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TL;DR: How would adults deal with super-powered, godlike teenagers?

A little background: The gods have mortal avatars. They walk around as physical gods and generally head their religions, making sure that people know what they actually want, although certain gods do differ on this, making religion… complicated. In order to stay in the mortal world, they reincarnate themselves in a mortal body the instant that they die, marked in such a way that the priests know exactly who they are – and, generally, move them into a temple with the parents as soon as possible. They're born, they live, they age, they die. In their early years, they'll know that they're a god because everyone around them tells them so, and possibly because of fragmented memories. Around the time they hit puberty, they'll start to receive more of their power and memories, and by the time they die, they will be a physical god with the same memories as before.

And yes, you read the above correctly. They start receiving memories from past lives and power usually around the age that a modern kid would be surviving junior high/high school, and this is probably the worst possible time for someone to start receiving massive responsibility, random, hormone-triggered memory dumps, and immense power. So, as you might guess, sometimes teenage gods can get a little bit "testy", especially given that at this age, however well-natured they might be, by nurture they can be spoiled, extremely stressed brats.

When a superpowered teenager starts mouthing off to you, what do you do? They're not as powerful as they're going to be eventually, but if they became angry they could, theoretically, vaporize you and get away with it. The adults surrounding the gods are worshippers, as well, which doubtlessly makes this phase difficult every time: would you reprimand the person you worship, or just grovel, grumble, and deal with it? Do you risk presenting yourself to another physical deity and ask them to give a sharp reprimand? How do you balance worship and discipline?

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  • $\begingroup$ I recommend putting them on a steady diet of ritalin, prozac and whatever else you need to keep them zoned out for life, then put them on a throne for all to see. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Nov 23 '15 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ This somehow really reminds me of Noragami $\endgroup$ – CerebralFart Nov 23 '15 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ What you describe is every God in ancient mythology - Greek, Indian, etc. What you do, is handle them like you would a bully. They've got superpowers, so you most definitely cant fight them. So fear them, and try to appease them by praying, praising, and sacrificing an occasional virgin! (seriously, don't do the last part though!) $\endgroup$ – insanity Nov 23 '15 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ Job come to mind $\endgroup$ – jean Nov 23 '15 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ Teenagers already are super-powered and godlike. They also know everything. Just ask them. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange Apr 28 '16 at 6:41
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I imagine that, once a "god" lives to a certain age, they start to realize they might die soon, and they make arrangements for the proper handling of their next incarnation.

One possibility is they write some letters (or record some videos, et cetera). "Hello, younger me. I'm you, but you don't have all my memories yet. While you're growing, you're going to be prone to mood swings and bad decisions. I've assigned you some caretakers, but it's very important that you treat them with respect. If you hurt them, they'll go away and you won't have them any more. Eventually you'll be old enough and responsible enough to hire your own people..."

In the ideal case, a god would get another god to take care of their younger self, as a sort of apprenticeship program. When Thor is young, Odin takes care of him; when Odin dies and reincarnates, the older Thor returns the favor. Probably not all gods have friends they can trust to take care of them properly, but most will.

Also worth noting: teenage misery is caused by many things, but a lot of it is environmental. Most of us reading this are adults now, but imagine you had to live as a teenager for a few years: live with your parents, eat what they want to feed you, do the chores they assign you. Be home by 9pm, spend eight hours a day in school memorizing details you'll never use in real life, spend more time after school on homework. You'd be miserable too! Many of these restrictions are in place for the convenience of the parents, who want to live their own life rather than take care of the teenager all day. If the parents are replaced by people who are actually being paid to take care of the teenage god, a lot of that misery might go away.

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    $\begingroup$ 'I remember you telling me off for doing this when you were my guardian, Thor.' 'Did I? Well Odin, I was a horrible person!' $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 24 '15 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ Accepted because this makes sense and keeps the setting from getting too grimdark. The gods are only incarnating as shadows of their former selves in order to hold things together post-apocalypse, so I need to keep them... somewhat responsible, if only to make it believable that they've staved off the Lovecraftian nightmare as long as they have. $\endgroup$ – Midwinter Sun Nov 24 '15 at 21:22
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How would adults deal with super-powered, godlike teenagers?

Look at the ancient Greek stories. I always thought it made sense to have being with superpowers and all the usual human psychological issues simply acting like you would expect people would if they had superpowers and no responsibilities and poor parenting.

