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I'm relatively new to worldbuilding, and even more to this website.

Context

In my world, gods are known to arpent the world. Concerning magic and spiritual world, these usages are really common but kinda reserved to the nobles, since this allow them to keep them empowered. The more noble you are, the more "connected" to magic and gods you are.

When a king is crowned, he goes into a sacred room, and have a meeting with the gods, who choose a god to become one with the king, granting him powers and longevity to rule the kingsdom Now, i'm trying to think of a good reason why would a god leave the king's body, aside from being bored of if the king and god don't have the same opinions or "phase" anymore.

I should add that for now, my pantheon isn't quite formed yet, but i'd like my gods to represent two sides of the same thing (i.e the god/goddess of peace is also the god/goddess of war, etc)

Question

Ofc, a god leaving a king's body would have consequences, destituating the king, even killing him if he's old enough to be dead without the god's longevity. So yeah, any idea of why would a god leave a king, and therefore a kingdom ?

Also, some words might not be the best fitting, english is not my first language. Feel free to ask questions, i'll answer them the best I can !

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    $\begingroup$ The only word choice I'm having real trouble with is "arpent", which seems very out of place in the context in which it is being used. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Jun 29, 2023 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ @jdunlop I believe they tried to make something out of the French verb "arpenter", which would roughly mean "to travel around" here ^^. $\endgroup$ Jun 29, 2023 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Sivloc I believe your question is kinda in a grey area regarding closure. Indeed, looking for reasons a character might do something is often thought as writing the story (it's dependent on the individual), rather than the world's factual elements. For your next questions you could focus on the "how something happens", rather than the "why something happens". If you don't, clearly state you want reasons caused by how the world works. The goal is to remove one's personality and story circumstances from the equation :). $\endgroup$ Jun 29, 2023 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ Real-world religions might give some inspiration for this: notably, the Christian God is supposed to have lived on Earth as a man and then left. There has been rather a lot of discussion since then over his reasons for doing so. $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    Jun 30, 2023 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ What on earth does it mean to "arpent the world"? I looked it up, and apparently it's an obsolete unit of area?? $\endgroup$
    – Hearth
    Jul 2, 2023 at 0:05

16 Answers 16

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Hosting the Powers of a God Burns Out the Host

Fiction is replete with things like this - beholding the True Nature of various deities drives men mad, or strikes them blind, or drives them uncontrollably to their knees.

The power of a god is not calibrated for a mortal to wield. The only reason any godly energy can be harnessed at all is because the god is there personally to mediate its use, but even the god can't prevent all of the damage that the energy does to a frail mortal body.

The longevity granted by the deity is a combination of the deity's power working to repair vital organs and effectively directly puppetting the body of the host. So even as the power hollows out its host, they can still run a marathon because as long as they can think that they can run, the power will move their body directly and make it happen.

But all good things must come to an end - the damage piles up and up and up and eventually the body reaches the point where it lacks the intrinsic mortal vitality needed to serve as an avatar.

This would mean that in all but very brief avatar states, the departure of the god will definitely kill the former host, but presumably a sufficiently pious host would view that as a worthwhile sacrifice.

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    $\begingroup$ Whether pious or not, a host won't necessarily view death as a net sacrifice, presuming their soul remains intact enough to be rewarded by the god that possessed them. $\endgroup$
    – Brian
    Jun 30, 2023 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ A good example of this being portrayed visually would be Steven King's Despiration TV Movie. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2023 at 16:58
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No reason a mortal can understand

Gods in many stories become human. Easy to understand their motives and their goals, how they think or act. However, this seems to me like a wrong representation of a god. Instead of an ethereal human with incredible powers, why not make them a tad deeper?

If I would imagine a god, I would rather think of a Lovecraftian horror, minus the horror (or sometimes with extra horror). They are in their nature not comprehensible. They are vast, powerful and smart beings who's motives and actions are far beyond our understanding. What you interact with in a king is not even a drop in the ocean compared to the rest of the god.

Why would a god leave a king? It is a question that can drive the plot, or be a question that can drive the characters as well as the reader to come up with their own reasons. The reason can always be shrouded in mystery. For me these things are powerful in a story. Not only do some unanswered questions leave you wondering, they can also provide a mirror to their own life if they try to figure out why the god left.

He has left for no reason we can begin to understand, but we try to put it in human terms so we have a feeling of control.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes i didn't talk that much about that in details, but it was clear in my mind that interacting with such a raw pwoerful being wouldn't be something entirely comprehensible by a human. For example, i planned one of my king-gods -the Kans- to drive mad anyone that witness its face $\endgroup$
    – Sivloc
    Jun 30, 2023 at 14:31
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Gods like to act like spoiled divas:

You cooked the sacrificial egg 6 minutes instead of 5 minutes and 55 seconds? What an insult!

What do you mean I can't have fun by hailing the peasants' crops the day before the harvest?

That beautiful girl did not give in to me hitting on her!

How dare you tripping during the sacred dance in my honor?

My command is to not eat any fruit which has RGB (229,43,80) on its peel! Disregard this and I will get very angry!

