Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Heirophants Mysteries

This summer is slipping by too fast. I apologize for the lateness of this entry. I guess I need to get another computer, as my son has hogged this one all summer. This is not as long and scholarly as the other entries I have done. I am moving soon and won't have the internet for a while and wanted to get this out before I go.

Eleusian mysteries initiation

Dionysus-god of wine, grapes, intoxication, agriculture, wild nature, fertility, madness, ecstasy, the theater, carnivals, among other things. Sadly, he is usually just explained as a god of wine and left at that, but he was so much more. He was also known as the Liberator, allowing you to free yourself from your cares and worries. He is an ancient Greek god, with mentions of him as old as 1200 B.C., though for some reason the Greeks of later ages treated him as a foriegn god or even as a newer god. Though they did the same thing to Eros, who was originally told of as one of the Elder gods of creation, but was later turned into a minor god of love and son of Aprhodite. You can see the shamanic themes in his worship, with animal skins and the thyrsus (pine cone tipped wand wound in ivy leaves.)

His story is one of the themes of the Orphic Mysteries. It starts with the son of Zeus and Persephone, named Zagreus, concieved when Zeus took the form of a snake and laid with his daughter, by Demeter. Zeus loved this child so dearly, that he was going to make him his true heir, above all his other children. This angered Hera, the wife of Zeus, so much, that she had the Titans kidnap the child and planned to kill him. He shapeshifted into many animals to escape them and finally turned into a bull and was caught by the Titans, who tore him to peices and devoured him. Zeus reacted by immediatly hurling a thunderbolt at them and turned them all to ash. The ashes mixed with water and the human race was created from this divine ash, with both traces of Zagreus' good nature and the Titans malicious nature. Persephone was able to recover Zagreus' heart though. Zeus fed the heart to Semele, a mortal woman, and she gave birth to Dionysus, who became the god we know today, thus securing that he was an ancient god and a young god at the same time. While he is mentioned as a son of Zeus, Persephone was the wife of Hades and one of Hades titles was Zeus Katachthonios, "Underground Zeus". So, he may have actually been the son of Hades. Semele eventually died and went to Hades. Dionysus went into Hades after her, and pulled her up to Olympus with him, showing the dying and ressurecting god of nature.

Dionysus can be contrasted with Apollo. Dionysus represents freeing your emotions, wild beasts and wild nature in general. While Apollo represents culture and civility.

His legions of female followers were called Meanads, and many were thought of as being supernatural creatures themselves, similar to nymphs, though only when they were in the company of Dionysus, or touched by him. They were intoxicated and fueled with strength and ecstasy.

Demeter-goddess of agriculture, the earth, seasons and fertility. The sister of Zeus and one of the great Olympians. She had a daughter with Zeus, named Kore "maiden." They are thought to actually be the same goddess, in 2 forms, the Maiden and Mother. The Eluesian Mysteries is about the story of how Hades came and abducted Kore to marry her. She searched for her daughter and the earth grew barren while she searched. Meanwhile, Kore resided in Hades, waiting for her mother to free her. Finally, with the earth wilting away, Zeus was forced to act, and told Hades to let Persephone go. But, Hades had tricked Kore into eating one of his pomegranites. If you eat the food of Hades, you must reside in Hades, so he tried to lay claim to her again. Zeus finally judged that she would reside in Hades for half the year and with her mother for half the year. She then became Persephone. Here she is the Crone, goddess of the underworld. Also, her mother, when she is the old woman of winter, sad and alone waiting for her daughter, is the Crone. So Kore is the maiden, Demeter is the mother, and Persephone and old Demeter are the Crone.

Hermes bringing Persephone back to Demeter from Hades

The Eluesian Mysteries: were the ancient mystery rites that surround the story of the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone.

The Dionysian Mysteries: give an often unheard of interpretation of the story of the birth and life of Dionysus. The Dionysian mysteries are entwined with the Orphic Mysteries.

The Orphic Mysteries: revolve around the story of Orpheus and his tragic loss. Orpheus was the son of Apollo and he was very musically inclined, so much so, that is was supernatural. His fiance was killed when a snake bit her, after his friend tried to rape her and she ran away. In his sadness, Opheus went to the underworld to retrieve his bride, where he used his music to charm first Cerebus, the canine guardian of Hades realm and later of Hades and Persephone, the rulers of the Underworld themselves. They promised that he could take his bride, if he lead her out of Hades without looking at her once. He agreed and led her all the way out of the underworld, resisting the temptation to see his love, until at last they reached the entrance and he exited, turned to see his wife, but she had not left the entrance yet, and she was pulled back into Hades. In his sadness he wandered around, until a pack of Meanads came upon him and ripped him to pieces in their ecstasy. Orpheus was said to have created the Dionysian mysteries, and revered Persephone and Dionysus.

Death of Orpheus

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Modern Heirophant

So I know it has been a while since I posted. But with work and my son finishing his first year of school in American and me trying to get custody of my nephew, househunting, trying to adopt a another son, I have been very busy. Sadly, I will be busy again starting next week at a new job, with extra-long summer hours, though I hope that this will give me the permanancy at the job I want so that I can get hopefully settle down for a while in a home. That is a laugh, me settle down. I have the nickname Wanderlust for a reason, though I am trying to settle down for my son, nephew and hopefully new son.

As you can see from the title of this entry, I am talking about what a Modern Heirophant is. This is an old Greek word that literally means "to show holy." In modern usage it is used to mean a person that brings people into the presence of that which is deemed holy, or as an interpretor of the sacred or arcane. It is the name of one of the tarot, also called the High Priest and I have also seen it used by some mystics as their title. But the Heirophant was originally the initiating priest of the Eleusian Mysteries. I will talk about what those mysteries were, the gods and goddesses involved with them, how these mysteries tie into the Dionysian Mysteries and the Orphic Mysteries and how it relates to the modern world and how I became a modern day Heirophant.

