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There were over 200 gods and goddesses worshipped throughout ancient China, but if one were to count every deity or spirit, the number would be over 1,000. Each town, village, city, field, farm, and sometimes even separate plot in a graveyard, had its own Tudi Gong, an elemental earth spirit, who was recognized and honored.
There were also spirits known as Kuei-Shen, nature spirits, who might inhabit a tree or live by a stream or preside over a garden. These were eternal spirits who had never been mortal but others, known as guei (or kuei, gui, kui), had once been human beings who had died and passed on to the afterlife. The guei could return to haunt the living for various reasons, and rituals, spells, and religious practices developed to appease them.
There were also deities who had once been mortal and now lived with the gods, such as the Baxian (Pa Hsien), the Eight Immortals of holy Taoists who were rewarded by the goddess Queen Mother of the West with immortality. The Baxian were prayed to like any of the other gods, as were one's ancestors who had passed over the bridge between the land of the living and the realm of the dead to live among the gods and watch over the living.
The gods were believed to have created the world and human beings, and they kept the world and surrounding universe functioning. Each deity had his or her own special area of power and influence, and the most important were given their own shrines and temples, although shrines were also erected to local spirits and to noble men and women who became deified after death.
The gods were believed to have created the world and human beings, and they kept the world and surrounding universe functioning.
These deities lived in palaces and castles high above human beings in places like the Kunlun Mountains, Mount Tai, the Jade Mountain, and Mount Penglai which was the mystical island of the afterlife somewhere far out at sea. Even though they were far away, they were still connected to human life on a daily basis, watching over and keeping account of the good and bad deeds people did. Each of the deities had their own part to play in the lives of people and the operation of the world from the most intimate moments to events of national importance such as a dynasty's collapse.
All of the gods, goddesses, and spirits were important to the people of ancient China, and remain so today, and selecting a certain small group leaves out many, many others who remain just as significant. However, one can single out those deities who had national prominence, are among the oldest, or are without question the most popular as shown through ancient writings and evidence from archaeological excavations.
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The gods and goddesses listed below are given in the order they appear in Chinese writings. Most likely, deities like Nuwa, Fuxi, and P'an Ku were recognized much earlier than written records indicate, and the same is probably true of most of the gods and goddesses on the list. These deities are selected because they were all very important to the people of ancient China even though some were more prominent at certain times in history than at others.
The dragon is the oldest symbol of a deity found in China. The dragon symbol appears on pottery found at the Neolithic site of Banpo Village dating from between c. 4500-3750 BCE. Dragon was considered a composite of yin and yang energies and was originally seen as a balancing force who was wise and just. The dragon Yinglong was known as The Dragon King and god of rain and waters. As god of the sea, he was known as Hong Shen and was prayed to regularly by sailors and fishermen, but farmers who needed rain for their crops worshipped Dragon as well. He is also shown in human form as a wise man with the full sun behind his head watching over a boat full of people.
Shangti was the supreme god of law, order, justice, and creation. He is also known as Jade Emperor, Yellow Emperor, or Yu Huang Shang-Ti, although there are sometimes important distinctions made between these names and Jade Emperor can mean another deity. Shangti was considered the great ancestor of all Chinese, who gave the people culture, architecture, skill in battle, agriculture, controlled the weather, regulated the seasons, and was king over the other gods, human beings, and nature. He was worshipped primarily during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) when he was considered a deified king who ruled c. 2697-2597 BCE and was included in the mythical or semi-mythical grouping of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, demi-gods who ruled China between c. 2852-2070 BCE. During the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1046-226 BCE) Shangti was replaced by the concept of Tian (Heaven) but re-emerged as Shangti during the Warring States Period (476-221 BCE). The Zhou developed the concept of the Mandate of Heaven which legitimized the rule of a certain dynasty. Tian judged who was worthy to rule and for how long, and when a dynasty was no longer fit, it fell and another took its place.
