What are the myths and legends that inspired Neil Gaiman’s American Gods?

Take a look through our mythology guides and find out more about the Old Gods, from Mr Jacquel to Mad Sweeney to Czernobog

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Neil Gaiman borrowed gods from legends and mythologies he found around the world and used them to construct his epic fantasy novel American Gods. Gaiman’s America is populated with Irish, Norse, Slavic, African and Middle Eastern deities – and now they’ve been brought to TV by Amazon and Starz. 

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If watching American Gods has left you desperate to know more about the stories behind the Old Gods, here is a round-up of our mythology explainers for each of the characters:

(SPOILER ALERT: We should probably warn you that there are a few spoilers here and there in these explainers. So if you want to avoid plot details about how each god first appears on screen, you’d be best advised to wait until you’ve seen that episode.)


Who is Germanic spring goddess Easter or Ostara?

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Was Ostara worshipped long before Jesus arrived on the scene? Read more about the origins of Ostara, the Venerable Bede and the Brothers Grimm


Who is Bilquis, the goddess who consumes her sexual partners?

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Played by Yetide Badaki, this goddess of love is based on the biblical figure the Queen of Sheba. Read more about Bilquis


Who is Ancient Egyptian god of wisdom Mr Ibis?

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Mr Ibis also goes by Thoth, and he plays an important role in Ancient Egyptian mythology. Read more about the story behind this god of wisdom and writing.


Why are there multiple versions of Jesus?

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American Gods introduces us to Mexican Jesus, White Jesus and Black Jesus. Read more about why there are so many Jesuses in Gaiman’s America


Who is Ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife Mr Jacquel?

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This very, very old god is also known as Anubis, the canine god who developed from a jackal god many thousands of years ago. Read more about the mythology behind Mr Jacquel  


Who is the jinn in the taxi with the flaming eyes?

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American Gods has caused quite a stir with a ground-breaking, erotic gay sex scene between this down-on-his-luck god and his passenger, Salim. But what is a jinn or an ifrit, and why do his eyes burn? Read more here. 


Who are the three Zorya sisters and where do they come from?

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Zorya Vechernyaya, Zorya Polunochnaya and Zorya Utrennyaya have their roots in Slavic mythology. Read more about these guardian goddesses here


Who is Mr Nancy the African trickster god?

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Mr Nancy is otherwise known as Anansi, and his origins lie in present-day Ghana. Read more about Anansi and how he came to travel the world 


Who is bloodthirsty Slavic god Czernobog?

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“Bad god” Czernobog now lives in Chicago, where he reminisces about hitting people over the head with his sledgehammer. Read more about his roots in 12th century Slavic mythology


Which god is Mr Wednesday based on?

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Meet the King of the Gods: Odin. Read more about the All-Father from Norse mythology 


Who is Irish leprechaun Mad Sweeney?

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Leprechaun folklore combines with a tale of a frenzied Irish king to create a very angry god. Read more about the stories and myths which inspired Mad Sweeney


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American Gods is available on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, with new episodes added every week. Episodes air on US channel Starz on Sunday nights.