I will break this into several posts with these as the ideas:

  • Eleusian Mysteries-Dionysian Mysteries-Orphic Mysteries
  • Demeter-Persephone-Kore
  • Dionysus-Hades
  • Dionysus-Apollo
  • Dudachos

Monday, May 3, 2010

Taking a break

I am taking a break right now from all my blogs. With an increased work load and therefor hours and my sons school year ending, I don't have time right now to do much, but I will get back to it soon enough.

I decided not to do Hinduism right now, sorry Anon. Instead I will be doing these next 3 posts when I have more time:

  • Modern Hierophant

  • Who is Jebu?

  • Pagan Virtues

Thanks for reading and for your patience.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Way of the Kami

Japan is filled with gods, spirits, monsters, demons, dragons and all manner of other things. They worship the Kami, which can be translated as both a god and a spirit. They believe that many things hold spirits, trees, stones, animals, even man-made objects which have reached 100 years of age hold a spirit. This would make them animists. This part of the religion is called Shinto, which we can split up into two Chinese words Shin "spirit/god" and Tao "the way" to make it the way of the spirits or the way of the gods. This is considered to be the religion of Japan, and comes down from prehistoric times, making it one of the worlds great pagan religions. It used to be not very organized, and only started changing when Buddhism came to Japan and the 2 religions became antagonistic to each other. For a long time the 2 fought, until finally, war gave way to peace and the 2 religions began to merge and influence each other. The modern Japanese government decided to have a national religion though, and so broke the 2 up, forcing them apart from each other, so that they could proclaim Shinto as the national religion. Many Japanese beleive that only Japanese can be Shinto (and Koreans as well, since they used to have the same religion basically,) causing this to be a Ethnic based religion, i.e. racist. There are Shinto temples in America though, and there are some white (non-Japanese) priests, which has caused a stir and a whole debate over whether the gods of Japan would care about and work with/through other peoples. But since all kinds of people use Greek gods and Norse gods and Egyptian gods, etc..., then there would be no problem with people using the Japanese gods.

Buddhism on the other hand, is not Ethnically based. Anyone can be a Buddhist, so even Bodhisattvas that only exist in Japan will help other people, too.

There is another native religion of Japan, started by the original inhabitants of Japan, the Ainu people. The Ainu were there first, then came people from the Korean continent that took over their lands and the 2 people became intermarried. The government of Japan refuses to admit that the Ainu or the aboriginal peoples though. They had, and still have, a bear cult, which can also be seen among some peoples in Russia, showing that they are culturally related to those peoples.
Torii, Japanese spirit gates, placed at the entrance to many temples or holy places.

Here I will list some of the gods/kami of Japan. Maybe in another post I will cover the other beings like the Yokai, Oni, Baku, etc...

Izanagi-no-Mikoto-the first man, father of the gods, god of life. He crossed the bridge of light into the world and stirred up the oceans to create the first land. He married Izanami and together they had several children, but they were all deformed and horrible. These deformed children were the result of Izanami's insolence of being the first to speak in this new world and so they walked around the world again and allowed him to speak first. After this, they birthed the other islands of Japan and then the gods were born, until Ho-Masubi, the fire god was born and his fiery birth killed Izanami. In a rage Izanagi killed his fiery son and then went on a quest to the underworld to find his wife. She was an underworld goddess now though, and looked like a corpse, and so he fled from her sight and washed his eyes and nose in a river, to cleanse her sight and smell from him, and from this were born Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi and Susanoo.
Stirring the ocean to create the first land

Izanami-no-Mikoto-the first woman, mother of the gods, goddess of the underworld and death, as she was the first to die when she gave birth to the fiery god Ho-Masubi. Her first children were deformed, brought on by her sin of being the first person to speak in the world, which should have been her husband (this is a patriarchal society, obviously.) After cleansing this sin, she gave birth to most of the islands of Japan and many gods. When her husband left her in the underworld after seeing what had become of her form, she shrieked that she would kill 1000 living things each day as vengence. So he said that 1500 things would be born each day.

Ho-Masubi/Kagu-tsuchi-god of fire, his esplosive birth killed his mother, Ianami. His father, Ianagi, was so enraged with grief that he slew his son. From his body arose the mountain gods and from his blood came the sea and rain gods. Though he was still worshipped, so he didn't stay dead, and in fact there is another legend that states that his mother birthed a twin brother of sorts before she died, the water god Mizuhame, so that he could pacify his brother if he should become violent.
This was the only picture I could find of Ho-Masubi
(modern art from

Amaterasu-goddess of the sun, she is the sister of Tsukuyumi and Susanoo. She was born from a tear shed from Izanagi's left eye. She once hid in a cave because of her brother, Susanoo's, abusive and lewd behavior. As the goddess of the sun, she took all daylight with her, causing much turmoil. The other gods tried and tried to get her to come out, but she would not. So, they devised a plan to lure her out, saying they found a new goddess to replace her, that was even more beautiful than her and had a party, with the goddess Uzume dancing and creating mirth. They placed a mirror, the Yata no Kagami, in front of the cave and curious to see the new goddess, she came out and saw her reflection(for the first time). The gods then sealed the cave shut so she could not return. She was so pleased with her reflection that she decided to stay out, but banished Susanoo to the earthly realm to atone for his behavior. She was the grandmother of the first Emperor of Japan, Ninigi, and as such is viewed as the special goddess of Japan(land of the rising sun) and guardian of Japanese people. As the sun goddess, she is one of the most powerful of the Kami and so is their ruler. One of her activities is to weave the sacred kimonos of all the other gods, showing her as a caring mother figure. She sent her grandson to the earthly realm to help pacify the land, giving him her 3 sacred possessions, the Yata no Kagami(mirror,) the Kasanagi-no-Tsurugi (sword) and the Yasakani-no-megatama (curved jewel, symbol of benevolence.)
Uzume dances to lure Amaterasu out of the cave
She leaves the cave to see what all the fun is about

Tsukuyomi-god of the moon, brother of Amaterasu and Susanoo. He was born from a tear from the right eye of Izanagi. He once visited Uke-Mochi, and viewed how she made food. He was so horrified that he slew her. Amaterasu was so angry and embarassed by this act, that she will have nothing to do with him, and this is why they never see each other.

