This article is about the concept of small gods. For the Discworld novel also called Small Gods, see Small Gods (novel).
Small gods are a special classification of deity unique to the fictional Discworld universe created by author Terry Pratchett. They do however possess analogues in our world, particularly the Graeco-Roman concept of numina or the Japanese kami. They are the gods of slightly significant places; the hair rising on the back of your neck as you enter a suddenly still glade. They do not manifest as great anthropomorphic titans of the sky but rather, if they are noticed at all, as a simple, faceless presence. There are two very different kinds, by far the most common being those who have yet to accumulate enough human belief to obtain any true power or purpose. There is an almost infinite number of these gods on the Disc; Pratchett compares their hidden ubiquity to that of bacteria in our world. The other, far rarer kind of small god is one that was once worshipped by large numbers of people across a vast area, but is all but forgotten now. Such a god may still have memory of its former days, but its identity will be almost completely lost, even to itself.
A god may become small even if it has a large following. It is well established in the novel Small Gods that while many people call themselves Omnians, only one (Brutha) actually believes. Therefore, while the following is large, the god Om himself is very small, both in size and power.
A household god on the Discworld is a small god that has a limited number of committed believers, perhaps only one, but nonetheless enough to manifest in a specific visible form. The Unseen University was plagued by a plethora of household gods in Hogfather when a surfeit of belief caused by the Hogfather's absence led to their uncontrolled random generation. It could be argued that the great god Om, having been reduced to just one true believer, was a household god for most of Small Gods.
The city of Ankh-Morpork has a Temple of Small Gods, which provides spiritual solace to those who, while they may accept the idea of a deistic presence in the universe, don't really have a clue what it might be. Its cemetery is the favoured burial ground of the City Watch.
These are those gods named so far which could be considered small gods or household gods:
Big Rat UndergroundEdit
The creator god somewhat hazily conjectured by the Clan in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Some of the Clan believe that if a rat has been a good rat, then when the Bone Rat comes, he will take them to the Big Rat, who has a tunnel full of food. Most of the rats who think about this are continually questioning it, so it's not clear if there is enough belief for a god to form. Still, one rat's near-death experience seems to suggest there may be something similar to the Big Rat Underground waiting for the Clan beyond death.
The "Oh God of hangovers". His reason for being is to feel the after-effects of drinking, instead of the god Bibulous (the Discworld's Bacchus). He is one of the characters who appears during the events of Hogfather, due to there being a lot of unused belief floating around.
Thanks to the wizards of the Unseen University Bilious' symptoms are reversed for a time and he is able to help Susan on her quest (and make Bilious feel thoroughly miserable. After all, everyone knows a good hangover cure has got to involve a lot of humorous shouting, et cetera, and this one was made by wizards). While most of the beings created in Hogfather disappeared at the end, it is possible he remained because of the belief that Violet (a tooth fairy) had in him, in which case he may have begun a relationship with her, and started a career as a temp-worker for gods that want a holiday. Or, alternatively, since you don't die in the Tooth Fairy's Castle, he could still be there as he is unable to die from lack of belief.
A "rather liberal" god in the opinion of Constable Visit, "not big on commandments". His followers died out fighting some of the most gruesome wars in the history of the Unnamed Continent. An excerpt from the Cenotine "Book of Truth" was the Chem of the golem Dorfl, until Carrot Ironfoundersson purchased him and set him free by replacing it with the receipt of the purchase.
The Howondalandish tribe of this Goddess believed that their ancestors resided in the Moon. After a signal from their ancestors (an unusually large flare from the Moon) they were urged to kill anyone who didn't believe in Glipzo. Three years later the tribe was destroyed by a rock falling out of the sky, as a result of a star exploding a billion years before. Mentioned in The Last Hero.
God of EvolutionEdit
The paradoxical God of Evolution appears briefly in The Last Continent, where he is found 'sculpting' animals. Since he hasn't figured out reproduction yet, he makes every animal unique.
Although no-one believes in the God of Evolution, he survives thanks to his own strong belief. He does not believe in himself, because he is an atheist, but he believes in what he does. During events detailed in The Last Continent, he briefly takes on Ponder Stibbons as an apprentice, but scares him off when he reveals his most perfect creation to be the cockroach. This may be a reference to the real statement of J. B. S. Haldane that "God must have inordinate fondness of beetles". He subsequently appears in The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch, where he is inadvertently responsible for a lot of confusion. The God of Evolution exists in part to parody the concept of Intelligent Design.
The Goddess of Shoes. She has a small following that gathers in the Temple of Small Gods and worships the Sacred Lace of Hyperopia. Mentioned in Reaper Man and Discworld Noir. Named after the technical term for long-sightedness, and it is possible that she is inspired by the Greek goddess Nike, and the shoes named after her.
The Goddess of Interminable Opera. She is one of the many gods and goddesses recognised in the Temple of Small Gods. Mentioned in Discworld Noir.
Nuggan is the locally worshipped monotheistic and omnipotent God of Borogravia, but elsewhere he is known as the God of Paperclips, Correct Things in the Right Place in Small Desk Stationery Sets, and Unnecessary Paperwork. He usually sports a fussy little moustache.
His holy writ (the Book of Nuggan) is a Living Testament, into which more material is added on a regular basis. All believers regularly add pages to the ring binder Appendices, which then eventually fill with more commandments, usually Abominations unto Nuggan. By the time of Monstrous Regiment, his commandments were becoming rather nonsensical and impractical - among his ever-growing list of Abominations were cats, the colour blue, Dwarfs, oysters, mushrooms, chocolate, garlic, babies, cheese, the smell of beets, ears, jigsaw puzzles, and rocks. He is also very opposed to the clacks system, as it interferes with the prayers of the faithful.
His existence is the basis for Monstrous Regiment and he appears in The Last Hero. He is now dead because belief has switched to his Abominations, similar to the events leading to Om's weakening in Small Gods.
In Monstrous Regiment Nuggan seems to have been reduced to an echo that sometimes whispers incoherent words, which are interpreted as new prohibitions, presumably by some priests.
The God of a Howondalandish tribe which wiped out the nearby N'tuitif tribe at his signal (an unusually large flare from the Moon). Shortly after, this tribe was also wiped out by another tribe who worshipped the goddess Glipzo. Mentioned in The Last Hero.
Thousands of years ago this god was a major competitor against Om. The god now being completely forgotten by humans, only Om recalls the existence of Ur-Gilash. Now a Small God, which is the fate of all gods who lose their believers, he may have been encountered by Om while the tortoise-god was crossing the desert with Brutha. Om and Brutha came across a small god who knew genuine god-speech, which was such a rarity that given the location, Om reasoned that it was once Ur-Gilash himself. Mentioned in Small Gods.