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In Japanese mythology, Hachiman (八幡神, Hachiman-jin/Yahata no kami) is the Japanese syncretic god of archery and war, incorporating elements from both Shinto and Buddhism. Although often called the god of war, he is more correctly defined as the tutelary god of warriors. He is also divine protector of Japan and the Japanese people. The name means God of Eight Banners, referring to the eight heavenly banners that signaled the birth of the divine Emperor Ōjin. His symbolic animal and messenger is the dove.
Since ancient times Hachiman was worshiped by peasants as the god of agriculture and by fishermen who hoped he would fill their nets with much fish. In the Shinto religion, he became identified by legend as the Emperor Ōjin, son of Empress Consort Jingū, from the 3rd – 4th century AD.
After the arrival of Buddhism in Japan, Hachiman became a syncretistic deity, fusing elements of the native kami worship with Buddhism (shinbutsu shūgō). In the Buddhist pantheon in 8th century AD, he became Hachiman Great Bodhisattva (八幡大菩薩, Hachiman Daibosatsu
Because as Emperor Ōjin he was an ancestor of the Minamoto clan, Hachiman became the tutelary kami (氏神, ujigami) of the Minamoto samurai clan. Minamoto no Yoshiie, upon coming of age at Iwashimizu Shrine in Kyoto, took the name Hachiman Taro Yoshiie and through his military prowess and virtue as a leader, became regarded and respected as the ideal samurai through the ages. After Minamoto no Yoritomo became shogun and established the Kamakura shogunate, Hachiman’s popularity grew and he became by extension the protector of the warrior class the shogun had brought to power. For this reason, the shintai of a Hachiman shrine is usually a stirrup or a bow.
Throughout the Japanese medieval period, the worship of Hachiman spread throughout Japan among not only samurai, but also the peasantry. So much so was his popularity that presently there are 25000 Shinto shrines in Japan dedicated to Hachiman, the second most numerous after shrines dedicated to Inari. Usa Shrine in Usa, Oita prefecture is head shrine of all of these shrines and together with Iwashimizu Hachiman-gū, Hakozaki-gū and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, are noted as the most important of all the shrines dedicated to him.
The crest of Hachiman is in the design of a mitsudomoe, a round whirlpool or vortex with three heads swirling right or left. Many samurai clans used this crest as their own, ironically including some that traced their ancestry back to the mortal enemy of the Minamoto, the Taira of the Emperor Kammu line (K
Fūjin (風神) or Futen is the Japanese god of the wind and one of the eldest Shinto gods.
He is portrayed as a terrifying dark demon, resembling a red headed black humanoid wearing a leopard skin, carrying a large bag of winds on his shoulders. In Japanese art, the deity is often depicted together with Raijin, the god of lightning, thunder and storms. According to Kojiki, Fujin (Shina-Tsu-Hiko) was born from Izanami.
The iconography of Fujin seems to have its origin in the cultural exchanges along the Silk Road. Starting with the Hellenistic period when Greece occupied parts of Central Asia and India, the Greek wind god Boreas became the god Wardo in Greco-Buddhist art, then a wind deity in China (frescoes of the Tarim Basin), and finally the Japanese Wind God Fujin.
The wind god kept its symbol, the windbag, and its dishevelled appearance throughout this evolution.
Photo 2: The image of the wind god changing.
Raijin is a god of lightning, thunder and storms in the Shinto religion and in Japanese mythology. His name is derived from the Japanese words rai (雷, meaning ‘thunder’) and shin (神, ‘god’ or ‘kami’). He is typically depicted as a demon-looking spirit beating drums to create thunder, usually with the symbol tomoe drawn on the drums. He is also known by the following names:
Yakusa no ikazuchi nokami: Yakusa (八, eight) and ikazuchi (雷, thunder) and kami (神, spirit or deity)
Kaminari-sama: kaminari (雷, kaminari, thunder) and -sama (様, a Japanese honorific meaning “master”)
Raiden-sama: rai (雷, thunder), den (電, lightning), and -sama (様, master).