Any reason, no matter how made up, is sufficient for the diva to act like a spoiled brat and start stomping their feet while throwing a tantrum and leaving the king.

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    $\begingroup$ Thou shalt not eat any fruit which has RGB (229,43,80), lest ye be hexed $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Jun 30, 2023 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ That's ok, I never really liked the color amaranth anyway... $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Jul 1, 2023 at 6:37
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Having all that power is not healthy for a person's mind

They say power corrupts and it's true. It doesn't matter how moral you start out as, being granted the power of a god will gradually warp a person's values. You don't even need divine power for this, just look at real-world dictators. (Or certain website/forum admins.)

So "good" gods will leave the body of the monarch before that happens, so they can abdicate and stay true to themselves for the rest of their lives.

Of course evil gods won't mind their hosts going mad with power, in fact they probably encourage it. But they're also opportunists, so if they spot a better host, they'll just leave the old one to die, so they can hop into the new body.

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Occupying a mortal frame weakens a god over time

Despite all their powers, there are natural laws which constrain the actions of a god. Indefinite possesion of a human, even a noble, poses significant risks. You can explore this in a number of different ways.

Perhaps in taking a mortal body, the god also become mortal: while they have increased strength, durability, and longevity, in the unlikely the case that the host is killed, the god could also die/be severely weakened. In which case gods would only possess a royal host for a "short" period of time (several centuries is still short if you're a god!) to minimise the risk to their own immortal existance.

Alternatively, over time it may become harder and harder for the god to relinquish their hold on the host. Spending time in the mortal plane gradually anchors a god to it until eventually, after millennia, they become one with the host and subsequently relinquish their divinity. They could even maintain some powers, but be trapped in the host body, unable to return to the ether.

This could also be related to @biziclop's answer: perhaps two minds in one body also could also eventually damage the god's mental stability, leading to a chimera between man and god.

In any case, perhaps there could be an example of a god from your pantheon who remained in the mortal realm for too long and died, or was left a shell of themselves. No other gods want to risk following in their footsteps so after a sensible amount of time they leave, even if it means the death of the host.

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The host goes against the Ethos of the God

The Gods, by nature of being manifestations of certain things, have a way of doing things.

I'm going to use WH40K here (because I'm a WH Nerd) - Khorne is the chaos god of War, Violence, Blood lust etc. Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull throne! - you get the idea.

However, because he is all about Combat, he happens to also be the a big fan of Discipline and Honor.

Someone who takes on a Mighty foe and does so without fear or hesitation may earn the favor of Khorne, even if they loose. Khorne loves a Winner, but he also loves someone who fights without restriction.

On the flipside, Khorne will send deamons to collect the souls of his worhsippers/champions who fled in battle (which is the most grievous affront to Khorne).

So, let's say our King decides to align himself with a God - let's say the God of Justice (I'm not going to use the God of War) - that God requires the host to act in a fair and just manner. Each act of injustice perpetrated by the King weakens the bond with the host. It can be renewed by acts of selflessness or acts that align strongly with the God that they pair with.

However, some acts are so grievous that it causes the connection to be severed.

So, our King is presiding over a contract dispute between 2 neighboring factions - Faction 1 presents a written and signed contract that is fairly clear between both Faction 1 and Faction 2, with some additional documents (that are not legal contracts or signed) that give context to the section that is in dispute.

Faction 2 are generally on more favorable terms with the King and have hinted that should he rule in their favor, they will reciprocate.

Essentially - Faction 2 are trying to bribe the judge (Our King).

The God inhabiting the King is able to see the King's motivations and true intentions. The King could rule for Faction 1, the King could rule for Faction 2 on the principle that vagueness in contracts benefits the defending party, The King could make a compromise verdict and demand a new treaty/contract be written.

But if the King decides to make his ruling based primarily on his own interests - then the God will depart as they are incapable of inhabiting a vessel that betrays their ethos.

You could add some story elements that this isn't fully known or understood by the Nobles, which is why it sometimes happens.

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Gods cycle between "sides" to maintain balance, so they naturally stop sharing the opinion of the king

Similar to @TheDemonLord's answer, after some time the connection between the human and the God breaks because their values no longer align. In this case, it's not that the human broke the God's original values. Instead, the God's values changed to their flip side, so the God no longer aligns with the human's original values.

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When a king is crowned, he goes into a sacred room, and have a meeting with the gods, who choose a god to become one with the king, granting him powers and longevity to rule the kingsdom

-- and this makes the whole process open to palace intrigue. There are many ways in which you could interfere with it: send the king to a different room? have a chat with the gods beforehand to influence which one gets paired with the king, or try to convinvce them to not pair with the king at all? have an ambitious noble sneak himself into the room and pose as a legitimate king? outright desecrate the room so the gods will no longer even turn up? None of this would necessarily be easy to successfully pull off, but it happens in a society which practices magic; they can find a way.

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Two minds in one body. One of those minds being a god, would have a wastly stronger willpower, that would change the mind of the host over time, to be more like the god.

