Despite the supernatural nature of the deistic pantheon (and their intramural dating scene), there’s a remarkable amount of god/human canoodling in the mythological tradition. Dating a deity has a certain ineffable appeal—the carefree demeanor, the kinky shapeshifting, the supernatural transportation options, the lure of immortality. However, it’s also one of the most dangerous extracurricular activities in which any legend-dwelling young person can engage, mythologically speaking.
Before you get in over your head, consider these warnings against the biggest downsides of making eyes at the celestial sphere.
Unrequited love is uncomfortable for everyone involved, and disrupts the world’s careful balance of woeful mix tapes. When half of this equation is a deity, there’s no way it’s going to end well.
If you’re the piner, making the first move is strongly discouraged. Bodhisattva Quan Yin preferred death to marriage (and, given that she soothes the sorrows of all humanity, she’s probably too busy to date, anyway). Greek hunting-goddess Artemis alone could fill a quarry with the bodies of those who put the moves on her and failed. Actaeon was turned into a deer and torn apart by his own hounds just for laying eyes on her. When twin giants Otos and Ephialtes swore to kidnap her from Olympus and forcibly wed her, she changed into a deer and darted between them to trick them into killing one another with spears. (Sub-lesson: Don’t be a jerk.)
If you’re the pinee, and there’s an amorous deity with his eyes on you, the outlook is even worse. (Universal rule of godly power: If it exists in nature, a mortal can be turned into it.) Your best options are to appeal to the deity’s spouse ASAP, and run for your life as soon as the spousal bickering begins, or to look as much like a tree as possible and hope they lose interest (A for effort, Daphne), but even then, with gods, there’s really no knowing.
Awkward Family Dinners
So, let’s say you and the god of your choice are lucky enough to have a mutual attraction. Congratulations! Sadly, you’re still in the weeds; eventually, she is going to bring you home to meet the family. And you’re doomed.
Pantheons the world over are heavy subscribers to the Keep It in the Family Newsletter. Even worse, these family ties are extremely flexible; what you think is your sweetheart’s mother Bastet might end up being his sister and, occasionally, his wife. And if you’re dallying with Vishnu, you might be able to fill a dining room with nothing but his own incarnations.
However, pretty much anything would be better than a reunion in Asgard. Norse god Loki has an entire saga devoted to the time he crashed a dinner party and starting a flyting (a Ye Olde Insult Battle), reminding people of the loved ones he killed until finally they tied him to a rock with the entrails of his own son. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hostess presents in the world, you know?
And there’s not even a reassurance that they can keep it in their intermythology pants: Egyptian and Syrian gods were often caught canoodling where both cults were prevalent, and the popular Isis made serious headway into Greece and Rome right through the age of Christianity. You’ll never be able to shake all those gods-in-law.
Of all the things deities are known for, fidelity is at the very bottom of the list, just below “excess ear hair.” If you’re dating one, be prepared for a lifetime of heartbreak. And while Zeus may be the most notorious of all gods ever in terms of stepping out on his wife—half the natural world exists because he couldn’t keep it in his pants and had to shapeshift his exes before Hera showed up, leading to one unlucky mistress staying a cow for years—there are several others hot on his heels.
Loki, when not starting enormous fights in Asgard, fathered several children with mortals out of wedlock, and even birthed one—the eight-legged horse Sleipnir—while in the form of a mare, an indiscretion which disgusts his enemy Heimdallr … who’s the son of nine mothers, which is an infidelity issue we can’t even fathom. (The family tree problem is no joke.)
The Celtic goddess Cliodna took numerous lovers, many of whom met unhappy ends, and for spite of whom, in some legends, she was banished to the sea. Meanwhile, her Greek cousin Aphrodite, goddess of love, made cheating on her husband an art form. To be fair, her husband was the plainest of the gods, and was chosen for her by Zeus to make the other gods stop fighting over the right to marry her. Zeus, of all the gods, should have known better than to think marriage stops outside romantic entanglements.
Even if you take sex out of the equation, you might end up with an absentee deity who wanders around for years with twelve guys who can’t stop writing home about how much they love him: Jesus, you’re an awful boyfriend.
And a faithful spouse could still make for some awkward moments—such as with the fertility god Min, whose defining feature in art is his erect penis, and in whose honor Egyptian youths had pole-climbing contests in a display of virility that they hoped would flood the Nile. (There’s a photo album to show the kids.)
Here’s the rub: Even if it’s requited, and even if you manage to get past the family squabbles, and even if you forgive all the stepping out, your relationship is probably doomed.
Every once in a while, you luck out and pull an Ariadne, who was discovered by the lovestruck Dionysus moments after being abandoned by her previous mostly-mortal lover. (Upgrade!) But that’s far from the rule, and if there’s one thing the gods really savor, it’s their break-ups.
Often it’s a flat-out smiting. Sumerian goddess Inanna actually married the mortal Dumuzi, but when she returned from a period of captivity in the underworld, Dumuzi wasn’t in mourning for her. Inanna divorced him posthaste and condemned him to take her place in the underworld.
Sometimes there’s a more roundabout end to a godly relationship. Mesoamerican goddess Mayahuel had a flirtation with Quetzalcoatl that ended when demons chased her down and tore her into hundreds of pieces. Quetzalcoatl’s apology: Burying the pieces in the soil, where the first agave plants sprouted. How … sweet. (But since agave could be distilled, Mayahuel eventually became the goddess of drunkenness, so you can always toss one back in her honor.)
And even when your love is for real, the pantheon tends to conspire against you; Titan Eos accidentally cursed her mortal lover Tithonos with immortality sans youthfulness clause, which caused him to shrivel until he became a grasshopper. (Sorry, babe—my bad.)
Really, the more one looks across cultures, the more the stats on god-dating build up as overwhelmingly negative. The best thing you could do for self-preservation is to avoid extreme good looks, extreme boasting, or extreme heroism, and never even cast a glance at the skies. But if, after all this evidence to the contrary, you’d like to date a deity, go right ahead: You might be just foolish enough to make a good myth.