Recently, I looked up something related to cultus in Google and discovered that (yet another) term that actually has a real meaning has been gifted to a car.
As a librarian, I often teach Google searching. The most important thing about looking anything up in Google is that it’s sometimes not the right place. As an example, I will often use a combination of Google Books and library catalogs (ones where I have borrowing privileges) simultaneously. Google Books is great for narrowing down to a set of titles, and looking those titles up in library catalogs will usually let me find the Library of Congress Subject Headings under which non-digital things and old esoteric things fall.
As another example, information is a commodity that has value. Google is an advertising company that tricks you into expecting that information will be gratuit. Advertisers are actually subsidizing your searching. This means that the Internet is actually a diverse cluster of communities with different types of privilege based on their economic power to afford other things. If you don’t have a university affiliation, you’ll often have to use a public library, its interlibrary loan services, and strategic purchasing. There’s also a lot held in paywalled electronic databases that universities and colleges pay for — and this stuff is often not indexed in Google, so you’ll only know it’s there by using the library.
That said, here are some search strings that polytheists should know about if you ever actually want to find information about gods in Google.
- “gods” Greek OR Hellenic — Because Google stems words, you should put “gods” in paggro quotes at all times while searching. This forces Google to look for gods plural. This will work for other words, too.
- giving cultus -suzuki -“cultus lake” — Because the minus sign attached to a word (or a phrase) will remove that phrase from your results.
This can be summarized as: Identify the keywords you want, figure out what things you don’t want have in common, and limit to just the desired stuff.
And now we get to the complicated examples.
See, there is now a K-pop girl band called the Nine Muses that has just turned the world upside-down. And this is where a Google Image search turns from what was once a guaranteed look at images from Disney’s Hercules and a bunch of nice vase paintings into a really interesting problem.
This is probably not what you want.
The first search string I tried did not successfully remove the girl band: “nine muses” -kpopfans -“k-pop fans” -ticket -korean -sungha -kyungri -hyemi -sojin -keumjo -jaekyung -rana -bini -leesem -sera -eunji -euaerin -minha -hyuna -kpop -“k-pop” -“girl band”
This is because the vocabulary used to describe the women in the photos does not have a real pattern — a bunch of people just called them the Nine Muses or used words like “dance” or “lyric” that I can’t actually remove from the search results because it will kill everything we want.
Searching for “nine muses” goddesses will get us mostly what we want, but with a few girl band cameos. The search “nine muses” goddesses -kpopfans -“k-pop fans” -ticket -korean -sungha -kyungri -hyemi -sojin -keumjo -jaekyung -rana -bini -leesem -sera -eunji -euaerin -minha -hyuna -kpop -“k-pop” -“korean pop” -“girl band” does a bit better. Adding words like greek or vase will also help.
You can also get quite far with the search “nine muses” statues OR vases OR murals OR mosaics. Remember, Google will stem the words unless you put single words in quotation marks — this means that a search for statues will also search for statue and other forms of the word.
A place where this gets really complicated in Google searching is actually looking for Egyptian gods. I thought that the above things were annoying until I realized that Seshat is the goddess I have probably been trying to worship since my late teens because Edward Butler is amazing. I’m pretty sure that no one has written a cheap ebook called How to Worship Egyptian Gods When You’re A Hellenist and Want to ID What Egyptians Do for Libations and Single-God Sacrifices.
I thought that the Nine Muses problem was challenging until I realized that Egyptian mummies and various other stuff are so pop culture that it’s a wonder anyone can get anything done on the Google. It’s probably not helping that I’m an outsider just starting her research.
(Don’t worry. I also checked library resources and found a few good things.)
The first search was not great. I did “how to worship” egyptian gods and didn’t use my paggro quotes. You’ll see that Result #3 is an advice link on how to worship the Christian god with fear and reverence. Nope.
The second search does actually take out a lot of the Christian stuff just by adding quotation marks: “how to worship” egyptian gods.
Once I learned some of Seshat’s other names, I was then able to use an OR operator to look for all of them. This specific search is a bit different — it shows you that Google will sometimes try to hypercorrect your alt spellings. I also restricted this search to Tumblr because Tumblr polytheists are a wealth of information on new ways to give cultus to gods because it’s basically polytheistic #fitspo (fitness inspiration for those unfamiliar with the hashtag), and I hoped that someone there would be waxing poetical about her.
You can also do things like site:edu or site:org to restrict to those domains.
The following image shows a bunch of different searches that I tried. This was, as I said, a complement to the work in library resources — which went a lot better because libraries are designed for this kind of research.
- “how to worship” egyptian gods
- “how to worship” egyptian “gods” reconstructionism
- egyptian “seshat” OR “seshet” OR “safkhet” site:tumblr.com
- goddess “seshat” OR “seshet” OR “safkhet” site:tumblr.com
- egyptian “seshat” OR “seshet” OR “safkhet” prayers or hymns
- egyptian “seshat” OR “seshet” OR “safkhet” prayers or hymns kemetism
I hope that this was insightful for anyone curious about how a librarian polytheist makes her way around the web.