Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Originally, a pantheon was a sacred building dedicated to the worship of all the Gods. It then came to designate a place or habitation where the gods assembled in a family group. It is now most usually used to describe the gods themselves, collectively, when so assembled. Classic examples found in fantasy include the Egyptian pantheon (> Egypt), the closely linked Greek and Roman pantheons (> Greek and Latin Classics), the Hindu pantheon (> Sanskrit Literature), the gods and goddesses who dominate Irish, Welsh and Scottish mythology (> Celtic Fantasy), the Aesir and their kin in the Nordic pantheon (> Nordic Fantasy), and the Aztec pantheon. Authors of fictions not set in Secondary Worlds sometimes use classic pantheons directly – like Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light (1967), which is based on the Hindu model, and Kenneth Morris, whose The Chalchiuhite Dragon (1992) is based on the Aztec. They also create pantheons out of whole cloth – like Zelazny in the Amber sequence, H P Lovecraft in the Cthulhu Mythos, Lord Dunsany – whose The Gods of Pegana (coll of linked stories 1905) is intentionally a kind of holy book establishing a pantheon and its traditions – and Clark Ashton Smith, whose stories are full of gods consorting together. These pantheons tend to Parody those which already exist.

Fantasies set in secondary worlds are normally fitted with a pantheon. Examples – from E R Eddison and J R R Tolkien through Philip José Farmer, Mary Gentle, Tanith Lee, Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett and Jack Vance – are innumerable. Pantheons are part of the furniture of much Genre Fantasy. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.