Queen Mother of the West
She was the queen of the immortal gods and spirits, especially female spirits who lived in the mystical land of Xihua ("West Flower"), and goddess of immortality. She is also known as Xiwangmu or Xi-Wang-Mu and lived in a castle of gold in the Kunlun Mountains, surrounded by a moat which was so sensitive that even a hair dropped on the waters would sink. This moat served as protection for her Imperial Peach Orchard where the juices of the fruit of the trees gave immortality. Xiwangmu is shown as a beautiful woman with sharp teeth and a leopard's tail, or as an old, unattractive woman with a hunched back, tiger's teeth and a leopard's tale, depending on her mood. She rewarded her followers with eternal life but punished those who angered her. During the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE) her cult was very popular and shrines were built for her by the government. She is the wife of Mugong, Lord of the Spirits, who watches over male spirits in the land of Donghua ("East Flower") but is sometimes seen as the wife of Shangti.
Guanyin was the goddess of mercy and compassion who became the patron of sailors and fishermen. She was originally a deity in India known as Avalokitesvara whose name means "One Who Gazes Down Upon the World and Hears the Cries of the People". She came to China from India through trade via the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty. She was so compassionate that she incarnated as the maiden Miaoshan in order to experience life as a human being and offer service to others. Miaoshan's father wanted her to marry a wealthy priest. Miaoshan refused to marry unless the marriage could end the sufferings caused by illness, aging, and death. When her father told her no marriage could end such things, she replied that a doctor could, but her father did not want her marrying someone of such a lowly occupation. She was allowed to enter a temple instead of marrying, but her father made sure that she was given all of the worst work, which she accomplished with the help of the nearby animals who responded to her goodness. Her father then tried to burn the temple down but Miaoshan put the fire out with her bare hands. He then had her executed, but when she went to hell, she released all of the goodness she held inside and turned it into paradise. The king of the dead, Lord Yama, sent her back to earth before she ruined his realm, and she lived afterwards on Fragrant Mountain where she watched over human beings. From her mountain home, she would often notice people in trouble on their boats at sea and rescued them, which is how she became patron goddess of sailors and fishermen. She was one of the most popular deities in all of China, and both men and women adored her.
Yan Wang is the god of death and king in the afterlife. He is the greatest of all the Lords of Death who rule the regions of the underworld. He is also known as Yang-Wang-Yeh, Lord Yama, and Lord Yama King. Yan Wang presides over the judgment of souls and decides whether they will be punished for their crimes in life, go on to live with the gods, or be reincarnated. In one famous story, a soldier named Commandant Yang, who had caused a great deal of suffering and misery in his life, died and appeared in the court of Yan Wang. Yan Wang asked him how he had managed to build up so many sins on his soul in the short time he was on earth. Yang claimed he was innocent and had done nothing wrong. Yan Wang commanded the scrolls of Yang's life to be brought in where the date and time of his sins were read along with who was affected and how many had died because of Yang's selfishness. Yang was condemned by the Lord of Death, and a great hand appeared which snatched him up and crushed him. It was said that one could escape punishment for one's sins on earth but no one could escape justice in the court of Yan Wang.
Nuwa & Fuxi
Nuwa and Fuxi were the mother and father deities of human beings. Nuwa was born at the beginning of creation and fixed the mistakes made at first so that everything was perfect. She built a palace for herself, which became the model for Chinese architecture, and lived there with her friend and brother Fuxi, both depicted as human-dragons with human heads and dragon bodies or human bodies to the waist and dragon legs and tails. Nuwa became lonely and created human beings for company from the mud of the Yellow River. She breathed life into them and they moved and lived. She continued to make more and more human beings but it was tiring work and so she created marriage so that they could reproduce themselves. The humans were alive but had no knowledge of anything and so Fuxi gave them the gifts of fire, writing, how to get food from the sea, and all the other skills they would need to live. He also gave them the gifts of music, culture, and divination so they could make good decisions by knowing what the future held.
Caishen, the god of wealth, was one of the most popular gods of ancient China and still is today. Statues of Caishen (also known as Ts'ai Shen) can be seen in businesses run by Chinese merchants all around the world and in Chinese homes. His statue shows a wealthy man seated in a silk robe holding riches in both hands. He is sometimes accompanied by two attendants carrying bowls of gold. He was not just the god of material wealth but of a rich life which meant a happy family and a secure, prosperous, and respectable job. Caishen was very generous to his followers but was not foolish and did not give out his wealth to just anyone. People had to prove themselves worthy of his generosity by working hard, praying to him regularly, and thanking him for his gifts. Temples and shrines to Caishen were probably the most numerous in ancient China.
