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Demigods are special humans that are born partly divine. These individuals have been extremely rare throughout history, and always have various significant effects for the world around them, leading to important changes for their time period. Demigods are marked by their exceptional beauty, amber colored eyes and golden blood, symbolizing their divine status. They are also human characteristics amplified, and are far stronger, faster, and more intelligent than average.

However, there are a number of problems relating to their development. A demigod coming into existence is very risky for a human mother to carry to term. During their fetal stages, they require significantly more resources from the mother, and grow at a quicker pace. In addition to that, a mother carrying a god-like fetus would likely suffer serious injury when the fetus begins to kick. All of these conditions would likely kill her.

How can a mortal woman successfully carry a demigod to term?

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    $\begingroup$ the demigod fetus protects the mother, so that nothing will harm her (including the baby kicking) $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Jan 10 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see the problem; both Greek and Christian mythology gave no hint that mortal women have difficulty carrying to term divine or semi-divine babies. Quite a few mortal women successfully carried to term the semi-divine offspring of immortal gods: Alcmene gave birth to Hercules son of Zeus; Leda gave birth to Pollux and Helen, son and daughter of Zeus; Aethra gave birth to Theseus son of Poseidon; Olympias have birth to Alexander son of Zeus; Apollo had multiple children from mortal women. And, in Christian myth, a mortal woman named Mary gave birth to God himself. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 10 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ This has been discussed in detail in the modern mythological framework here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_of_Steel,_Woman_of_Kleenex In Niven's analysis: No, Lois Lane can not safely carry Superman's child to term. In fact problems arise almost immediately. $\endgroup$ – Tb. Jan 10 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Tb. I'd forgotten that hilarious story. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jan 11 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ Is there any problem with semidog's mother dying by birth? Women's death by birth was quite often in mankind's history. It would provide an interesting aspect to your history: you can't mate with a dog without facing the consequences. $\endgroup$ – Danubian Sailor Jan 11 at 23:14

12 Answers 12

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The demigod baby shares the blood supply with the mother, during this time, she also shares the divinity, the strength, and the partial invulnerability. Think "Mirror syndrome" but in a positive way. Instead of a shared illness, it's a shared invulnerability.

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    $\begingroup$ This would really be great for the story because of how the woman finds out she is pregnant. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jan 10 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ Mother and fetus don't actually share a blood supply. In fact they can have incompatible blood types. "One of the placenta's jobs is to make sure blood from the mother and fetus never mixes. The placenta acts as an exchange surface between the mother and the fetus. Nutrients and oxygen are passed over by diffusion only. If the mother's and fetus's blood mixed, it could be deadly for both of them." simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placenta $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Jan 11 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK But a Demigod could make exceptions $\endgroup$ – Richard U Jan 11 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ The placenta's role is a good point, but it's important to note that it doesn't block everything--nutrients get to the baby and wastes come back out to get processed by the mother's body. It wouldn't be hard to hand wave that whatever mystical attribute gives these abilities is also able to pass through, or it could be a magical field that encompasses both. $\endgroup$ – Adam Miller Jan 11 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ Midichlorians can pass through placental barrier. ;-P $\endgroup$ – void_ptr Jan 11 at 17:29
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Do not make a problem where you do not have one

Demi-gods have been born by fully human mothers in hundreds of myths all around the world for thousands of years without anyone ever making an issue out of it, so you do not need to make an issue of it now.

In fact if you do make an issue of, you are more likely to hurt your work than help it. This is because the corollary of Chekhov's Gun applies here: if you do not intend to have this "issue" be important to the story, do not make it part of the story. You do not need to explain it unless it is relevant to the narrative.

"But..."

No, you do not really want to go there because of the immense amounts of squick this implies.

Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God's true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest; we went through five Adams before we figured that one out.Alan Rickman as Metatron in Dogma

So let the audience assume that it just worked out, as they have done for — quite literally — thousands of years without anyone raising as much as an eyebrow about it.

On the contrary, the human mothers of part- or fully divine figures seem to be able to conceive, carry to term, and then give birth in remarkably carefree ways...

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost."

Yes, and the Greek demigod Perseus was born when the god Jupiter visited the virgin Danaë as a shower of gold and got her with child. The god Buddha was born through an opening in his mother's flank. Catlicus the serpent-skirted caught a little ball of feathers from the sky and hid it in her bosom, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli was thus conceived. The virgin Nana took a pomegranate from the tree watered by the blood of the slain Agdestris, and laid it in her bosom, and gave birth to the god Attis. The virgin daughter of a Mongol king awoke one night and found herself bathed in a great light, which caused her to give birth to Genghis Khan. Krishna was born of the virgin Devaka. Horus was born of the virgin Isis. Mercury was born of the virgin Maia. Romulus was born of the virgin Rhea Sylvia. For some reason, many religions force themselves to think of the birth canal as a one-way street[.]

