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An Autistic God

I have been thinking a lot, on and off, as part of my processing around placing myself on the spectrum after all this time, about Set as an autistic god.

Not a “god of autism”, an autistic god.

I think about it because of the ambivalence with which he is often treated in the mythologies: yes, he’s useful, he’s powerful, he’s potent, but he’s also Not Like Us, he’s the fringe one, the god of the misunderstood and the marginal in so many directions.

He is known for his rages, and so am I, and I wonder how many of his are as fictional as the ones I get blamed for, being asked so often why I am so angry. (But this is just my face, my voice, I did not put anger in there, but now that you demand I justify my nonexistent rage, now I will become tetchy….) And how much did he choose the desert for itself and how much is it that the empty spaces are peaceful, compared with the bustle and noise of the black land? Solitude is valuable of itself, but it is also an exile of sorts, even a self-imposed one, and it is… complicated… to be one of the family but also the fringe.

A friend commented to me a while back that their experience of other folks on the spectrum was either some sort of complicated other-gender or gender-ambivalent thing or I AM SUPER BINARY GENDERED I FOLLOW ALL THE RULES and the myths certainly have Set as hypermasculine and playing to all the stereotypes of the most brutish and stereotyped therein, even if some people’s personal experience of the god is quite queer, both gender and otherwise. Gods are complicated and contain multitudes.

But there are other things. I look at the Contendings myths and see things that are so easy to perceive as exploitations of autism. Here, Set is tricked by bringing him a favorite meal – and oh, his preferred meals are very specific and set from a limited selection.

There, he is challenged to a stone boat race, and promptly goes and carves his boat from a sliced-off mountaintop while Heru cleverly plasters a wooden boat to look like it’s made of stone. The actual stone boat made following the rules of the competition, of course, sinks. Returning to that with a knowingly autistic perspective, I can only sort of cringe, with all the memories of that sort of game played, the way it’s so easy to assume that people communicate in good faith and yet. And yet, they don’t.

Stone boats, even those made by gods, are prone to sinking.

3 comments to An Autistic God

  • Crowess

    You might also see what you can non-appropriatively find about Ofun in Ifá: I’ve heard he suffered something similar in a rigged contest for kingship.

  • This is brilliant UPG. I’d love to see more UPGs of deities being autistic popping up. I think we very limited humans may have to learn to see autism for what it actually is, more, first. (As with some of us developing autistic headcanons of fictional characters and slowly seeing that leading to more writing of them.) But I’ve no doubt that there are neurodivergent deities all over the place. Not being very familiar with Set, I can’t really comment with him, but this is really interesting and makes sense with what little I know of him.

  • Can’t comment on Set because I don’t know him, but “now that you demand I justify my nonexistent rage, now I will become tetchy” resonates so much.