|Physical appearance||Changed at will; in Small Gods mostly as a tortoise, but in power also as the more traditional human, swan and bull forms.|
|Residence||wherever he wants, now.|
|Books||Small Gods, The Science of Discworld IV: Judgment Day|
As far as gods go, Om is fairly lazy. In the events of Small Gods, despite having a huge empire of worshippers, he only has one true believer, Brutha. He started (as all Discworld gods) as a faint pinch of ego, and as he accumulated belief he became more powerful and vengeful. After conquering and smiting his opposition's flock of believers he became the most powerful god in the area. Eventually the rituals and priesthood became the true focus of belief, leaving the god dying within the shell of a religion. (This is compared to a type of fish, which accumulates a bigger and bigger shell, then dies) In these times he tried to come to earth as a white bull or a swan (like Zeus, etc. in Roundworld mythologies) but he only had the belief of two people in the world (Brutha and his Grandmother) so he appeared on earth as a tortoise with amnesia.
Om, through an amazing coincidence, managed to land in a soft spot right next to his one surviving believer, Brutha, after being dropped from the sky by an eagle who hoped to eat the shattered tortoise. This was after several years of being a tortoise.
When manifesting at the height of his powers, he speaks in commandments. Due to the time he spent as a tortoise, one of them involves commanding his worshipers to pick up tortoises and carry them wherever they bloody well please. Unless, and this is important, you are an eagle.
Om's worshippers have founded a church-state, Omnia. The Omnians' fervent but often mistaken beliefs have long been causes of war on the continent of Klatch. Om, like many other gods, likes to manifest to some human and claim to be one of the more powerful gods. Yet, the Omnians tend to subsequently proclaim that human as a prophet, and say that Om has said that he is the only god. For centuries, Omnians insist that Om chooses a prophet every two hundred years, while in fact Om just manifests and speaks casually whenever he likes. He cannot recall ever dictating any of the books that the prophets passed on to the Omnian church. Some of the prophets Om cannot recall ever meeting. The burning bush incident he recalls mostly as an exercise in "Hey, look what I can do!". He manifests himself as a white bull, or as a tortoise (though not intentionally) (See Small Gods).
Ever since the time of Brutha, Omnians have been encouraged to question more of Om's teaching, leading to frequent schisms (as mentioned in Carpe Jugulum). These schisms lead to some fairly unusually named sects ("Reunited Free Chelonianists", who later schismed into a "Hubwards Convocation" and a "Rimwards Convocation" - see Annotations). Before Brutha, it would have been heresy to declare that there were such directions, as the world was quite clearly round, and orbiting the sun, rather than (as it in fact is) a disc borne on the backs of four elephants standing on the shell of a turtle.
Notable Sects, Schisms and Sub-Divisions
- The Church of the Latter-Day Omnians has since surfaced in Ankh-Morpork, and makes a nuisance of itself in the debate on who has title to the Roundworld Project, Church or Science.
- ReUnited Free Chelonianists (Hubwards Convocation)
- ReUnited Free Chelonianists (Rimwards Convocation)
- Very, Very, Very Plain Omnianism is practiced by a schismatic group who are described in The Compleat Discworld Atlas as "religious extremists" who fled persecution in the old Omnia and in fact fled as far away as they could, to the Great Outdoors, where they live a nomadic and extremely plain existence in the Slaked Plains, farming the rich bounty of the salt flats and practicing an ultra-strict rule version of the religion. The description suggests they have a lot in common with religious groupings in Roundworld's USA who fled Europe, or in the case of the Mormons the East Coast, to escape religious intolerance of a sort that didn't like their sort of religious intolerance.
"Omni-" is a prefix meaning "all", famously used in connection with the Roundworld Judeo-Christian God, as in "omniscient/omnicognisant" (all-knowing), "omnipotent" (all-powerful) and "omnipresent" (present everywhere at any time). Although the prefix is "Omni", "Om" is the part of the words more immediately visible as common, and thus: The Great God Om.
The most likely precedent for using the word 'Om', however, comes from the syllable chanted ad infinitum by certain followers of vaguely Buddhist-Hindu traditions - generally with crossed legs and arms extended with thumbs and forefingers touching. The origin of this is in the word Aum, the syllable with which we are told Brahma brought the world into being in the Hindu tradition, and which itself is made up of four parts, representing the four stages of consciousness: awake, asleep, dreaming and the opening of the third eye of wisdom through meditation. In fact, these four stages precisely summarise the downfall and rise to new heights which Om personally experiences throughout the course of events related in Small Gods. From a state of normal awareness (everyday consciousness) Om, unaware of how much belief in him has drained away, attempts to manifest but turns into his tortoise form by mistake - like a witch who has Borrowed another form for too long, his awareness of having been a great God is lost to the tortoise form, just as the ego disintegrates for anyone when they fall asleep. He enters the dream-state, (mana), and to all intents and purposes, becomes a tortoise. We are told he wanders as a humble tortoise for three years, losing an eye (shades of the god Odin) in an unspecified incident. Then an encounter with a passing eagle is the million-to-one chance that puts him near enough to his one last remaining True Believer (Brutha) for him to awake again and remember who he is (or was. Or will be again). Finally, the power of the Third Eye awakens at the climax of the book, and he resumes his Godhood.
The religion of Om also has much in common with the Judeo-Christian religions, in terms of smiting, manifestations, monotheism, churches, sermons, inquisitions, commandments and the dry, dusty, desert country it calls home. "Catholic" originally meant "universal" or "Omnipresent".
The schisms of the Church mimic a Roundworld joke about a strict Scottish Presbyterian congregation (or a Southern Baptist church in the USA, according to taste and nationality) which progressively splits and schisms over the tiniest articles of faith, until there is a Western Congregation sitting on the left-hand side of the aisle, and an Eastern Congregation, using the right-hand pews of the same church... (see "Discussion")
Possible earlier appearance?
The following passage appears in Pyramids.
He found Ptraci sitting on the grass under a poplar tree, feeding the tortoise. He gave it a suspicious look, in case it was a god trying it on. It did not look like a god. If it was a god, it was putting on an incredibly good act.
This might be a sly appearance of Om in his amnesiac tortoise days. Of course, it could just be co-incidence (or some nice foreshadowing).