Susanoo-no-Mikoto-god of storms and seas, a folk hero. The brother of Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, born when Izanagi blew his nose. He was a wild and rude god, and offended(or abused) his sister so much, that she fled into a cave. When the other gods finally got her out of the cave, he was banished to the Earthly realm for his actions. This is when he became a folk hero, as he wandered around he met an old couple that told him that 7 of their 8 daughters had been devoured by Yamata no Orochi, and eight headed dragon. He slew the Orochi by getting each of it's 8 heads drunk on barrels of saki and they fell asleep, then he hacked it to pieces, finding a magical sword in the tail, the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi ("Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven") or the Kasanagi-no-Tsurugi ("Grasscutter Sword"). He presented this sword to his sister as a gift and she allowed him back into the heavenly world.
Susanoo versus Orochi, a common theme in Japan

Ishikori-dome-the smith goddess, she made the first mirror, the 8 sided Yata No Kagami, to help lure Amaterasu out of the cave she had sealed herself in.

Ana-no-Uzume-goddess of dance, revelry and mirth. She danced and spread mirth to help lure Amaterasu out of the cave she sealed herself in.

Uke Mochi-goddess of food. Tsukuyomi came to visit her one day, and so she decided to prepare a feast, but Tsukuyomi spied upon her and was horrified to see that she was creating food from her body. He slew her and from her body arose all the foodstuff that humans eat.

Ninigi-No-Mikoto-the grandson of Amaterasu, father of Hoori and Hoderi and great-grandfather of Jimmu. He was sent to the earthly realm to pacify the land and plant rice. Amaterasu gave him her 3 sacred gifts, of the Kasanagi-no-Tsurugi(sword), Yata-no-Kagami(mirror) and the Yasakani no Megatama(jewel,) which he gave to Jimmu and have been kept by the emperors since then.

Hoori/Yamasachihiko-god of hunting, younger brother of Hoderi and great-grandson of Amaterasu. He lost his brothers fish hook in the ocean when he wanted to try his hand at fishing. So, he went diving to find it and met Otohime, Ryujin's the sea dragons daughter. She fell in love with him and took him to her fathers palace. Ryujin was not happy, as he was the guardian of the sea and he thought this was a fisherman, a plunderer of the sea. Eventually Ryujin gave into his daughters pleas and allowed the two to marry. They lived happily for many years, until Hoori became homesick and remembered the whole reason he came down there was to find his brothers treasured hook. Ryujin found the hook and Hoori returned to the surface world with his bride, who was not pregnant. After settling into life on the surface world, she went into labor and asked that her husband not see her until it was over. He was annoyed that he couldn't see his child being born though and snuck a peak, only to see her change into a dragon. He screamed in horror, she screamed in fear and fled, leaving him his son. Later, she sent a sister up to raise her son as a nanny, but the 2 fell in love and had a son together, Jimmu, who became the first emperor of Japan.

Hoori meets Otohime

Hoori losses the fish hook

Hoderi-god of fishing, older brother of Hoori and great grandson of Amaterasu.

Ryujin-dragon god, guardian of the seas and it's creatures. The father of Otohime, and grandfather(and great-grandfather) of Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan. As the god of the sea, he was revered by many sailors and fishermen, who depended on his kindness for their livelihoods. He lived in a palace of coral an crystal, named Ryugu, under the sea and used turtles, jellyfish and fish as his messengers. He once game the Empress Jingo magical tidal jewels that would control the tides (and then some,) which she used to attack Korea, first removing the water under their ships, grounding them, and then to send a tidal wave to crush, and drown, the fleeing sailors and warriors. He made the jellyfish boneless when he sent it on a mission to find a monkey for him to eat and the poor thing came back emptyhanded, so was beaten so severly that his bones all crumpled to powder.
Ryujin or one of his servants

Musubi-no-Kami-god of love and marriage, appears as a young man. He also represents creation or the power of becoming, which makes him very similar to Eros, who was first thought of as a child of Chaos (the primodial god) who used love to help create the universe, and later as a demi-god son of Aphrodite, that went around shooting arrows of love at people. Musubi lives in a sacred cherry tree, Kanzakuri, where he will leap out of and offer young girls a bough of cherry blossoms, with a promise of love in their future (not his love, the love of a human man.)

Gekka-O-god of binding in marriage, he ties the bride and grooms feet together with a magic red silk cord.

Hachiman-god of war, bravery and honor, the divine protector of Japan and it's people. He was a real historical figure, Emperor Ojin, that was deified after his death. He was thought to be the special guardian of the Minamoto Samurai clan, who took eventual became the shoguns of Japan. He is also very popular with the average people (peasants in the old days.) Over half the registered shrines in Japan are for him, making him second only to Inari, the rice god. He was so popular that the buddhists found a way to make him into a bodhisattva of sorts, following the way of the warrior, so he became a kind of synchronistic deity, fusing the 2 main religions of Japan.

Inari-god/goddess of rice and fertility. This ambigous deity has shrines all over Japan, and is very important, as rice is the staple food there. S/He uses pure white foxes as messengers, and you will see them all over the shrines. Because of this, s/he is also called the fox god, but many priest discourage this (because the foxes can also be thought of as evil.) Both a god and a goddess, appearing as either one, someitmes a young maiden, or an old man, a bodhisattva or a even as a fox. This deity has more shrines than any other in Japan, showing the importance of rice to the people. The shrines often have the red torii (spiri gates) at the entrance, and since there are so many shrines and so many torii, red has become associated with Inari. The shrine itself is often flanked by a pair of fox statues, one male and one female. People would leave offerings of rice or saki at the temple, but the most common is to offer a fox statue.
Statue of Inari as an old man, with his white foxes
Inari, as a young woman, appears before a samurai
Fox guardian at a shrine to Inari

Fuujin-god of the wind, often depicted as an Oni with a bag slung over his shoulder. He is thought to be one of the oldest gods, present at the creation of the world, where he let loose his winds to clear the mists between heaven and earth, letting the suns light reach the world. What is even more interesting is that there is clear evidence that Fuujin was actually originally the Greek wind god Boreas, who traveled along the silk road as the wind god Wardo and was eventually brought over to Japan. He is of course now his own unique self and is not Boreas anymore, but it is amazing nontheless. The buddhists use him too, claiming that he was a demon that the Buddha captured and converted, becoming a wind god.

