph) named Amalthea. Baby Zeus, like most infants, grabbed anything near him. While feeding, he broke off one of Amalthea’s horns. This was later transformed into a Cornucopia (or Horn of Plenty).

The Horn of Plenty would create a limitless supply of ambrosia for the gods (along with any type of food for mortals). White doves would whisk this precious food up to Mount Olympus each day.

Nectar was also used interchangeably with ambrosia, though it was said to taste like honey and be carried by a swift eagle.

Ichor and Immortality

The gods and goddesses gained immortality by gobbling up ambrosia and nectar. Immortality has its downside. Their blood transformed to ichor, a divine life force. 

If the gods missed too many meals, their immortality would fade away. The great Demeter, goddess of the hearth, went for days without eating in her search for Persephone and nearly perished with the effort. 

Mortals and Ambrosia

One story has Achilles gaining his famous invulnerability by being anointed with ambrosia, which burnt away his mortal skin. His mother, Thetis, would have covered his whole body in the stuff, but Peleus, her husband, thought she was trying to harm little Achilles and stopped her, leaving his famous ankle still mortal. 

The gods used ambrosia to cure diseases, heal scars and beautify the human body. If applied to a freshly killed hero, the ambrosia would preserve the body forever. When Patroclus died in the Trojan war, his body was anointed with Ambrosia to keep it in a perfect state. 

Some believed that if mortals consumed ambrosia (or nectar), they too would become immortal. King Tantalus attempted to seal some of the mythical provisions only to fail and become immortal in another way (punished with eternal hunger in Tartarus).

Immortality Garden

There might even have been a whole garden with immortality-bearing food. In the far west, where the sun sets, lay the Garden of Hesperides. Three nymphs, called the “Daughters of the Evening” tended the garden which held a special apple tree. One of Hercules’s tasks was to pluck an apple from this tree. 

In the play Hippolytus, Euripides mentions a place where “streams flow with ambrosia by Zeus’s bed of love and holy Gaia”. This could possibly be the resting place of the fable Cornucoplia. 

That’s a pretty good journey for those doves each day.

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