Unwanted deification

In Terry Pratchett’s book Monstrous Regiment, there’s a deity known as the Duchess. She was once a real, live Duchess for a tiny country called Borogrovia. But at some point she became deified, in large part because Nuggan, the actual god of Borogrovia, made so many things taboo — or, in the terms of the Nugganites, called them Abominations — that people stopped trusting Nuggan. For example, Nuggan said that rocks were an Abomination, which meant you weren’t supposed to have anything to do with them. It’s really hard to get through life if you have to avoid every rock you see.

As Nuggan began to fail, people in Borogravia began praying to the Duchess. As a result, she became deified. And the Duchess did not like being deified. Finally, she said to one of her disciples:

“Let…me…go! All those prayers, all those entreaties…to me! Too many hands clasped that could more gainfully answer your prayers by effort and resolve! And what was I? Just a rather stupid woman when I was alive. But you believed I watched over you, and listened to you…and so I had to, I had to listen, knowing that there was no help… I wish people would not be so careless about what they believe.” [ellipses in the original]

Well, it’s just a story, just a satire. You don’t have to take this too seriously. But it does seem to me that you want to be careful who or what you pray to. In our culture, we tend to have this notion that our personal prayers, our personal spirituality, is our business and no one else’s. But that simply isn’t true. Everything is connected. There is no such thing as spirituality that is only personal, only restricted to one person. As the Duchess found out (to her dismay), prayers can deify someone or something who really doesn’t want to be deified. Don’t be careless about what you believe; or about what you don’t believe, for that matter.

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