Chang'e, the goddess of the moon, was another of the most popular deities in ancient China and is the most often mentioned deity in Chinese poetry and literature. She was the consort of the archer god Hou Yi who saved her during a lunar eclipse and brought her back safely. Chang'e betrayed him by stealing from him the elixir of immortality, which the gods had given him, and ran across the night sky with it, pursued by Hou Yi. She reached the moon where she transformed herself into a toad to hide from him until his rage passed. Hou Yi had been stopped in his pursuit by a hare who would not let him pass until he calmed down and promised he would not harm her. When Hou Yi reached the moon, Chang'e had remained in her toad form too long to change back and so, when one looks at the moon, one sees the outline of a toad on its surface. The story of Chang'e and Hou Yi was celebrated at the Mid-Autumn Festival in ancient China which is known today as the Moon Festival when people go outside at night to appreciate the moon, eat moon cakes, and give gifts to friends and family.
Zao-Shen (or Tsao Shen and Tsao Wang), also known as The Kitchen God, lived in the kitchen above the stove of every home. He was represented by a paper image made by the most prestigious woman of the household and was kept in the same place throughout the year. Zao-Shen was responsible for the happiness of the home and the prosperity of the family, but this depended on their behavior and values. Every month Zao-Shen left the home to report to the local gods and spirits on the family's conduct. If they had behaved well, he was instructed to increase their riches and happiness; if they had behaved badly, he was told to withdraw riches and happiness. "Riches" meant not only material wealth but comfort and well-being, which was further assured by his warding off evil spirits. When he left the home to make his report, families were especially anxious because they had no household protector. At the end of the lunar year, on New Year's Eve, Zao-Shen had to leave to report to Shangti himself and the universal gods on how the family had behaved throughout the year. At this time, more incense was burned than usual in front of the paper statue and its mouth was smeared with honey so that only sweet words about the family would be reported to the gods. Offerings of fine foods and good wine were placed before him to thank him for his protection. The paper figure was then burned and firecrackers set off to speed him on his way. The next morning, the first day of the New Year, a new paper statue was made and placed above the stove.
Niu Lang & Zhi Nu
The god and goddess of love. Zhi Nu was the goddess of weaving for the gods and daughter of Shangti. Every day she wove the beautiful robes the gods wore and looked down on earth from her place among the stars and wished she could visit. She was finally granted permission by her father and went to earth where she left her clothes by the banks of a stream and went swimming. A cowherd named Niu Lang saw her and fell in love with her so he stole her clothes so she could not run away from him. When Zhi Nu came out of the water she was outraged that her clothes were gone but when Niu Lang explained himself she fell in love with him. She forgot all about her home in the heavens and her duties as divine weaver and stayed on earth with Niu Lang. They were very happy together, every day they were more in love, and they had many children. Shangti was not pleased, though, and neither were the other gods and so soldiers were sent to bring Zhi Nu back home. Niu Lang tried to follow but Shangti threw a wall of stars across his path and stopped him; these stars are known on earth as the Milky Way. Once a year, magpies fly from earth to the Milky Way and form a bridge the two can cross to be with each other on the evening known as the Seventh Night of the Seventh Moon. This became a very popular story referenced by writers and poets in many different eras of China's history. The Lady in the famous poem, Song of Everlasting Sorrow, references this story toward the end when she is on the island in the afterlife. The myth was the basis for the Festival of the Seventh Night of the Seventh Moon which officially was dedicated to women's art in sewing and weaving but unofficially was a night for romance. Zhi Nu is the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra, and Niu Lang is the star Altair in the constellation of Aquila, separated by the Milky Way except for once a year.
Menshen, the guardians of the door, known as "Gods of Peaceful Sleep" who protect a room, house, or building from evil spirits and ghosts, originated in the early Tang Dynasty (618-901 CE). The emperor Taizong (r. 626-649 CE) was having a hard time sleeping because of nightmares. He consulted a doctor who blamed the bad dreams on evil spirits. Taizong's nightmares were so real he thought people were actually in the room trying to kill him, and so two of his most trusted guards were posted outside the door of his room, one standing on each side. Taizong began to sleep better with the guards outside and so ordered that their images be painted on the doorway. News of Taizong's painted soldiers spread and soon more and more people were painting guardians on their doors and rooms. These images can be seen on many buildings and homes in China and elsewhere. Part of the Chinese New Year celebration is cleaning and re-painting the Menshen on doorways.