Narukami: naru (鳴, thundering/rolling) and kami (神, spirit or deity)
According to Kojiki, eight kinds Raijin(Yakusa no ikazuchi no kami) was born from Izanami. The “eight kinds of thunder kami” that festered inside Izanami’s corpse as seen by her consort Izanagi in the underworld of Yomi. Suffering mortal injury from giving birth to the fire kami Kagutsuchi, Izanami died and went to the underworld, where she was followed by Izanagi. Disobeying Izanami’s warning not to look upon her, Izanagi lit a torch and saw her rotting body swollen and covered with maggots, and inhabited by the “eight thunder kami.”
Photo, from left to right: Raijin and Fujin.
Ryūjin shinkō (竜神信仰, "dragon god faith") is a form of Shinto religious belief that worships dragons as water kami. It is connected with agricultural rituals, rain prayers, and the success of fishermen.
Ryūjin or Ryōjin (龍神, "dragon god"), also known as Ōwatatsumi, was the tutelary deity of the sea in Japanese mythology. This Japanese dragon symbolized the power of the ocean, had a large mouth, and was able to transform into a human shape. Ryūjin lived in Ryūgū-jō, his palace under the sea built out of red and white coral, from where he controlled the tides with magical tide jewels. Sea turtles, fish and jellyfish are often depicted as Ryūjin’s servants.
Ryūjin was the father of the beautiful goddess Otohime who married the hunter prince Hoori. The first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, is said to have been a grandson of Otohime and Hoori’s. Thus, Ryūjin is said to be one of the ancestors of the Japanese imperial dynasty.
According to legend, the Empress Jingū was able to carry out her attack into Korea with the help of Ryūjin’s tide jewels. Upon confronting the Korean navy, Jingū threw the kanju (干珠, "tide-ebbing jewel") into the sea, and the tide receded. The Korean fleet was stranded, and the men got out of their ships. Jingū then threw down the manju (満珠, "tide-flowing jewel") and the water rose, drowning the Korean soldiers. An annual festival, called Gion Matsuri, at Yasaka Shrine celebrates this legend.
Another legend involving Ryūjin is the story about how the jellyfish lost its bones. According to this story, Ryūjin wanted to eat monkey’s liver (in some versions of the story, to heal an incurable rash), and sent the jellyfish to get him a monkey. The monkey managed to sneak away from the jellyfish by telling him that he had put his liver in a jar in the forest and offered to go and get it. As the jellyfish came back and told Ryūjin what had happened, Ryūjin became so angry that he beat the jellyfish until its bones were crushed.
Typhon, also Typhoeus (Τυφωεύς, Tuphōeus), Typhaon (Τυφάων, Tuphaōn) or Typhos (Τυφώς, Tuphōs) was the last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, and the most deadly monster of Greek mythology. He was known as the “Father of all monsters”; his wife Echidna was likewise the “Mother of All Monsters.”
Typhon was described in pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, as the largest and most fearsome of all creatures. His human upper half reached as high as the stars. His hands reached east and west and, instead of a human head, he had a hundred dragon heads; some however depict him as having a human head and the dragon heads being attached to his hands instead of fingers. He was feared even by the mighty gods. His bottom half was gigantic viper coils that could reach the top of his head when stretched out and made a hissing noise. His whole body was covered in wings, and fire flashed from his eyes.
Typhon attempts to destroy Zeus at the will of Gaia, because Zeus had imprisoned the Titans. Typhon overcomes Zeus in their first battle, and tears out Zeus’ sinews. However, Hermes recovers the sinews and restores them to Zeus. Typhon is finally defeated by Zeus, who traps him underneath Mount Etna.
