Dennis O’Neil: Rain Gods


Maybe Tlaloc and Chalchiuhticue will stop for a visit with Superman on their way to wherever they’re headed. Or maybe it’ll just rain.

Tlaloc and Chalchiuhticue, as some of you undoubtedly know, are the Aztec god of rain and his wife. We English speaking moderns might considering borrowing them from the Aztecs because we don’t have rain gods of our own.

Oh, we have our share of deities, sprouting from the traditions that constitute our polyglot culture: we have several creation gods and gods of thunder and craftsmanship and wisdom and mischief and war and message delivery and … er – sex and governance and heroes who can come pretty close to being gods themselves and gods of religions that I won’t mention and perhaps yet other candidates that might be included here if I felt like working, but to heck with that. (Is there a god of laziness?)

But no god of rain, not in our catechisms, and, according to my highly unscientific and therefore next-to-useless conjecture, a dearth of journalism about events that certainly merit notice.

I’m referring to the floods that have decimated much of the country recently. Someone whose identity escapes me has suggested that the lack of coverage of the floods might be at least partially because we don’t give floods names. Tropical storms and their big brothers, hurricanes – we have plenty of names for them, names that change every year, but despite several mythologies that incorporate flood stories, no names thing for really bad precipitation. Big wind = looky looky. Big water = who cares?

Which may be why the problems currently on the east coast are easy to identify –

we call them Hurricane Hermine – and the deluge remains nameless.

We humans like to personify and so our meteorologists’ name calling may be a version of behavior that precedes history. Our unkempt ancestors probably lived in constant terror, at the mercy of forces they couldn’t identify. Nasty forces. But eventually, our scruffy forebears did give them names – Zeus, Odin, those guys – and then, because humans also like to make patterns, the early versions of ourselves added stories to the names and then began asking favors of these Others (call them gods). Sometimes the requests were granted and sometimes they weren’t. Could I have offended the mighty ones? Time to start feeling guilty and maybe sacrifice a fatted calf or two.

Soon Evolution met Meme and they began their long, long dance. Things changed. Along the way, the idea of super powers fell away from godhood and landed on humans, mostly what we call “heroes.” Subcategories arose, among them what are known as “superheroes,” and here we are. So: Tlaloc and Chalchiuhticue

socializing with Superman? Why not? They are, after all, related.