American Gods & the Immigrant Experience

As Americans, we have more in common with each other than we do with the citizens of any other country on this planet, believe it not; because whether our ancestors came here on the Mayflower, or in a slave ship, we all have in common the immigrant experience – and there is not a single person in this country, whether pious or atheist, wealthy or impoverished, whose own ancestors did not undergo some of the most brutal tests  of survival imaginable just to get here.

Every immigrant group has been oppressed, every immigrant group has been isolated, humiliated and died too young – from the starving English settlers of the colonies to indentured Irish servants (aka “slaves”) and even the Native Americans who crossed the Bering straits from Asia so many thousands of years ago – each one of them has in its family tree, some spirit of adventure and survival in the face of hardship – some primal force it can tap into in order to keep laughing when the chips are down and not only survive to fight another day, but thrive as well.

And when they got here, what did they find? The spirits of the land – what the ancient Romans called the Genius Loci. These are not only the spirits of the once-human – Viking warriors, Native American explorers and other groups we may not even be fully aware of yet – but the non-human spirits of nature too – spirits of winter, of groves, of canyons and of mountains; spirits of plants, bears, coyotes, rattlesnakes and a million other species of flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth.

Among these too, they encountered the ambiguous representatives of the the liminal world – the “little people,” “water people,” and “forest people” known by countless names all over the world, the strange spirits at once eerily close to ourselves but simultaneously utterly alien – whether we call them faeries, mermaids and trolls or use the Native American names for these beings doesn’t matter – the fact is, whether we can see them or not, they were here first.

By honoring these, we too to “get in tune” with the spirits of place, the place that we live, and so reap the rewards and avoid the dangers of which these early settlers were all too aware.