Typhon started destroying cities and hurling mountains in a fit of rage. All of the gods of Olympus fled to their home. Only Zeus stood firm, and the battle raged, ending when Zeus threw one hundred well aimed lighting bolts on top of Typhon, trapping him.
The inveterate enemy of the Olympian gods is described in detail by Hesiod as a vast grisly monster with a hundred serpent heads “with dark flickering tongues” flashing fire from their eyes and a din of voices and a hundred serpents legs, a feature shared by many primal monsters of Greek myth that extend in serpentine or scaly coils from the waist down. The titanic struggle created earthquakes and tsunami. Once conquered by Zeus’ thunderbolts, Typhon was cast into Tartarus, the common destiny of many such archaic adversaries, or he was confined beneath Mount Aetna (Pindar, Pythian Ode 1.19–20; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 370), where “his bed scratches and goads the whole length of his back stretched out against it”, or in other volcanic regions, where he is the cause of eruptions. Typhon is thus the chthonic figuration of volcanic forces, as Hephaestus (Roman Vulcan) is their “civilized” Olympian manifestation.
Typhon is also the father of hot dangerous storm winds which issue forth from the stormy pit of Tartarus, according to Hesiod. Likewise, the rumblings of Typhon emitted from deepest Tartarus could be clearly heard within the underground torrent near Seleuceia, now in Turkey, until his presence was neutralized by the building of a Byzantine church nearby.
Typhon fathered several children by his wife-niece, Echidna, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto:
Mars was the Roman god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions. His festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began and ended the season for military campaigning and farming.
Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.
Although Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, Mars was the son of Juno alone. Jupiter had usurped the mother’s function when he gave birth to Minerva directly from his forehead (or mind); to restore the balance, Juno sought the advice of the goddess Flora on how to do the same. Flora obtained a magic flower (Latin flos, plural flores, a masculine word) and tested it on a heifer who became fecund at once. She then plucked a flower ritually using her thumb, touched Juno’s belly, and impregnated her. Juno withdrew to Thrace and the shore of Marmara for the birth.
The spear is the instrument of Mars in the same way that Jupiter wields the lightning bolt, Neptune the trident, and Saturn the scythe or sickle. relic or fetish called the spear of Mars was kept in a sacrarium at the Regia, the former residence of the Kings of Rome. The spear was said at times to move, tremble or vibrate at impending danger to the state, as was reported to occur before the assassination of Julius Caesar.hen Mars is pictured as a peace-bringer, his spear is wreathed with laurel or other vegetation, as on the Ara Pacis or a coin of Aemilianus
In Japan, Jurōjin (寿老人), also known as Gama, is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune or Shichifukujin, according to Taoist beliefs. He is the God of longevity. Jurōjin originated from the Chinese Taoist god, the Old Man of the South Pole. He is known as the immortal of the Northern Song dynasty (960 – 1127), and may have been a historical figure of the period. Jurōjin is identified as the personification of the Southern Polar Star. While paintings and statues of Jurōjin are considered auspicious, he never developed a following independent of the other deities Seven Gods of Fortune.
Jurōjin is often identified with Fukurokuju, another of the Several Gods of Fortune. In some accounts, the two are said to inhabit the same body. As such, the two are often confused.
Jurōjin walks with a staff and a fan. He is depicted as an old man of slight stature, and by tradition, less than 3 shaku (approximately 90 centimetres (35 in)). He is depicted with a long white beard and often a very tall, bald head. He has a scroll tied to his staff, on which is written the lifespan of all living things. The scroll is sometimes identified as a Buddhist sutra. The deer, a symbol of longevity, usually (but not always) accompanies him as a messenger, as do other long-lived animals such as the crane and the tortoise.
Jurōjin is a popular subject of Japanese ink wash paintings. He was introduced into the Japanese art tradition by Zen Buddhist painters, and depictions of Jurōjin span from the Muromachi period (1337 – 1573) through the Edo period (1603 – 1868). Artists who depicted Jurōjin as a subject include Sesshū (1420 – 1506), Sesson Shukei (1504 – 1589), Kanō Tan’yū (1602 – 1674), and Maruyama Ōkyo (1733 – 1795).
