Belief is power in the world of American Gods. In Neil Gaiman’s beloved novel and the lavish new Starz adaptation from Bryan Fuller and Michael Green gods exist because people believe in them, and as soon as we stop believing… well, you remember what Peter Pan told us about fairies.
Unfortunately for the Old Gods mythological deities like Odin and Anubis, who were worshiped in earlier periods of civilization humans typically have a short attention span, and we’re increasingly turning away from the holy figures of our pasts in favor of smartphones and binge-watching. Technology has become our new god, and that tension between the old and the new drives a lot of the drama in American Gods, as these mythic figures battle for relevance and the attention of humanity.
Our hapless protagonist, ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), will meet dozens of gods on his journey, and we’re not going to reveal them all here. But there are some important figures you should probably know before we set off, and Mashable has a handy guide to the key players.
As the god of the internet and computers, Technical Boy is pretty much everywhere. Despite being the youngest of the New Gods, he’s arrogant, but in our interconnected world, he has good reason to be.
He’s been given a makeover from Gaiman’s novel, which portrayed him as a pale, overweight kid with acne a stereotypical representation of a basement-dwelling computer geek. Now that tech has gone mainstream, Technical Boy has gotten an upgrade; he knows just how cool he is, and how easily he could delete you.
The most mysterious of the New Gods, Mr. World along with his lackeys, Mr. Town, Mr. Road, Mr. Wood and Mr. Stone exist thanks to our fascination with unidentified government spooks in Gaiman’s novel.
Mr. World is the leader of the New Gods, and, according to his character description, is sometimes more challenged by his own subordinates than his enemies.
Reuniting Gillian Anderson with her Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller, Media is you guessed it, the New Goddess of television, film and pop culture. Where Technical Boy prefers to intimidate, Media uses her charm and the famous faces of everyone from Lucy Ricardo to Marilyn Monroe to get her message across.
Unlike the New Gods, Mr. Wednesday prefers to keep a low profile. He doesn’t tell Shadow his true identity at first, but anyone with an eye for religious symbolism and false eyes can likely deduce that the canny old con artist is Odin, who uses his years of knowledge to his advantage when it comes to tricking unsuspecting mortals.
Why the alias? Because in many of the old Germanic languages, the word Wednesday is derived from “Odin’s Day.”
A Slavic deity whose name literally means “black god,” Czernobog is known as the god of darkness and is the twin brother to Bielebog, the god of light. He lives with The Zorya Sisters and has an unhealthy fixation with his hammer, which he used to slaughter cattle in his earlier days. Now, he has another target in mind.
The Zorya Sisters
In Slavic mythology, there are generally only two Zorya sisters mentioned The Morning Star (Zorya Utrennyaya) and the Evening Star (Zorya Vechernyaya), but Gaiman’s novel and the TV show include a third: the Midnight Star (Zorya Polunochnaya). These sisters of different ages are relatives of Czernobog, and each represents a portion of the day. They’re tasked with guarding the doomsday hound Simargl, who is chained to a distant star, because if he ever escapes, he’ll devour the universe and bring about the end of the world. No pressure!
This sharply-dressed fellow is a literal spider-man his true name, Anansi, means “spider.” An icon of African folklore who is thought to have originated in Ghana, Anansi is analogous with stories passed down in oral tradition which spread across the world due to the Atlantic slave trade.
Most of his tales also involve his cunning and trickery, which makes sense, since this silver-tongued Old God is adept at spinning a yarn to suit his own ends.
This self-proclaimed leprechaun is cool with playing up to the loud, drunken Irish cliches that people associate with his brethren (and he always has a gold coin or two handy), but he certainly isn’t lacking in height.
Gaiman based him on the legend of Buile Suibhne, a mythic king driven insane by a curse and reduced to a life of wandering a good fit for this rambling man.
Easter is an Old God who has been forced to adapt many times over her long life: first from her pagan roots to Christian traditions, then again to the consumer-driven holiday that’s now more concerned with bunnies and chocolate than religious observance. She’s bubbly and bright, but beneath that candy shell is a bitter and somewhat cynical core.
Based on the Biblical Queen of Sheba, Bilquis feeds on desire and sexual energy, encouraging her lovers to worship her with their bodies. She takes their offerings gladly (in a way you’ll never forget), but deep down, she just wants what we all want to be wanted.
A new invention for the TV show that was conceived by Gaiman, Vulcan is based on the Roman god of metalwork and fire in other words, he creates weaponry and armor, which means that over time, as humanity’s destructive appetites have grown larger, he’s evolved into the god of guns. He’s a fascinating example of an Old God who has tried to adapt into a New God, which puts him in a unique position in the narrative.
Vulcans the god of the volcano and the forge, and what is the modern-day extrapolation of what that god could do? Fuller told EW. We started talking about Americas obsession with guns and gun control and, really, if youre holding a gun in your hand, its a mini volcano, and perhaps, through this character, theres a conversation to be had.
To see the gods in action and meet even more, tune in to the series premiere of American Gods Sunday, April 30 at 9 p.m. on Starz.