Zeus would bed anything that moves, even turning himself into animals and things to do so. The older generation did nothing but distrust each other and amuse themselves by messing with humans and/or the younger gods and demigods. While the older ones were machiavellian, the younger had no social skills whatsoever. I generalize, but you get the idea.

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Your question isn't very explicit on that part, but if I assume some similarity with Greek/Roman Gods, when they are full fledged, they tend to have distinct and specific personalities and power.

And even as their younger self, they have their own personalities. They might not remember, or have their powers, but the genetics part of it is the same. There are some debates about what comes from genetic inheritance and what comes from experience and upbringing, but the Gods before dying may actually have set a given upbringing for their future self. As you wrote, they are sent to a monastery-like as babies. So the inherited being the same and the upbringing being controlled, you'll have a smoother transition than if suddenly a normal teenager got God-like powers without mental preparation before hand.

With that kind of background being set, I don't think there's a unique way to answer your question. Each God/dess will need to be treated differently depending on his/her characteristics. I can imagine that being close to the teenage Goddess of war could be challenging. And the priest around her will learn pretty quick to read her mood or mood changes, and possibly develop some solid running capabilities. The Goddess of Wisdom, however, would be easier to deal with, even if you might have to bring the best philosophers of the time, to answer all her questions.

Even if your Gods don't have a view of the future, they can share their own experience of their past so that their own churches can actually prepare themselves and the God-kids for those troubling years.

Learning to play the Smashing Pumpkins might be a required skill to enter the church.

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Worhispers

For general worshipers, the responses would likely depend on the character of people who tend to be attracted to worshiping a given deity. This would largely be dependent upon the type of deity they are, what they are over, and their 'normal' adult personality (which I am guessing tends to be longer than normal human lifespans for their time). It also depends on what types of protections worship confers and if there are other defensive magics which could be employed as a buffer against random outbursts.

For instance, if a god of fire confers protection from fire to those who worship them, then their fiery outburst is of less concern to their worshipers than it is to non-worshipers.

Caretakers

Caretakers would likely need to know the history of the individual deity they are taking care of, know the signs of an outburst, common triggers, and what types of outburst that deity is likely to have in a given situation. This is the same as any attentive parent understanding each of their children as individuals. What works on one won't necessarily work on another.

(Note: The following is more about what a deity might do knowing this happens rather than their worshiper's reactions, which are too varied to nail down.)

Pantheons

The situation you describe would lend itself well to a generalized pantheon structure as each deity, knowing that they will go through these periods of instability, will reach out to others to have a network of divine support. While on a day to day basis specially trained priests and priestesses would care for the young deity they might have a way to contact their deities allies to calm them down / put them in check when acting out. Assuming all is well.

Divine Wars

The deities of a given pantheon would attempt to ensure that not very many of them are young at the same time, but pantheon wars could definitely make this difficult to ensure. Often, enemy pantheons will wait to launch their attacks until their targets are mostly young and unreliable. If massively imbalanced this could generate a major ebb and flow of the ruling divine powers over the world, one ruling while the other's avatars are all young until they start to die out and the 'next/previous' generation comes into power, killing off the remaining enemy deities while they have little support.

Infant Deicide

A rival pantheon might establish their own balance while they are in power and begin a campaign of hunting down the young avatars whenever they surface, ensuring they can never truly challenge them back. This could generate a situation where the priests of the weakened pantheon might need to separate the young deities into seclusion to ensure that at least some of them could survive to adulthood to aid their brothers and sisters and eventually challenge their rival's control.

Trapping Gods

A rival pantheon might imprison their divine enemies, keeping them alive as long as possible, ensuring they know where they are rather than letting them spring up anywhere, unchecked.

Temptation

Another good plot element to consider would be tempting a deity in their youth to switch pantheons, abandon the others and be on the 'winning side' of history.

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This sounds a lot to me, like a child king. England had a few of them and the Egyptians had child pharaohs. They spent their childhood being worshipped with any maternal or paternal attention. This often made them quite spiteful when you can get away with any thing. However assuming that these Gods aren't omniscient (if they were then they'd have their old memories already) then really they're just as small-minded as a normal teen. The things they want are petty and they're easy to appease.

Of course you don't want to get on the wrong side of a God with dangerous super-powers but I would suggest appointing each God advisors, maybe even having a message for a previous life?

If regardless, the teen is still a complete train wreck, just sucking up and appeasing him, and satisfying them will make them less agitated. If in your world, Gods have seniority maybe you could go to an older God to help guide the younger one.

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