Christopher Hitchens — God Is Not Great

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    $\begingroup$ You survived having sex with god. It's all pretty much down hill from there. If that doesn't need an explanation neither does this. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jan 11 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ I would argue with Christopher Hitchens that Buddha is not a god in the same sense as the God of the bible, or Jupiter. $\endgroup$ – Martin Bonner Jan 11 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinBonner That is true, but it does not matter because what Hitchens was against was not gods per se, but rather religiously revered figures and 1) the cults of personality that comes with them and 2) those that claim authority based on what these revered figures supposedly wants. Hitchens's ultimate foe was totalitarianism and he argued that theism / theocracy is just as totalitarian as for instance Stalinism and the Kim-family's dictatorship over North Korea. He argued that revering specific persons — human or divine — is anti-democratic. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jan 11 at 13:45
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Same as for normal living beings.

Natural selection: only demigods who manage to not kill their mother in their fetal stage get the chance to be born and pass their genes to their descendants.

All others are simply subject to Darwinian selection.

If you want to sprinkle some divine intervention in the picture, than the deity who impregnated the woman will also put some abracadabra to ensure she can bear the fetus until a suitable age.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's not clear from the question, if the other parent of the demigod must be demigod, or if both can be, or if they just... appear, from normal human parents. Still, I really like this answer, because the ability for the demigod to survive would depend on some genes. I'd encourage the OP to research recessive and dominant genes, for example eye color as classic, simple case. $\endgroup$ – hyde Jan 12 at 7:36
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A demigod's powers only manifest after birth

While in the womb, the demigod is, for all practical purposes, a normal human child. This requires no additional resources and incurs no additional risk upon the mother. This also creates a brief time of vulnerability in which the demigod can more easily be killed: either by killing it in the womb (usually killing the mother as well) or very soon after birth, before the child's abilities become more than human.

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If your demigod foetuses come to term faster, requiring more resources in order to grow at a quicker pace, that may (in some way) be helpful for the mother. Rather than having to endure nine months of internal bruising, if the foetal development is complete in, say, three months, then perhaps she won’t need to deal with prolonged pain.

Also, in order to provide for a fast-growing foetus, it might be preferable for your mother to have ready access to as much food and drink as she requires (i.e. she’ll probably have to be quite wealthy, if this is a historical setting).

Also, the other thing to remember about demigods is that they are half-human. While they may benefit from accelerated healing, growth, intellect, and so on, it might be that during pregnancy, they simply act the same as a normal human foetus, just in a shorter timeline. Once they’re born, and exposed to the outside world, that’s when their godlike powers begin to kick in.

It also make sense that the gods who impregnated these women in the first place actually have a vested interest in their offspring. If they don’t care about their child (or the mother), they’ll do nothing to aid the process. However, if they do want to ensure the safety and survival of their child (and also the mother), then cue some divine intervention. They could perhaps imbue the mother with a secondary womb-lining/placenta, one that acts both as a shock absorber, and feeds the foetus the godlike nutrients they need.

Another idea is that maybe the mother has to ingest god-food (nectar and ambrosia) - ordinarily a human couldn’t tolerate it, but given the nutrient needs of her foetus, and the non-human behaviour it exhibits while she’s carrying it, it serves to strengthen her enough (and provide the baby with the divine nutrients it needs).

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Fat mothers.

Fat provides nurishment as well absorbtion of shocks. Having a fat if not obese mother seems to be the most likely way to guarantee survival, even if the mother will be battered and bruised. This could easily expedite the demigod's status as in antiquity only rich and powerful people would get enough food to get fat. So expect the best teachings and equipment available.

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    $\begingroup$ This reminds me of an specific Queen song. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jan 10 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @renan I was a nonexistant lad. Never knew no good from bad, but I knew life before I left my nurseryyyy. Huh! Left alone with mah Daddy, she was such a naughty mommy, great big woman! She made a demigod out of meeeeeee! $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jan 10 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ Oy vey. No uterus is fat. Internal organs are not fat. A fat pregnant woman feels a kicking fetus just as much as a skinny one does. Damage from a supernatural kick would be to the uterus (potentially causing a rupture) and surrounding internal organs (for example, from the top of the uterus through the diaphragm into the heart/lung cavity). No matter how obese you are, any increase in fat padding things from the inside is minimal at best. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Jan 10 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyn internal organs are also wreathed in fat tissues specifically for nutrients and protection. A high powered baby kicking against the uterus wall will accelerate it less and have lower chance of penetration when theres more fat behind it as opposed to a thin layer of fat and then air (not counting the muscle, skin etc for the moment). So being fatter helps protect the uterus wall and internal organs nearby. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jan 10 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jan 10 at 21:23
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Magical Placenta.

