‘THEOMACHY: War of the Gods’…an authorial analysis

The death of Jami… (illustrated by Komal Mahmood)

A dying and rising archetypal god is a staple among many cultures and quite possibly one of the most popular and extensively studied. The Christians have Jesus, and parallels are to be found in most mythologies. However, birth-death-rebirth is a cyclical process and as such represents the beneficence of earth. It is therefore no wonder that these deities are often nature gods. Their death brings toil and trouble, their return imbues mankind with a soteriological hope. Bringing together such characters under an Eastern umbrella and collecting this much fragmented and refracting light under the singular, scrupulous gaze of a microscope would be a feat most interesting.

It was with this in mind that I composed my poem “THEOMACHY: War of the Gods”, a book-length epic that is both an analysis and story-telling in verse. Vyasa, Snorri Sturluson, and Homer, the three masters of three great epics of their civilizations here come under the same shade as hermetic guides to our hero, Yashtan who, in his most Pandora-esque composition struggles with a very human and moral dilemma. His creators and masters are the Muarij, beings of smokeless fire paralleling the Islamic Jinns but ones who have strayed and desire human worship. Their name, Muarij, is directly taken from the word, ma’arij, used in the Qur’an.

(Illustrated by Komal Mahmood)

However, the crux and the foundation of the story lies in the character Jami. A young dying and rising figure whose paternity remains the dubious question of much debate throughout the narrative. His journey, his romantic attachment, and his familial affections stand in sharp contrast to that end for which he is ‘designed’ and in a manner embodies a nihilist take on life. His is the suffering that philosophers identify as one that needs to be overcome in order to live one’s life.

Allowed him to suckle on the teats of Kamadhenu

Till grew his delicate limbs to boyish frame

And in him I saw, the only companion of my solemn days and a consort of equal grace;

Much like I was he, fair of form and skin, light eyed and handsome

And though I much desired, let not my olden charms consummate his innocent mind

Ah! Sweet as he was, well aware of passions that inflamed me

He told me to wait till he was of age, as if he held me back

Told me to wait till the first bunch of downy hair shone on his chin

But you took him away,

And snatched his life a second time

Each time in an impetuous carnage

The poetics of tragedy is inseparable from verse and the music of sorrow is too dithyrambic to be prosaic. Nothing but poetry would do it justice. Theomachy is thus also a hymn to God; the Supreme Being, the Universal Spirit, who commands predestination and is not an inactive demiurge. Aleph, the first cause of all things, the Divine, is the Master Creator in the story and one who governs the action of all; some who he engages directly such as Jami, ones who give in entirely to the Universal Will (captured in the Loh or the Divine pre-record of History) and others who are guided through interventions such as Yashtan. What is indispensable to the tale is how contrivances (of whatever kind) fall flat before the grand unfurling of events that has been written down at the time of the inception of the universe.

Ishnan and a deceased Jami (Illustrated by Komal Mahmood)

Of equal value is the ‘goddess’ Ishnan. With roots in the Semitic Ishtar/Inanna and the Greek Aphrodite, Ishnan is the emblematic entity of erotic love. But since Platonic wisdom eulogizes the concept of Eros, Ishnan with a bleeding heart (quite literally) enters Hell to bring back her beloved Jami, and in that quest acquires the knowledge from beyond which Nietzsche rightly calls Dionysian and unbearable to the average human mind. Nietzsche equated such knowledge to the Dionysiac principle, wherein the Bacchic noises, the mad, frenzied, orgiastic, dissonant music (unfiltered and unmoderated by the Apollonian quality of the Greek play) has a decibel level beyond the tolerable range of human hearing.

But I bring this still beating heart

Whose every thump engenders my sorrows increase

It taunts me with its cruel prating, convinces me to beg for him a third life

Yet I do not, so now I come to grant myself some ease of heart

I come not as a suppliant but as one to lodge complaint

I embrace you as one who creates, as one who gives and takes away

But Ishnan, being not of the mortal lot rather Cronian in composition, like Aphrodite’s birth from the severed member of Kronus, not only endures this ‘unbearable’ knowledge, but it also grants her ease of agony and a patience that heals her heart. Neoplatonic philosophy would call it alignment with the Divine which meeting with the Supreme was afforded to Ishnan. As luck would have it she becomes indispensable to how the story unfolds on the Loh.

Despite the wide cast, there is a one character most important; the omniscient narrator boy who initiates the play. His a-priori knowledge of events is disturbing if one were to consider his age. And he disturbs indeed; he thoroughly unsettles the ferryman of hell, whose senses are strangely awakened by the presence of this boy.

His gaze was imploring but fix’d.

He droop’d his eyes to appeal to my good nature and blink’d not

The irises changed colors between hues of blue like an opal, lacking in warmth,

Distant but not calm. Brimstones show’d and firestorms brew’d in the sclerotic lights

It is unsettling enough when a being, whose beginning and end is a profession that involves transporting the dead, is himself unsettled. The Ferryman becomes Dante, the boy becomes Virgil in this reversal of roles wherein one who is new to the realm serves as the guide to the one who is so accustomed to it.

(Illustrated by Komal Mahmood)

As the poet of “THEOMACHY: War of the Gods”, I will conclude by saying that this was a tremendous exercise in comparative religion, Neoplatonic philosophy, and novel mythmaking that took a long time to write. To say that I am completely satisfied, would be a delusional lie. As I write in the Epilogue to this poem:

It is nearly impossible to integrate five thousand years of written history within the breadth of a single volume of an epic. Perhaps equally impossible to do in more than ten volumes as well. It is not an overreach to say that this work is an ambitious summation of East-West mythology in a fictional tale with fragments found everywhere.

You can purchase your own copy of THEOMACHY: War of the Gods on Amazon in both eBook and Paperback at

Happy Reading!

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