Miles Kington: Astronomical children of a lesser god

The chairgod felt it was lowering the whole tone if planets were named after cartoon figures
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The Independent Online

1. The chairgod said that the next item concerned the discovery of further planets in the solar system. There had been worries expressed that new planets were not being named after proper gods.

2. Mercury said he thought that the planets were very properly named. Jupiter and Saturn agreed. So did Neptune and Pluto.

3. Vishnu said he found it very hard to agree. The planets were all named after Roman and Greek gods, with not a single non-European among them. What sort of message did this send out to, well, to anyone who was interested?

4. Odin, chief of the Norse gods, said that the planets' names were not just European, they were South European. What sort of message did this send out to worshippers of the Norse gods?

5. The Jewish God said that as there weren't any worshippers of the Norse gods, it was irrelevant.

6. The Norse god of thunder, Thor, waved his hammer dangerously and asked what day of the week was named after the Jewish God. He would remind the Jewish God that he, Thor, had Thursday named after him. Was there anywhere in the world where they said: "See you next Jehovahsday, then?" Was there, then? Eh? Well, was there?

7. The Jewish God said that Thor was drunk again. Thor agreed and sat down.

8. The chairgod said that this was all beside the point. They were talking about the discovery and naming of new planets. Recently astronomers in California had discovered several unknown large bodies way out beyond Pluto, in the so-called Kuiper Belt, circulating the Sun. The first of these had been named Sedna. The second Quaoar. The third Xena.

9. A Mayan god asked if these were genuine gods' names or just human invention. He had not heard of any of them. He had been at United Deities meetings for several millennia and couldn't remember meeting anyone called Quaoar.

10. The chairgod said he was surprised by that, as according to his research Quaoar was the chief god of the Tongva tribe in Southern California, which was not far from Mayan territory.

11. The Mayan god said he saw an ominous link here. If Californian astronomers gave Californian deities' names to new planets, it was pretty parochial stuff. It was always nice when anyone in America acknowledged any pre-Columbian culture, but even so ...

12. The chairgod asked if, in fact, Quaoar was present at the meeting.

13. A small dark god said he was Quaoar. He said it was nice to be remembered again after all these years. His worship had lapsed fairly quickly on Earth because nobody knew how to pronounce his name.

14. He knew the feeling, said Mictlantecuhtli. He had been the Mexican god of death for many years until the Americans had arrived and been unable to pronounce him.

15. Pluto, Roman god of death, said he could not agree more.

16. At least Pluto had a planet named after him, said Mictlantecuhtli. That would never happen to him.

17. Incidentally, the Mayan god asked, but who was the goddess Xena after whom the other planet was to be named?

18. Not a goddess at all, said the chairgod, but an animated TV princess. He felt it was lowering the whole tone of nomenclature if planets were named after cartoon figures.

19. But surely, said Loki, Norse god of mischief, the planet Pluto was already named after a cartoon character? Wasn't there a little dog of that name?

20. As Pluto rose with a roar, the rest of the gods calmed him down and assured him that Loki was not worth it.

More of this soon.

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