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors. Ragnarök is an important event in the Norse canon, and has been the subject of scholarly discourse and theory.
The event is attested primarily in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In the Prose Edda, and a single poem in the Poetic Edda, the event is referred to as Ragnarök or Ragnarøkkr (Old Norse “Fate of the Gods” or “Twilight of the Gods” respectively), a usage popularized by 19th century composer Richard Wagner with the title of the last of his Der Ring des Nibelungen operas, Götterdämmerung (1876).
The Poetic Edda contains various references to Ragnarök:
In the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá, references to Ragnarök begin from stanza 40 until 58, with the rest of the poem describing the aftermath. In the poem, a völva recites information to Odin. In stanza 41, the völva says:
rýðr ragna siǫt
Svǫrt verða sólskin
of sumor eptir,
veðr ǫll válynd
Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?
It sates itself on the life-blood
of fated men,
paints red the powers’ homes
with crimson gore.
Black become the sun’s beams
in the summers that follow,
weathers all treacherous.
Do you still seek to know? And what?
Image one: Downfall of the Æsir
Image two: Odin and Fenrir, Freyr and Surt. Depiction by Emil Doepler, 1905.
Image three: Thor and the Midgard Serpernt. Depction by Emil Doepler, 1905.
Image four: Battle of the doomed Gods. Friedrich Willhelm Heine, 1882.
Yamata no Orochi (八岐の大蛇?, lit. “8-branched giant snake”) or Orochi, translated as the Eight-Forked Serpent in English, is a legendary 8-headed and 8-tailed Japanese dragon that was slain by the Shinto storm-god Susanoo.
Yamata no Orochi legends are originally recorded in two ancient texts about Japanese mythology and history. The ca. 680 AD Kojiki transcribes this dragon name as 八岐遠呂智 and ca. 720 AD Nihongi writes it as 八岐大蛇. In both versions of the Orochi myth, Susanoo or Susa-no-Ō is expelled from Heaven for tricking his sister Amaterasu the sun-goddess.
After expulsion from Heaven, Susanoo encounters two “Earthly Deities” (國神, kunitsukami) near the head of the Hi River (簸川), now called the Hii River (斐伊川), in Izumo Province. They are weeping because they were forced to give the Orochi one of their daughters every year for seven years, and now they must sacrifice their eighth, Kushi-inada-hime (櫛名田比売 “comb/wondrous rice-field princess”, who Susanoo transforms into a kushi 櫛 “comb” for safekeeping). The Kojiki tells the following version.
So, having been expelled, [His-Swift-impetuous-Male-Augustness] descended to a place called Tori-kami (鳥髪, now 鳥上) at the head-waters of the River Hi in the Land of Idzumo. At this time some chopsticks came floating down the stream. So His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness, thinking that there must be people at the head-waters of the river, went up it in quest of them, when he came upon an old man and an old woman, —two of them,—who had a young girl between them, and were weeping. Then he deigned to ask: “Who are ye?” So the old man replied, saying: “I am an Earthly Deity, child of the Deity Great-Mountain-Possessor. I am called by the name of Foot-Stroking-Elder, my wife is called by the name of Hand-Stroking Elder, and my daughter is called by the name of Wondrous-Inada-Princess.” Again he asked: What is the cause of your crying?” The old man answered saying: “I had originally eight young girls as daughters. But the eight-forked serpent of Koshi has come every year and devoured one, and it is now its time to come, wherefore we weep.” Then he asked him: “What is its form like?” The old man answered, saying: “Its eyes are like akahagachi, it has one body with eight heads and eight tails. Moreover on its body grows moss, and also chamaecyparis and cryptomerias. Its length extends over eight valleys and eight hills, and if one look at its belly, it is all constantly bloody and inflamed.” (What is called here akahagachi is the modern hohodzuki [winter-cherry]) Then His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness said to the old man: “If this be thy daughter, wilt