Raijin/Raiden-god of thunder and lightning, often paired with Fuujin and depicted as an Oni. As an oni figure, he is fond of eating childrens navels, so parents would tell their children to cover their tummies. He carries a circle of drums with him, beating on them produces the thunder. He is similar to his Chinese counterpart, Lei Gong, but is more well known in the west, in part thanks to the Mortal Combat game (though he appears a lot more human looking in the game and subsequent movies.) He is very well known in Japan, with pretty much everyone knowing who he is, even if they are not Shinto, and his image appears on a number of things from cards, to cups to blankets.

He has a companion beast, Raiju, which is the actual lightning itself. It appears as a cat, tanuki, or a blue wolf make of fire or wrapped in lightning. This beast becomes aggitated during storms and will leap about, causing fires to everything he touches. He likes to sleep in navels, of which Raijen will shoot arrows of lightning at to wake him up (frying the poor individual whose navel he was sleeping in.) So don't sleep outside during a storm, and even if you are inside, it is suggested that you sleep on your stomach. Raiju was used to make the Pokemon character Raichu, Pikachu's evolved form.

Chimata-no-Kami/Sai-no-Kami-god of crossroads, roads and footpaths. He was originally a phallic god, and the phallus is still his symbol, and images or carvings of a phallus are placed at crossroads.

O-Watatsumi-god of the sea and all it's creatures, the most important of the sea gods. Some people think he is the same as Ryujin.

O-Yamatsumi/Ohoyamatsumi-god of the mountains, the most important of all the mountain gods. He is the son of Izanagi and older brother of Amaterasu. He is also the father of Konohanasakuya-Hime, the kami of the sacred Mt. Fuji.

Konohanasakuya-Hime-goddess of Mt. Fuji, a sacred mountain in Japan. She is the daughter of O-Yamatsumi and the wife of Ninigi, mother of Hoori and Hoderi. Her symbol is the cherry blosson, and she is called the "blossom princess." Because this is her symbol, and cherry blossoms are fleeting, human life is short. If Ninigi had married her sister, Iwa-Naga, the rock princess, human life would have been very long.

Mt. Fuji

Amaatsu-Mikaboshi-god of stars, specifically the pole star, and of evil. He is the personification of the void, the primordial darkness that existed before creation. He was the only being there, and ruled it absolutly and with absolute darkness, stillness and silence. Then for one tiny instant he lost control when the In and Yo (yin-yang) began flowing and the movement caused the universe sprang into being. As it was the ruler of the void, all things that rushed to fill that void have peices of it now, including humans, and this is the cause of our passions (well the dark side of our passions.) He is not really a god per say, but a force, the anithesis of life and light. It is constantly trying to return the universe back to the dark and silent void (i.e. destroy it) and feeds off of these negative emotions and dark passions. Those who die with strong attachments to him will have their sould turned into his agents, or even become Oni. Some Onmyoji (Japanese sorcerers) worship him in an attempt to steal his power. Many blame him and the Onmyoji for the atrocities commited by the Japanese before and during WWII. This god became a major villian in Marvel comics Hercules, where he killed Zeus and recently took over an alien pantheon. He was the inspiration for the Star Wars Sith Palpatine. He was also the inspiration for a villain in the Sailor Moon series(the season where the daughter comes back in time and they don't know who she is.) He has been compared to Satan by some, though Satan wants to pervert creation in defiance and rebellion to God, while Mikaboshi just wants to destroy everything, people, gods, the whole universe. So, not the same at all. And while Mikaboshi is thought of in the male tense, it is not male or female, existing in the void before anything even remotely like sexes was formed.
As he has no real form, there are no real depictions of him used.
Here is the Marvel comics version of him

Bodhidarma/Daruma-the founder of Zen buddhism, he was an Indian monk whose teachings reached all the way to Japan, where most people think Zen buddhism came from. Often seen as the little Daruma rolly-polly dolls, used as toys for children, or as good luck charms. The good luck lasts for one year, so a new doll would be bought the next year, while the old one would be burned together at the temple with other old dolls.
I got one of these when I was in Japan, too.
I had no idea it was supposed to be a toy though, I like that idea.

Kannon/Kwannon-god/goddess/bodhisattva of compassion and mercy. This deity is the Chinese goddess Kwan Yin, who is really the male Bodhisattva Avaloketisvara. In Japan there seem to be more male images of Kannon than female, but both are shown. Kannon is widely revered in Japan, and is seen as the protector of children, as well as the giver of children. There are many incarnations of Kannon, as woman, as man, as demon, as god, as bodhisattva, as tengu, etc...all of them are there to help people. Together with Jizo and Amida (see below,) they are the bedrock of Japanese buddhism, with Jizo offering salvation from hell, Amida giving people the pure land and Kannon offering salvation in this life.
Kannon in a masculine form, with multiple arms
Giant, building sized statue of Kannon, in a more feminine form

Amida Nyorai-is the Bodhisattva Amitabha, the "buddha of infinite light." Bodhisattva of protection and forgiveness. He created the pure land, a place for those that have not yet broken the cycle of rebirth to go to when they pass on, to learn more of the Budda's teachings and then become Bodhisattvas themselves to return to the world and help more people. It is basically a kind of short cut to Nirvana, or a time extension so you can learn more. There are many 48 different vows to take to get to the pure land, though you only need to complete one to get in. The 2 easiest that I have seen are to call upon Amida's 10 times or more, or to call upon him when you are about to die. This easier path is what led so many people to him, and frankly, I myself am attracted to this idea. While I will still endeavor to learn more in this life, it is a relief that Amida give's me extra time in his pure land if I haven't figured it out. Some people love life and want to be born again and again. I am not one of those people, I am someone that feels the weight of too many lifetimes and am ready to go to Nirvana. That is why I am both a pagan and a buddhist and feel comfortable in the Asian pagan-buddhist faith.

