“Question – I” / A Memorable Fancy #133

 “Where do the multitude of Gods dwell?” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

A scroll has come down from the Emperor’s pet eunuchs: a list of the gods worshipped by the tribes the empire has conquered this year. In a fond wish for civic tranquility, we must now respect these gods, allow and encourage their parades and holy days, tolerate their cruel celebrations and wretched food: the Emperor will have it so. In this way we turn savages into citizens. Perhaps. It’s a beginning, anyway.

Each tribe, each fraction of a tribe, has its own distinctive idol. Some tribes say the idol only represents the god, is not the god itself. Other tribes hold that their chunk of wood or stone is verily the god Itself, or Himself, or Herself, or Theirselves.

Each year’s crop of gods is a varied lot: a few tree stumps carved pathetically into a fierce face or a sorrowing mother; rocks of obscure provenance that fell from the sky; a goat to be laden with golden trinkets and strangled; and so on. My job is to greet them as they pass in parade, accept their tribes’ offerings in the name of the Emperor, bid them peace.

There are always one or two cushions in the parade with nothing on them. These are from tribes who worship an invisible god. I don’t like invisible gods – I don’t know where to fix my eyes when I pretend to honor them.

[To be continued ….]

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