The god of creation, P'an Ku (also known as Pan Gu and Pangu) is pictured as a hairy dwarf with horns. Once there was only darkness everywhere in the universe and in this grew a cosmic egg which was kept warm for thousands of years until it broke open and P'an Ku appeared. He cut through the darkness and separated the yin from the yang principles; then he made the yin into earth and the yang into sky and pushed them apart from each other. Every day he stood on the earth and pushed the sky a little higher, and each day he grew taller and taller until he was a giant. P'an Ku then began to add pretty details to his creation like mountains and valleys, which he made according to the principles of yin and yang so that everything would be balanced. He worked on his creation for thousands of years until it was perfect, and then he died. His breath became air and his blood the rivers and streams. The fleas from his body ran off and became animals while his body hair became forests of trees and bushes. His left eye became the sun and his right eye the moon. Many centuries after his death, Nuwa appeared and created human beings and Fuxi taught them how to survive in the world P'an Ku had created. In another version of the myth, human beings are the fleas which run from P'an Ku's body after he dies.
Other gods & goddesses
These gods and goddesses and many others were worshipped by the Chinese people for centuries. Some developed later than others but all were important to the people. There were many other notable gods who deserve mention: Guan Gong (also known as Guandi), the god of war, who was a great warrior and hero deified after his death; Sun Wukong, the god of mischief, who ate the peaches of immortality and tricked the gods into giving him eternal life; Fu-Shen, the god of happiness; Hou-Ji, god of Millet and grains; Kailushen, "Spirit Who Clears Roads", a protector against ghosts and evil spirits; Sheji, god of soil and grain, a harvest fertility god; Wen Chang (also known as Wendi), god of literature who was the patron of scholars and writers and kept accounts of how well writers used their talents in life; and Cheng Huang, "God of Wall and Moat" who protected the walls and gates of the cities. Although worship of these gods was outlawed as "superstition" when the communist party took control of the Chinese government in 1949 CE, they continued to be worshipped privately by the people and are still honored in many homes all over the world today.
12 famous African goddesses and gods with mind-blowing history
Africans had always believed in the existence of the Supernatural even before Europeans came to colonize them and presented Christianity. They believed in a Supreme natural being who created everything on earth. Although this Supreme Creator is always referred to as Him, it is beyond gender, as there are many African gods and African goddesses.
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Most African cultures believe that God used to live amongst them in the past before He left for His Kingdom in Heaven after several human transgressions. In His place, He appointed lesser African gods and goddesses to perform certain functions. As such, Africans have the god of water, rains, winds, earth, and fire, among others, whom they can pray to directly, and they will intercede on God's behalf.
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1. Apollo – The Sun God
When writing about ancient gods, the names of Greek Gods always feature on the top. Apollo was the Sun God of Greeks, and was the son of Zeus. Apollo was born on Delos, an island that offered a safe haven for his mother Leto. The people of Delos took such great care of Leto and baby Apollo that she promised them that her son will always protect them and make them prosper.
Chinese Gods 101
The pantheon of Chinese deities is bewildering and unquantifiable. The sheer number of gods and goddesses is near to impossible to categorise and account for. Thousands of local deities are worshipped alongside the more prominent figures throughout China and its diaspora. The impact of different ideologies and historical figures has been profound and what remains is a crucible filled with elements of regional and national folk-beliefs that make up the fusion religion of China. While Confucianism and Buddhism have had a heavy influence on the religious scene of China, these two systems do not emphasise supernatural deities. Instead, we must look to Shenism (Chinese folk religion) and Taoism in order to find gods. While many of them are associated with natural phenomena, a good deal are also deified historical figures. Emperors of China and their administrations never paid too much attention to the gods of the people, but they took special care to honour Heaven and the Supreme Emperor in rites advocated by Confucius. They also patronised Buddhism and Taoism as state ideologies, but the Shenism of the masses was always practiced among the rural and urban lower classes, leading various emperors to elevate popular deities by bestowing grand titles upon them. Taoism absorbed many of these gods and goddesses as it developed and the confusing amalgam that we can see today came to be.