Jizo-is actually the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, who took it as his role to teach mankind the ways of Buddha, after the death of Buddha until the time of Maitreya, the last Buddha. In Japan he is the protector of all mankind and rescues souls in hell. He especially cares for dead children, as they are believed to not have had enough time to gather merit to cross over, so are stranded in-between and forced by demons to carry rocks down a river to make piles, basically crude stupas, as penance for making their parents grieve (this is a culture of absolute respect for sure!) He will scoop up those children and hide them in his robes keeping them safe until their time has passed and they can move on. Grieving parents will often leave childrens toys at his idols or dress him in childrens clothes, hoping that he will take pity on their child and give them special attention. His statues are often seen in semetaries or anyplace that children have died. He protects travllers too. so roadside statues of him are common as well. He looks like a Buddhist monk, with a shaved head, often with closed eyes and cubby, child-like cheeks. He carries a staff with rings atop it, which he would shake, like a rattle, to ward off demons. He is a very popoluar Bodhisattva in Japan, and can be found in Shinto areas as well.
Offerings left for Jizo, to keep their deceased children safe from demons and punishment

Ekibio-Gama-god of plagues and epidemics. I am not sure if he causes it, like Bimbo-Gami causes poverty, or if he helps ward away plagues, or if he is the personification of plagues (then he should be an Oni, not a Kami.)

Emma-O-god of the undeworld and judge of the dead, he keeps the souls of the dead until it is their time to be reborn or they are saved and can go to a heavenly paradise. He is really the Hindu-Buddhist god Yama, and is also the same as the Chinese god Yanluo (The Yama King.)

Fudo-god of fire, wisdom and protection from disaster. He appears rather like a sumo wrestler in appearance.

Okuninushi-god of healing, medicine and sorcery. He was once a man, whose brothers grew jealous of and so they killed him, but his mother was able to resurrect him. His brothers then again killed him and he took refuge in the underworld. While in the underworld, he met Susanoo and his daughter, Suseri-hime. He immediatly fell in love with her and Susanoo gave him many tests to perform to prove his worth, hoping to destroy him. With Suseri's aide, as well as that of an animal ally he was able to overcome these tests, but then decided to tie Susanoo's hair to the rafters of his palace while he slept and fled with this daughter and stole Susanoo's bow and arrows. Susanoo had finally grown fond of him, so allowed him to escape and told him to use his arrows to kill his treacherous brothers, which he did. He became the ruler of the province of Izumo, until Ninigi came and took his place. He then became the ruler of the unseen world of spirits and a healer.
Sukunaa-Biko-god of rain, faming and cultivation, he was a friend and ally of Okuninushi. He was dwarf-like in appearance.

Kawa-no-Kami-god of rivers, the lord of all the river gods, goddesses and spirits.

Bimbo-Gami-god of poverty. He causes it wherever he dwells, so people perform rituals to get rid of him. He is a thin and filthy man, and during times of economic troubles people would beat idols of him to punish him and force him to leave.
Recession bothering you?
Go beat the crap out of Bimbo-Gami!

Marisha-Ten-goddess of war and victory. She had 8 arms, each bearing a sword and had an army of 7 ferocious boars. She was able to confuse the enemy, by making you invisible. She is the Japanese version of an indo-European goddess and Tibetan boddhisattva, Marici.

Shichi Fukujin-The seven gods of luck, which are almost the same as the
Chinese 8 Immortals

  • Benten-goddess of words, speech, eloquence and music
  • Bishamon-god of warriors, guards and the punisher of criminals, protector against diseases and demons
  • Daikoku-god of wealth
  • Ebisu-god of mirth, joy and happiness
  • Fukurokuju-god of wisdom and longevity
  • Hotei-god of contentment and abundance
  • Jurojon or Gama-god of longevity
  • Kichijoten/Kisshoten/Kudokuten-goddess of happiness, fertility and beauty, sometimes considered to be the 8th god of fortune

Modern worship in Japan, means you can carry luck on a keychain,

and all your gods, too

Japan is a land of gods and spirits, a land little touched by Christian and Muslim hands, so there are just too many gods to list here. There are other gods I wanted to list, but much of my research from my travels is still sitting in storage waiting for me to move. I may work on some of the spiritual creatures, demons, monsters and heavenly beings of East Asia next time or I may work on the gods of another country like India or the Phillipines. I am also open to requests if you want me to focus on a specific country, otherwise, wait and see what I post next.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Japan is almost done

I am currently preparing the post on Japan and will have it up within a week or 2.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Chinese Way

Last time I spoke about Buddhist gods and Boddhisatvas. This time I will talk about the Folk and Taoist gods of China. The Chinese are interesting. It's like a religious buffet set up for them, where they get to pick and choose what they want, a little Taoist philosophy, a little Folk gods, a little Buddhist meditation, a little Confuscius and viola', a personal religion. It is from them that I have developed my own personal religious views of picking and choosing what I feel comfortable with from all the religions, past and present, that I am exposed to.

Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tzu

Taoism (it is supposed to be pronounced with a "D" to make Daoism, but so many people say it with the "T" that it can no longer be called innacurate. Wasn't it the British whom first translated Chinese into English, because they messed up big time, creating a huge mess with Chinese and English spelling translations, also you will see that I am not a fan of Pinyin and mostly prefer the Wade-Giles form of latinized Chinese, ) is a philosophy that originated from Lao Tzu, also spelled Laozi, whom has become immortal and a god. It was created around the 6th century BCE, though that is only when written records appear, it may be older. Tao means "the way" or just "way" and refers to the way that you should act in regards to morals and towards nature. Taoism is where the concept of Yin-Yang came from, the idea that opposite forces do not fight each other, but flow into each other and work together to make the cosmos. This is in contrast to the Western worlds modern (as of 2000 years ago) idea that opposing forces fight each other for control of the world. As a Taoist, you are supposed to work with the cosmos and if you can align the forces just right in your body, you may achieve immortality. Taoists have temples and priests, called Daoshi, which are distinct from the Folk temples. Some western scholars have suggested that Taoism is not a religion, but more like a way of life. If that is true, then the same could be said of the Ancient Egyptians, yet thier views were called a religion, too. Taoists use a book called the Tao Te Ching, also called the Dao de Jing, which is a book filled with poems and philisophical advice for all people. I could go on and on about Taoism, but I would suggest looking up more information on your own. "The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet" by Benjamin Hoff is a great book for Western people to read to learn about Taoist philosophy.

