This post was inspired by this one on Patheos by Sunweaver.
The comic book heroes I read about and watch are not worthy of worship.
If I need help I cannot call on Batman to lend me aid any more than I can call upon Wolverine to lend me strength in battle. Could a spirit become invested with that power? I could see where a spirit would be happy to piggy-back on the following certain characters in fiction get, such as those above. But it would not be Batman or Wolverine in any meaningful sense.
Batman, with all of his iterations, may have a core story, but many are so spaced apart that calling on ‘the spirit of Batman’ is chaotic. Do you get the early 1940s Batman? Adam West’s? Kevin Conroy’s? Or perhaps one of exclusively toy line Batmans that float around after a new movie, with only the costume and some items to go with it?
This is nothing like heiti. In calling upon Odin, or perhaps upon Him via one of His heiti I am calling to a particular part of Him that was known, and that corresponds to Him in some concrete way. As Runatyr I get a very different aspect of Odin, but unlike the Batman example I give above, Runatyr is still Odin, not reimagined, or, as in the case of Batman 52, rebooted, but simply focused upon in a different way. Rather than focusing upon His qualities and Being as a God of inspiration, for instance, in praying to and calling upon Him as Runatyr I am desiring a connection to the Runemeister, to the God of Runes. I cannot confuse this with another spirit; it is utterly Odin’s name, likeness, and Being in conjunction with this heiti. There is no ‘alternate universe’ so to speak, ala Universe 52, where Runatyr is the essence of Odin and not His heiti.
Okay, well, we’re talking about heroes and superheroes. So what about Egil Skallagrimsson or Olvir of Egg or, more close to home, those of our Disir or Väter who we know as our recent Dead? Batman is as worthy of veneration and worship as my Great-Grandfather? Batman, while I find him a really cool comic character and many of his qualities good to emulate, is not and was not a flesh and blood person. The story of the Dark Knight movies, while fun to watch and in many cases a good meditation on justice, desperation and a good deal of other themes, is not the story of how my Great-Grandfather sailed into America with few possessions and laid down new roots here with the few family members already settled here. Batman, while a human-like story, is not a human story. Likewise, my Great-Grandfather’s story is neither allegory nor metaphor, but history and the lore of my family. I can visit his grave; I attended his funeral. I may tell his story as a metaphor or allegory, especially if I find the telling the story may help another, but Great-Grandfather’s story is his life retold, not a reimagined character. He embodies the story, even as I tell it, even if I miss details, or intentionally focus on others. When I tell Great-Grandfather’s story, it is not some New 52 Great-Grandfather, but he as he has come to me in understanding from my family, from my interactions with him, and my understanding of his story, its places in my life and how it can touch others.
Our heroes are real. These people, our Pagan and Heathen heroes and martyrs are real. They lived. Their stories reach out to us, many lives ending in supreme amounts of pain in devotion to their Gods. These, these are people, Holy People worthy of worship and remembrance . I can raise a horn to these People, write a paean to Them, hail them as Ancestors. These are people I can look to for greatness, for devotion, as exemplars.