Paradoxical Descriptions of Divine Beings

April 6, 2021   /  

Student Name: Tiago Garcia Ferrer
Majors: English, Religious Studies
Advisors: Bhakti Mamtora & Bryan Alkemeyer

Most Joyful Award

Within almost every mythology on earth there are moments of revelation, moments of physical encounter with the gods, which play a major role on how their cultures perceive the divine.  This study argues that physical descriptions of gods are an active participant in the multifaceted relationship between mortals and divinities. To achieve this, this essay takes a large-scale comparative approach looking at literary examples of ten different cultures from around the world. These examples are separated into three sections: one dealing with the stories of some gods whose divinity is contingent on the clothes they wear; another examining almost incomprehensible descriptions of gods which nonetheless attempt to teach a hard theological lesson; and the last one exploring some examples where revelation itself is used as a form of punishment.

Tiago will be online to field comments on April 16: Noon-2 pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening).

25 thoughts on “Paradoxical Descriptions of Divine Beings”

  1. So, do Gods learned from humans that you need to “dress the part” in order to have a credible character (a lawyer on suit, a doctor with a white doctor’s coat, a police on uniform) or it was the humans that received that lesson from the Gods?

    1. Kind of both. Within the stories themselves the gods have to set up a good example. But everyone writing the stories is human, and so they add their very human experiences to the mix. Usually the authors then cull those human experiences out, but dress is surprisingly resilient!

  2. Tiago dear…clothing and appearance or deceiving appearance seem to be part of life itself. Plenty of moral stories have been written over time such as The Wife of Bath’s Tale (Chaucer), The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell (Arthurian romance) or even Confessio amantis (John Gower), but having heard what you mentioned in your video makes me wonder if these authors could have been inspired by these Gods’ stories (Gods who were there before the authors themselves) is flabergasting.

    1. Well, something I don’t get into is just how rare these stories are. I had entire cultures that lacked any such descriptions from gods. But everyone has a version of these stories for mortals. Having said that the god’s stories are much older, so I would say it’s a little of both.

  3. A very entertaining and informative presentation, Tiago! Congratulations on your achievement, and good luck in your future endeavors!

  4. Amazing job Tiago! Thinking comparatively is an amazing skill and I love seeing it in full, theophanic bloom here! Also, I’m extremely entertained by your presentation…I’m reminded of our Twelfth Night scene lol. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to select this topic, or any surprises you came across in your research?

    1. Well, I wanted to do revelations, since I thought those moments would magnify the difference between gods and mortals. But most cultures don’t have explicit revelations, so I went for the next thing in mind.

  5. Congratulations, Tiago! It’s been wonderful to see your project develop over the past year. What did you find most exciting about this project?

    1. All the new mythology I got to read! The Finnish and the Yoruba were the best new finds.

  6. Congratulations, Tiago. It’s an interesting project, and your video was very engaging.

  7. Congratulations Tiago! Fantastic work, and the video is wonderful! I will be very interested to see what you do with this research in the future.

    Best of luck going forward!

  8. Hello again and congratulations again, Tiago! It’s such a creative and ambitious project, and so well imagined and done. And the video is terrific — definitely ‘most joyful’! 🙂 I have always enjoyed and learned from conversations with you, and the same is true for your IS project and for this presentation! Thank you!

  9. Congratulations Tiago!!!! Seeing how your knowledge of the gods has evolved over the years has been amazing. I’m a very proud mom!

  10. Wow, what a great video encapsulating your project! It’s interesting to try to balance or compare the 2 morals you’re drawing: (1) clothing must be appropriate to the role or situation vs. (2) people aren’t always what they seem. Great work with such a rich and disparate array of primary sources!

    1. Well, Krishna does have to choose the right clothing to show he’s not what he seems. So the two concepts can certainly work in unison.

      1. Felicidades Tiago! Congrats on your graduation!!! Question: What was – in your opinion – the most effective dress “scare tool”used by the Gods in their intent to showcase power and authority? By the same token, what items/dress did they use to obtain respect and leadership status amongst humans? Could you share some examples please?

  11. Hi Tiago! What a fabulous presentation–as Cara says I recognize the pacing, visuals, and overall flair from your wonderful (and similarly hilarious) Twelfth Night project. I laughed a lot and I learned quite a bit from these comparisons of both (to me) familiar and less familiar deities. I also agree with Prof. Alkemeyer that it seems like a great distillation of a vast and complex project into a clear message. Congratulations!!

  12. Tiago, I enjoyed this presentation very much. Congratulations on finding the joy in your work and making others see it through your eyes.

  13. Hey Tiago! After watching your presentation, it’s completely evident why you got “Most Joyful” 😀 😀 It’s awesome to see how many different cultures you experienced and learned about through the composition of this project. What are some other theses or conclusions that you drew by the end of your research?

  14. Drawn from the title, kept by the content and leaving in awe! I genuinely enjoyed the pure exploration, the sass in the presentation, and the ability to narrow the topic succinctly, in a way that I feel as if I’ve understood it all quite comfortably. Really great job. One of my favorite by far!

  15. Tiago,
    I so enjoyed your project when you presented it in our Department IS Roundtable. The “Most Joyful” prize is well deserved, Congratulations! You are a fine researcher, an engaged scholar, and a talented film maker. This was a joy to watch, thank you for this work.

  16. Tiago, you’re a winner! I definitely see why your project got “Most Joyful.” Your presentation–a wonderful mixture of humor and a good, condensed version of your I.S.–made me smile. I enjoyed learning a little bit about how clothing culture mixed with religion. It’s not something I would have thought about otherwise. Thanks for the engaging presentation.

  17. Felicidades, Tiago. You did wonderful work and it was my privilege to announce your project as most joyful!

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