Taoism and the Folk Religion are intertwined, but not the same thing. Though many foriegn people often confuse the two as the same, which irritates Daoshi (see above.) The folk religion is the old religion of China, well the older religion of China, meaning it is the pagan religion of China. The folk religion is centered around the old mythology of China dealing with the gods and goddesses, ancestors, dragons, and other mythic entities. It comes from the neolithic times, having an incredible history. It has later taken bits and pieces from other Chinese religions and philosophies, so you will see hints of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism it there as well. Because of this, and because of the reservations of the writers, many Westerners have branded the Folk Religion adherents as Taoist, since it is considered a named and organized religion closer to what modern (i.e. Christian) western people know. So there are actually millions of pagans living in China.

Confucianism was developed by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, though that is his Westernized name, his name is actually Kung Fu Tzu. Confucius saw that the people of his time were becoming morally corrupt and so made up a philosophy to help lead the people back to a golden age. It stresses morality, obedience, scholarship and leadership. His teachings also back the ruling elite, showing that it is up to them to lead the way. Many other Asian countries adopted his philosophies, well at least the ruling elite did. While I admire many of his teachings, I personally blame Confuciusians for the decline of Korea, weakening their military because the nobles were too busy spending that money so that they could show everyone how scholarly they were, and leading to Japan so easily taking over before WWII. Confucianism has no gods, it is a philisophical religion, but they do honor and revere Confucius.

Here is a list of some of the deities of China. There are far too many too list, and some haven't even been seen in English before, so I don't even know their names. Also, as China is an Empire made up of many smaller kingdoms, each kingdom had its own gods and goddesses, there are just too many to count. I even saw that there was a goddess of Pears in the Hanyuan province, though I don't know her name, just like the Gauls had a god of apples. I guess she was only meant to be known there, though that makes me sad, as she may be the only goddess of pears and so should be known to all who eat pears. I guess I am a lot like the Chinese in that I like to have a divine beaurocracy.

Celestial beaurocracy in action, the Ministry of Demons and Monsters

The 3 Pure Ones-primordial gods that represent creation from the void of nothingness, they are the highest gods, higher than the Jade Emperor (see below.) They are not clearly defined and are more revered as abstract deities.

Guan Yu-the great general of heaven, patron of policemen, soldiers and protectors of law, seen as the epitome of loyalty and righteosness. He was a mortal man living in the times of the 3 Kingdoms, a much romanticized period of history in China, where he was an important figure in the civil war to dispose the Han dynasty. He is portrayed as a powerful warrior with a red face (the color, not rouge) and black hair and a long beard. Though many modern artists have taken the red face away to show that he was born a mortal. He carried a guando, which is similar to a halberd, called the Green Dragon Cresent Blade (though I have also seen it called the Black Dragon Blade,) and wears a green robe with his body armor. After his defeat and death, he was apotheisized into a god. He is a Folk god, a Taoist god, a Boddhisatva, and a Confucian ideal of the virtues of honor and loyalty. He is a very popular deity, and there is a lot of information available about him, so look him up.

Kuan Yin-known as Kwannon/Kannon in Japan, is the goddess of mercy, though she is at times depicted as a boy as well. This is because she was originally the Boddhisatva Avaloketishvara, a man, but because of how he dressed and his feminine appearance, when his worship came to China, he was confused for a girl and eventually became a seperate goddess in her own right. Though buddhists have no problem with this and see it as Avaloketishvara taking the form of a goddess to show non-Buddhists the path to enlightenment, and boddhisatvas can take any form anyways. This goes to show that it doesn't matter how a god or goddess came to be, they exist all the same. She appears as a woman wearing a white gown and having a white headscarf or some form or hair ornament(I always imagine her with the headscarf,) holding a vase full of the waters of compassion. She may also appear with a thousand arms (showing her Indian heritage) or as a young man, or as a mother, or as a buddhist seated in meditation, and a myriad of other forms. As the goddess of mercy, compassion and unconditional love, she is also the mother of orphans, protector of mothers, women in general, and all children. She can also grant children, help the poor and unfortunate and heal the sick. She is a goddess for everyone and her worship has spread all over the world. I have even invited her into my pantheon of gods. She is a popular goddess and you can find a lot of information about her.

Matzu-also spelled Mazu, was the goddess of sailors and the ocean. I would also call her the patron goddess of Taiwan, as she has so many temples there, and as an island nation (yes I believe in their soverignity) surrounded by the ocean and having many fisherman and sailors, she is perfect for them. She is often portrayed with a black face(the color, not the race of people,) and surrounded by the Jiu Huang Ye, the 9 emperors, her emanations and servents, or 2 demon generals she has conquered and subdued, named Qianli Yan and Shunfeng Er. She was said to have been a mortal girl, whom would dress in red and sit or walk along the shore, so that sailors and fishermen could see the shore and not crash, she also went into a trance and saved her father or brothers from drowning once and was apotheosized into a goddess. While she is a goddess of the ocean and sailors, people also pray to her for other things, like health, careers, etc... Her worship has spread to other countries and she can be found wherever the Chinese have moved. When I lived in Taiwan, I went to one of her temples and prayed for her to help get my sons visa (see my other blog, The Journey to my Son, for info about that mess) and he did eventually get it, but I also prayed to her for another son and that never happened. I guess she can only do so much.