thou offer her to me?” He replied, saying: “With reverence, but I know not thine august name.” Then he replied, saying: “I am elder brother to the Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Deity. So I have now descended from Heaven.” Then the Deities Foot-Stroker-Elder and Hand-Stroking-Elder said: “If that be so, with reverence will we offer her to thee.” So His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness, at once taking and changing the young girl into a multitudinous and close-toothed comb which he stuck into his august hair-bunch, said to the Deities Foot-Stroking-Elder and Hand-Stroking-Elder: “Do you distill some eight-fold refined liquor. Also make a fence round about, in that fence make eight gates, at each gate tie together eight platforms, on each platform put a liquor-vat, and into each vat pour the eight-fold refined liquor, and wait.” So as they waited after having thus prepared everything in accordance with his bidding, the eight-forked serpent came truly as [the old man] had said, and immediately dipped a head into each vat, and drank the liquor. Thereupon it was intoxicated with drinking, and all the heads lay down and slept. Then His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness drew the ten-grasp sabre, that was augustly girded on him, and cut the serpent in pieces, so that the River Hi flowed on changed into a river of blood. So when he cut the middle tail, the edge of his august sword broke. Then, thinking it strange, he thrust into and split [the flesh] with the point of his august sword and looked, and there was a great sword within. So he took this great sword, and, thinking it a strange thing, he respectfully informed the Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Deity. This is the Herb-Quelling Great Sword. (tr. Chamberlain 1919:71-3)
In Japanese Shinto, Kotoamatsukami (別天津神, literally means “distinguishing heavenly kami”) is the collective name for the first gods which came into existence at the time of the creation of the universe. They were born in Takamagahara, the world of Heaven at the time of the creation, as Amenominakanushi 天御中主 (Central master), Takamimusubi (High creation), Kamimusubi (Divine creation), and a bit later Umashiashikabihikoji (Energy) and Amenotokotachi (Heaven).
These forces then became gods and goddesses, the tenzai shoshin (heavenly kami) - Ame no minakanushi ; Takami-musubi no ōkami; Kamimusubi no ōkami; Umashiashikabihikoji ; Ame no Tokotachi ; Kuni no Tokotachi; Toyokumono; Uhijini no mikoto; Suhijini; Tsunokuhi ; Ikukuhi ; Ōtonoji ; Ōtonobe ; Omodaru ; Kashikone ; Izanagi ; Izanami ; and Amaterasu ōmikami.
Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs. In yin and yang terminology, a dragon is yang and complements a yin fenghuang (“Chinese phoenix”).
Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. With this, the Emperor of China usually used the dragon as a symbol of his imperial power and strength.
In Chinese daily language, excellent and outstanding people are compared to the dragon while incapable people with no achievements are compared with other, disesteemed creatures, such as the worm. A number of Chinese proverbs and idioms feature references to the dragon, for example: “Hoping one’s son will become a dragon” (望子成龍, i.e. be as a dragon).
In Celtic mythology and religion, Cernunnos (also called “The Horned One”) is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld.
Cernunnos was worshipped all over Gaul, and his cult spread into Britain as well.
He is depicted with the antlers of a stag, sometimes carries a purse filled with coin.
The Horned God is born at the winter solstice, marries the goddess at Beltane, and dies at the summer solstice. He alternates with the goddess of the moon in ruling over life and death, continuing the cycle of death, rebirth, and reincarnation.
Fu Xi and the Eight Trigrams, 18th century
In Chinese mythology, the figure of Fu Xi is a polymath of sorts: he is teacher of many skills, including hunting and the breeding of silkworms. Additionally, he is said to have originated many ancient Chinese customs, such as divination. Fu Xi is…