As long as writing has existed, there have been writers staring at the blank page, utterly blocked. Often, we look to the divine to intervene and help us overcome writer’s block.
Here are three ancient deities of writing that might inspire your to greater narrative glory.
Seshat, the Mistress of the House of Books
Seshat was a goddess credited with the invention of writing, though her consort, Thoth, received most of the credit. Seshat oversaw all libraries and was the patron of any form of writing. She is seen as either an aspect of Thoth, or his daughter or wife (Egyptian mythology is complicated).
Seshat would guide the hands of scribes as they held their reeds, helping with their attempts to communicate with the divine. In fact, her name translated to “female scribe”. She is the only Egyptian goddess seen in the actual act of writing.
Want your writing to live on forever, then Seshat is the one you should look to. The Egyptians believed that everything done on Earth was mirrored in heaven. When an author pens a story on the mortal plane, an ethereal copy was also created in the celestial realm. Seshat then placed this book in the library of the good, preserving it forever. Thus, when you pass on as a writer, everything you’ve written is waiting for you on the other side.
Quetzalcoatl, the Rescuer of Light and Knowledge
After the world was created, the gods and humans lived together in harmony. Only Quetzalcoatl felt sorrow for he saw that the humans were subjugated by the other gods. Quetzalcoatl adopted the human form to share divine knowledge and writing with humankind.
Quetzalcoatl was the god of writing and books. His name comes from the Nahuatl and is a compound of “Quetzal” and “Coatl”, or a combination of bird and snake. He was venerated in religious colleges and temples, where future priests were educated.
The “Plumed God” consistently went out of his way to help us poor humans. According to legend, the Aztec people ate only roots and wild game. They knew about maize, but the plant only grew on the other side of a great mountain range. Other gods attempted to move the mountain with brute force.
Only Quetzalcoatl used his wits. He noticed a stream of ants marching over the mountain. He transformed himself into an ant and finally reached the fields of maize. Still in ant form, he retrieved a single kernel and brought this back to the Aztec people, thus bringing them the gift of maize.
Saraswati, Giver of Speech
The Hindu goddess Saraswati embodies all of the arts. She endowed us the Hindu people with speech, wisdom and the ability to learn. She is depicted with four hands, each representing aspects of human learning — mind, intellect, alertness and ego. In one hand she holds a lotus, the symbol of knowledge and the opposite hand, she grasps the sacred scriptures, the Vedas.
A Hindu festival celebrates Saraswati’s birthday, on the fifth day of the month of Magha, known as Saraswati Puja and Saraswati Jayanti in India. Families encourage their young children to write their first words with their fingers, the very first step in writing. Educational institutions decorate statues of Saraswati, and often arrange poetic and musical celebrations.
A Sanskrit mantra can be said to the goddess, asking to grant knowledge and wisdom. Here is the the Sanskrit version:
“Om Saraswati Mahabhagey, Vidye Kamala Lochaney
Viswarupey Vishalakshmi, Vidyam Dehi Namohastutey
Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey
Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey.”
The English translation shows off the beauty of this mantra:
“May Goddess Saraswati,
who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon,
and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops;
who is adorned in radiant white attire,
on whose beautiful arm rests the veena,
and whose throne is a white lotus;
who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me.
May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance.”
There is also a curse of Saraswati. When we indulge in the arts, our fragile ego often drifts away from the pure pursuit of knowledge toward the bright lights of fame and wealth. All the more reason to ground yourself with the original intent Saraswati embodies.
Perhaps one of these deities can inspire your own words. At the very least, you can feel in good company as writers for thousands of years have looked to the divine for inspiration.