Pa Hsien/8 Immortals-are popular figures in art and literature in China, Japan and now in the Western World. They were 8 mortal people that found different paths to immortality. They are also called the lucky gods, as they are though to dispense luck. Each one has a different sphere of power and influence though, such as music, sholarship, or acting. They were often shown together on a ship and they are often drunk.

  • Cao Guojiu-patron of actors, and older man with a beard, holds a jade tablet or castanets.

  • He Xiangu-patron of musicians, the only woman in the group, she often holds a sheng(a stringed instrument) or a magical lotus that can cure all ills.

  • Zhongli Quan-shown as an older man with an open robe showing a large belly, holding a magical fan that can revive the dead

  • Li-T'ieh Kuai-patron of doctors and all healers, is an ugly looking older man, using an iron crutch to help him walk, often appearing as a begger, and holding a gourd that holds special medicine that can cure all illnesses. He was actually handsome before he became an immortal, but his spirit left his body to go visit heaven, and his apprentice thought he had died, so cremated his body, when he returned he possessed the nearest body available, which was that of a recently deceased begger.

  • Zhang Guo Lao-represents old age and seems to be patron of wine and alcohol. He loved to make alcoholic drinks and the drunken style kung fu was named after him. He often rides his donkey and can turn into a bat (a symbol of good fortune in Asia.)

  • Lan Ts'ai-ho-patron of minstrels, buy I am not sure what he is really a patron of, he seems to do things contrary to normal, such as dressing like a woman, or wearing very little in the winter or stuffing his clothes in the summer. He is a young man.

  • Han Tsiang Tzu-patron of flautists (thats people who play flutes and related instruments)

  • Lu Tung Pin-patron of scholars and carries a sword that dispells evil spirits. He is said to be the leader of the group and can have a huge temper.

Shangdi-heaven, the primordial god, the first ruler of the gods and creator of the universe. His name is literally over 4 thousand years old. Never represented as a person or thing, just his name written on tablets placed in the temple of heaven. Ruler of the great ancestral spirits and nature spirits, and maintainer of the natural order. The emperor would perform annual sacrifices to him to maintain social order and give good harvests.

Yu Huang-the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven, earth and hell. He is the supreme power in creation and has done such things as create the Chinese zodiac to divide up the years, conquer the most powerful demon to stop him from laying waste to the heavens, and help transform the earth to make it more habitable for mankind. He is seen as either the second to hold the position of Emperer of heaven and will be succeeded by only one more Emperor, or as one among a line of Emperors. He represents the Yang, in the Yin-yang of Taoist philosophy. He holds his celestial court in the topmost layer of the sky and can grant immortality or other riches and blessings to people.

Hsi Wang Mu-the Queen mother of the west, holder of the peaches of immortality. She is the goddess of life and immortality, living on the sacred mountain in the West (of China,) Kun-lun. There she lives in a palace paradise, where many gods, goddesses and immortals meet for events. She is the highest of the goddesses and so many live in her palace or work as her servents. She represents the Yin in the Taoist philosphy of yin-yang. In some myths she is the mother of the Jade Emperor, in others she is his wife.

Zao Shen-the kitchen god. He lives in everyones stove in the kitchen, the hub of the home, where he observes and listens to everything you do. Then once a year, the day before Lunar New Year, he will go to the heavens and report what he has seen and heard to the Jade Emperor, who then rewards or punishes the family. To stop him from this, people will offer him sticky rice on this day, making it hard for him to speak. Despite this, he was seen as one of the most important gods to the common man, as he was in charge of overseeing the wellfare of the family.

Tu Di Gong-the Earth god, both a singular god and a genius loci. Each locality was supposed to have its own Earth god, in charge of protecting the land and maintaining peace. Villagers would lovingly call him Grandpa and ask for his help with crops and weather, especially in times of drought and famine. As he is an earth god, he is also seen as able to grant wealth (Earth gods hold precious metals and gems in their realms.) He had many local shrines, often very rustic. I had the pleasure of seeing a museum exhibit about Tu Di Gong when I was living in Taiwan and these are a couple of the pictures I took about it.

Lung Wang-the dragon kings. They rule the four seas of China and represent the four directions. They live in crystal palaces under the seas guarded by shrimp soldiers and crab generals. They control not only earthly waters, but celestial ones as well, causing rains and clouds and even floods. Their true forms are those of dragons, but they can also shapeshift into other forms, even human.

  • Ao Guang-ruler of the East Sea, he often caused storms, was an enemy of both Son Wu Kong and Nezha. When he was defeated by Son Wu Kong, he gave him the golden chain mail, phoenix feather cap and cloud walking boots.

  • Ao Qin-ruler of the South Sea, when he was defeated by Son Wu Kong, he gave him a red and gold cape.

  • Ao Run-ruler of the West Sea

  • Ao Shun-ruler of the North Sea

Sun Wu Kong -the Monkey King, a very popular and famous character of Chinese mythology, he is also known as Son Goku in Japan, which is where the Dragonball character got his name and story idea from. Sun Wu Kong is the son of the earth, born from a stone. Because of his great strength and intelligence he became king of the monkeys and later became a student of Buddha. He learned many magical techniques, including cloud hopping, 72 magical transformations, and each of his hairs could become a clone of himself or anything else he could transform into. When he shapeshifts into human form, he still has his tail though, so was not perfect. He became boastful, so Buddha ordered him to leave. He travelled far and wide, even under the seas, were he aquired his magical staff, which could grow or shrink, fight by itself and multiply itself. This staff was a treasure of the Lung Wang and was used to keep the flow of the seas in check, so they battled him over it. He beat the Lung and forced them to give him several more treasures, like golden chain mail, a phoenix feather cap, and cloud boots. Full of pride, he sneaked into hell and erased his name from the registry of death, along with all his monkey kin. This caused chaos for the Yama Kings, and so the Yama Kings and Lung Wang reported all this to the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor thought that a royal position would calm him down and so offered him one and he accepted, but was then given charge of the royal stables. Humiliated, he stole the peaches of immortality, Lao Tzu's pills of longevity and the Jade Emperors special royal wine, and fled back to his monkey kingdom to plan a rebellion. He defeated all the forces of heaven sent against him, even the highest and best general, and was only finally defeated by the combined might of the Jade Emperors forces and Boddhisattvas. They tried to execute him, but failed, so Lao Tzu tried to boil him away into a potion, and after being sealed in a boiling pot for 49 days, he was still alive and given a new power, the power to see evil in any form, but smoke hurt his eyes after that. Then Buddha came and made a bet that Sun Wu Kong could not escape from his palm, he agreed and lept to the pillars of heaven, thinking he had won, he signed his name and did other things, then lept back to Buddhas palm, only to see that the pillars of heaven where the Buddhas fingers. Buddha then sealed him below a mountain, where he stayed for 500 years, until the goddess Kuan Yin released him to protect a buddhist monk as he traveled to India to get sacred sutras. He was tricked into wearing an iron headband that would tighten on his head causing unbearable pain if he betrayed the monk. For the rest of the story, read the "Journey to the West" a Chinese classic. He was given godhood and buddhahood afterward. He is often compared to Hanuman, a Hindu monkey deity.

