ATLIN MERRICK: Do you believe in the stag god?
J.O. PHAEL: Belief is a tough thing for me. I’m one of those people that very much wants to believe, but I find it difficult. I love pagan beliefs and world views, but have never been able to really connect in a meaningful way. I definitely believe that there’s something out there beyond what we know and understand, and I’d like to think Cernunnos is among that mysterious world we can’t quite see.
ATLIN: Which goddesses and gods fascinate you most?
J.O.: I’m a big fan of the entire Norse pantheon as well as Viking archaeology. Odin is an interesting character, in his search for knowledge, as well as Loki with his unknown parentage, shape shifting, mischievousness, and transgender leanings. The stories they had, with Yggdrasil and the nine worlds, as well as their non linear view of time, are all very fascinating.
ATLIN: Why them?
J.O.: I like both Odin and Loki the most because of their liberated world views. Odin’s quest for knowledge even led him down paths that supposedly only women could take, he was interested in learning about the world and people around him, to the point it even got him kicked out of Asgard at one point.
And Loki, while causing trouble, was usually the catalyst that got the other gods to do the right thing, or learn things about themselves. And from a religious point of view, Loki is the god who takes in all the misfits who don’t fit in or aren’t accepted anywhere else. That makes him a good guy in my book.
ATLIN: In a world where just the act of a god waking might destroy things we cherish, I feel fear is the only sensible response — what do you think?
J.O.: I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think fear would be an appropriate response. Fear is useful, it kept our distant ancestors alive. Having said that, we now live in a world where fear has a tendency to be seen as a weakness. It’s something we’re supposed to push through or ignore, so much so that some people seem to have left it behind completely. No matter how much you warn them or try to make them understand the dangers, they simply refuse to be afraid.
I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that I have no idea how people would actually respond to this situation so I’m just winging it.
ATLIN: If you could be a god — any pantheon worldwide — who would you want to be?
J.O.: I think I would go with someone not quite as famous, like a god who still had important work to do, but wasn’t involved in every major catastrophe that always seems to befall the gods. I like Heimdall, who watches over Asgard and the Bifrost, gets to go on adventures now and then, but doesn’t actually have to deal with the other gods that much.
ATLIN: That! Yes. I don't want to be part of a pantheon where everyone's so damned grumpy all the time (I'm looking at you Olympians). I think I'd like to be a shapeshifter and travel the world. Since reading The Stag God I'm also partial to the idea of having a headful of horns.
Thank you J.O. Phael!