A god with compassion might decide that they are essentially killing the person, by changing their personality, and refuse to be a part in it.

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Generally, in any polytheism, the gods all have roles: god/goddess of thunder, god/goddess of fertility, god/goddess of pain, etc.

Since they have roles outside of inhabiting a mortal, there are many reasons one would choose to leave.

Bored now...

I am a god of infinite power and cosmic energy. It is through my will alone that causes the sun to rise and the plants to grow... And we're having scrambled eggs for breakfast again. *sigh*

There will always be the "cool" deities; the ones that deal with war, power, death, life, growth, and so on. This means they get chosen all the time. After a while, they will get bored of being inside a mortal lifetime after lifetime. All mortals waste so much time eating, sleeping, breathing, it just gets dull. So a deity could decide they've had enough and just wander off to do something exciting.

This isn't what I signed up for...

At the other end of the spectrum is the deity that never gets picked. Why would a leader that wants health and prosperity for their kingdom want to merge with Ralph, God of Swamps and Decay?

But Ralph was chosen... And now Ralph to do what? Sleep? BATHE?! Sure, siring an offspring (see below) was fun, but all those years of pacing just to put a welp to sleep? Ralph used to have fun, and wander the cosmos. Ralph was in charge of entropy, and now they have diaper duty.

I'm surprised deities last the first year of a leader's rule.

You were inhabited by whom?

The previous leader was inhabited by Ralph. During their merger, the leader sired a son whom became the next ruler. That son, Stephan, wants to bring art and beauty to the realm and chooses Mina, Goddess of Beauty and Fashion.

A few years into this joining, Mina finds out that the father sired their host while having "Swamp boy" in their body. That's disgusting! Mina would never be associated with some MORTAL that was tainted by the likes of them. She will not inhabit them a moment longer!

Duty calls

As premised, each deity is in charge of something. There is no God of lounging about.

Well, sometimes, there could be a problem that needs their undivided attention. Tara, the Goddess of War, will need to oversee when a confrontation grows in size. Kevin, the God of the Hunt, will need to help across the land if there is an especially harsh winter when everyone is staving and needs to find food.

These tasks may be too hard when contained within a mortal body. More so if the body only cares about the well being of people in their immediate vicinity. If Stephan, learns that the enemy of the kingdom across the water is starving, then he would likely decree to let them starve, we need the God here with us. But Kevin serves all people and will need to leave Stephan in order to help everyone, else they lose dominion.

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They have a day job!

To the mortals, this world is all, and the gods are all-powerful beings worthy of worship who possess monarchs for decades at a time.

To the gods, this world is pretty much just a fun MMO that they log in to for a couple of hours on their days off.

The gods seem to leave at arbitrary times to mortals, because they lack context or information about what is happening in "the godly realm".

Your king might be confused as to why great "xXx_UltraVegetaDiablos_xXx", god of badassery and getting laid, left unexpectedly at their moment of triiumph. Truth is, Melvin just got called in to work by his boss, to scrub the toilets after a poorly customer ruined them.

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I used to be an avatar and let me tell you, my physical and mental frames were not worn out be hosting a deity. Quite the opposite. At first, I could hardly breathe against the new, flaming power within my soul. After a few weeks, I could speak. After a few months, I could function normally again.

After a year, I found that my body and mind had changed. The god's power had made me stronger, smarter, and faster. I started to see things before they happened. I heard people's thoughts and felt their desires. And I began to suspect that I could not be hurt.

With my newfound power, there was only one thing left to do: cast out that pesky parasite dwelling within me. The battle was epic. Lots of energy beams, yelling out cool attack names, and monologues. I defeated my former deity with my unstoppable Exthusia Slap.

That's why I'm not an avatar anymore. I took the power granted to me and reclaimed my independence. Word got around the pantheon quick. Now those cowards never stay in a host long enough to let this happen to them.

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Why would you ever stop playing a computer game?

Same reasons apply to gods occupying avatars.

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  • $\begingroup$ I found this answer in the delete queue. You should add more details so that it stays up. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2023 at 21:32
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Too many impostors, people become sceptic

When it is so common to have around people possessed by a god it fuels the number of people who claim to be a god. Some pretend to be high priests some just go around making shows with false miracles and hat tricks. Eventually people grow sceptic and they may even doubt the king.

Accidents and strange events may happen also under the watch of a god. But if the king tenure is less than perfect, he is going to lose some authority. That is something that a god cannot stand.

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Love

While many gods may find humans to be an existence beneath them, there are also many stories of gods falling in love with humans (hence demigods such as Hercules).

So why would the god falling in love cause them to leave? Pick any of the reasons suggested by other commenters.

Hosting a god is sure to deteriorate the body and the mind. Perhaps those hosted by gods have dark demises or over the extended lifespan lose their minds. Perhaps its as something as simple as you cannot love someone properly while being a part of them.

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  1. Because the body is worn out;
  2. Because the god is bored with it;
  3. Divine fashions have changed (I wouldn't be seen dead in that body; it's so last year).
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