Nezha-also named Zhongtan Yuanshuai or Nataku (in Japanese). I know him from the Japanese Anime, Hoshi Engi, named Soul Hunter in English. He is a guardian god and trickster. He was born to a military leader, and took 3 and a half years to grow in his mothers womb, and when he was born, he came out in a lump of flesh(a reference to a stone baby?), that his angry father split with a sword and he jumped out fully grown, which reminds me of Athena, only his body was grown, but not his mind. Later he killed a nature spirit and the son of the Dragon King Ao Guang, who threatened to kill his family in revenge, so he killed himself to spare his family. But, his teacher was one of the immortals, and brought him back to life using lotus blossoms to construct his body. He later became a general(or served right under the general) in the Jade Emperors army, and fought against Son Wu Kong, but was defeated. He can fly through the sky with a wheel of fire under each foot, carries a golden celestial hoop and spear and wears a red sash. Sometimes he is depicted with multiple heads and arms.

The Anime version from Soul Hunter

Chang O-also called Chang'e, goddess of the moon, though she did not make the moon or is the personification of the moon, she lives there with the Jade Rabbit of the moon, who makes magical elixers. She is China's version of the "man on the moon." She is the wife of Houyi, the great archer of heaven, who had the sad job of shooting down the suns when they all rose at the same time on the same day, leaving only one last sun. Though this was his answer to save the world from being burned to death, or having drought, he was punished by having his immortality removed along with his wife. While he was able to live quite well among humanity, his wife could not stand it, and so he journeyed west, to visit Hsi Wang Mu, who gave him one pill of immortality, saying that half a pill will make you immortal, the whole thing will make you into a god. He took the pill home and told her to wait while he finished some things, but she could not wait, and took her half, but then she decided she wanted more and ate the whole pill, which caused her to rise up to the moon and stay (another version said she fled there to escape the wrath of her husband.) Houyi eventually becomes immortal anyways and set up residence on the sun.

Xuan Wu-is a god of magic, the elements, martial arts and the great general of the north. He accidentally created the great tortoise and snake monsters that terrorized the land, but when he found out, he came and conquered them, where they became the beast Xuanwu, the black tortoise and remain as his mount. They also exist as his 2 generals in human form. He appears as a warrior wearing imperial robes, carrying a sword that he borrowed from Lu Tung Pin and never returned.

Tian Mu-goddess of lightning, she uses mirrors to create the flash. She is married to Lei Gong.

Tian Mu and an orange Lei Gong

Lei Gong- god of Thunder. He looks like a man, with blue or green skin, a birds beak, claws, and bat or bird wings on his back. he carried drums around his waist and beats them to create thunder.

Feng Po-god of the winds, he carries a sack with him, which is full of the winds. He can also appear as a dragon.

Lei Gong and Feng Po

Zhang Xian-is a god that almost no one knows of. He is a god that offers sons to those that pray to him. I found him because I was desperate to adopt my son and so I tried to choose a god from the area that could help. Since I did get to adopt my son (though he didn't help with the other boys I tried to adopt) I will mention him here. He is often pictured hunting his enemy, the north star or sirius.

Fu Lu Shou San Hsing-the three gods of fortunes, almost always shown grouped together. They are extremely popular and many people keep images of them in their homes to invoke their fortunes. They are also called the 3 stars and are connected to astronomy.

  • Fu Hsing-(short name would be Fuk, and no, I am not joking) god of happiness and fortune, he is taller than the other two and when shown together, he is placed in the center.

  • Lu Hsing-(short name Luk) god of affluence and helps with careers and official ranks, he is often shown carrying a small boy

  • Shou Hsing-(short name Sao) god of longevity, shown as an older man with a large rounded bald head, often astride a deer and holding a peach

Men-Shen-Door Gods, their function is to protect people from demons and other threats, by protecting the entrance to a home or temple. People would place their images on the outside doors or entrances to invoke their protection. They appeared as 2 fierce warriors holding an axe or sword. When I lived in Asia, I put a picture up of the door guardians as well, and we never had any villainous people or spirits enter our home.

Yama Kings-the rulers of Diyu, often translated into English as hell. THE Yama King is Yan Wang or Yanluo, the god of death and ruler of Diyu. There are 10 or more Yama Kings, each in charge of their own district in Diyu or Naraka. Naraka is where they mete out the punishment to those souls that did ill in the world. Most people do not stay in Diyu for long, as they are reincarnated, but if you are bad, your next life will be miserable, if you are good, you will have a good next life. The yama kings keep track of everything, they are the epitome of beaurocracy. People give them offerings hoping that this bribe them into putting their name or the name of a loved one on the good list, or at least shorten thier tortures, or to extend their alloted time on earth. The Yama Kings are not evil, but they are efficient and do not like a disruption to the natural order.

As I said, there are many, many gods, goddesses and other entities in China, so this is only a tidbit to give you an idea and help you on your way. I might post more later, but I think next time I will blog about Shinto gods and goddesses.