As you've framed the question, it's not really logical. If demi-gods commonly killed their mothers/hosts, there wouldn't be many demi-gods around.

It is not possible for a fetus's kicks to be so strong that they cause actual internal damage to the pregnant woman without also rupturing the uterus and/or causing placental abruption. Both of these things are usually quickly fatal to a fetus and often to the woman too, unless they are immediately in surgery (and sometimes even then). (In real life, a fetus can't kick that strongly, though those two conditions are very real.)

The placenta is the only human organ that we create out of thin air, as it were. It is the pregnant woman's organ, not the embryo's/fetus's, but it is a place where both blood supplies come together.

If the demi-god fetuses contribute to the creation of the placenta and make it,

  • Cover the entire inside of the uterus (real ones only cover a portion)
  • Able to subdue the strongest kicks (in a way that the amniotic sac also does not get damaged)
  • Unable to be dislodged or damaged in any way
  • Magically recede from the cervix during the first stage of labor so that the fetus is able to exit the womb unimpeded

If you want the woman to survive the birthing process, add:

  • Easily come away from the uterine wall after the birth and compresses small enough to exit the vagina.
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How about having the fetus develop outside the mother? Perhaps after the egg is fertilised, a few weeks later the bundle of cells is extracted and placed into an 'egg' which holds all the nutrients which it needs to develop and survive. This allows the child to carry genes from both the mother and the father, while not being inside (and destroying) the mother's body while it grows. The baby could be removed or the egg could 'hatch' when the child is ready to be 'born'.

In the case of a female demigod, they would likely be able to carry to term without issues anyway, so this solution is only really needed for cases where the mother is fully human

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  • $\begingroup$ This matches up well with Norse mythology, which has a variety of Gods and demigods gestating in and being born from thoroughly unlikely places. In some cases they were even removed from their dead mother, transplanted into a different spot (a thigh, if I remember aright), then born later. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 11 at 11:28
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To take a rather prosiac solution, the god in question injects the mother with a tranquiliser of sorts, which limits the baby's specs to human range within the womb. Each dose is good for, let's say, 6 months, so a dose at the end of the first trimester is usually enough.

It also explains how they did the deed in the first place...

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The obvious answer would be that the mother herself is a demigod. This could be used for example by making the ruling dynasty a dynasty of demigods.

Also, I would expect the deity who impregnated the mother to probably want the child to be born and therefore use some magic or divine juju to protect the mother.

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    $\begingroup$ "The obvious answer would be that the mother herself is a demigod", surely this leads to an infinite regress? $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jan 10 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AngelPray " "The obvious answer would be that the mother herself is a demigod", surely this leads to an infinite regress?" $\endgroup$ – Richard U Jan 10 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardU "@AngelPray" "The obvious answer would be that the mother herself is a demigod", surely this leads to an infinite regress?"" $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Jan 10 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ It's demigods all the way down. $\endgroup$ – John Montgomery Jan 10 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ The "obvious answer" was chosen by the Catholic Church, who decreed in 1854 that God had to make a special woman so that she could carry Him to term successfully. On the other hand, the Orthodox churches (and, as far as I understand, Protestant churches too) never felt the need to introduce such an explanation, and maintain that the Mother of God was chosen from the available population and not made to order. It appears that it's not obvious at all. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 11 at 0:36
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The demigods strength comes from a resistance to change in the world they incept within. This 'strength' is not something that can be specifically characterized, and 'tests of resilience' should be observed from the standpoint of how an entity maintains a state of existence. A demigod could be made of butterfly parts but the way the flow of power is in that world you would never be able to touch it, you may even be devoted to protecting it. Also memory isn't always something that can be relied on, actually its usually not something that can be relied upon.

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Three options:

  1. The father protects the mother. Switches or blesses her food, making it the food of the gods/ambrosia. This gives her a temporary invulnerability that allows her to survive the pregnancy and/or/maybe not the child birth. The god, wanting to ensure his child's survival, has a vested interest in keeping the mother alive.

  2. Same as above, but followers of the God, cult members, or some shadow group find the mother and protect her through some method. Maybe a group formed by other demigods. The father doesn't care, but other mortals do for various reasons, good or bad.

  3. The child, being divine, has godly knowledge and strength and will power that a human child does not, and simply knows enough not to kick, even as a fetus. Cause magic.

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