Fuxi and Nüwa, Tang Dynasty from the Astana Graves, Xinjiang
The main creation myths of China focus on the sibling pair of Fú Xī (伏羲) and Nǚwā (女媧). It is said that in the beginning, surrounded by chaos was a sleeping giant named Pángǔ (盤古). The hairy, horned giant woke up and, upon standing, split the heavens and the earth, dividing Yin and Yang. After thousands of years, he died and his body became the sun, moon, stars, mountains, rivers and forests and all else in creation. From this primordial creation, the goddess Nǚwā arrived and found that the four pillars holding heaven and earth apart were broken, so she repaired them. She then fashioned mankind from clay and, along with her brother Fú Xī, breathed life into them. Fú Xī then taught humans the arts of hunting, fishing and cooking. Based, perhaps, on an ancient tribal leader, Fú Xī is the first of the Three Sovereigns and the mythological creator of the sacred I Ching (易經 Yì Jīng) and the bāgùa (八卦) trigram arrangement. The two siblings are often portrayed with serpent’s bodies.
Temple of Heaven, Beijing
The most ancient principle in Chinese religious thinking is that of Tiān (天). Tiān means heaven or sky, but was originally depicted with a character resembling a human form. Heaven is a very important concept and, while it does not translate into a personified ‘god’ form, it is more of a cosmic force. The Confucians maintain the importance of heaven and an Emperor needed to perform elaborate rituals to ensure the continued Mandate of Heaven, so that his rule was not ended. Emperors were called the Son of Heaven. Heaven Worship continued up until the beginning of the Republic of China and the Qing emperors performed annual rites at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
Shàngdì (Supreme Emperor)
During the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BCE), Tiān came to be intrinsically linked to Shàngdì (上帝), previously a tribal god of the Shang and Zhou clans. Worship of the Supreme Emperor became institutionalised and the Confucians included rite for Shàngdì in the classics. The sky deity was said to act through agents, rather than personally exercising power. Over time Heaven and the Supreme Emperor became one and the same. Also known as the August Highest Emperor of Heaven (皇天上帝 Huángtiān Shàngdì), he is associated with the Jade Emperor.
Yù Huáng (Jade Emperor)
Jade Emperor, Baiyun Temple, Shanghai
A major figure in China after the advent of Taoism, the Jade Emperor (玉皇 Yù Huáng) effectively melded with Shàngdì, as we can see by his alternative names Yù Huáng Shàngdì (玉皇上帝) and Yù Huáng Dà Dì (玉皇大帝). Some mythology has him as the creator god, but other stories have him become the Jade Emperor through Taoist attainment. As the highest of deities, he has the final say over the affairs of the universe. When mortals pray to their favourite gods, the gods then lobby the Jade Emperor on behalf of their adherents. It is a case of as below, so is above. He is the top of the Heavenly Bureaucracy.
Xī Wángmǔ (Queen Mother of the West)
Xi Wangmu, Baiyun Temple, Shanghai
Developing from a mother goddess cult from the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BCE), the Queen Mother of the West (西王母 Xī Wángmǔ) became the feminine goddess of immortality after Taoism had adopted her. Prior to that she was a wrathful plague goddess with the teeth of a tiger and tail of a leopard. The Royal Mother of the Western Paradise lives on Kunlun Mountain where she is responsible for the heavenly peach garden. The peaches, which are served every 6000 years give immortality to those who eat them.
Yán Wáng (King of Hell)
Yan Wang, Taizong Hell Scroll, Reed College Hell Scroll Collection
The god of death can trace his roots back to the Indian god Yama. Also known as Yán Luó Wáng (閻羅王), he presides over hell (地獄 dìyù). This is not the hell in the Judeo-Christian sense, but rather the place where all souls go for judgement. Yán Wáng (閻王) is the judge and he has a book containing all the deeds of all souls. Those who are meritorious will obtain good future lives, whereas the wicked will be punished and tortured. People in China pray to Yán Wáng on behalf of their deceased loved ones, in the hope that they have a good afterlife.
Guānyīn (Goddess of Mercy)
Guanyin, Baiyun Temple, Shanghai
Originally a male bodhisattva from the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition, Guānyīn (觀音) emerged as a Chinese female saint. As her popularity increased, she was absorbed by Taoism and folk religion as the Goddess of Mercy. Guānyīn is easily the most recognisable goddess in the Chinese pantheon and is revered by almost all Chinese people regardless of their religion. The goddess version of Guānyīn, as opposed to the Buddhist one, is identifiable by the presence of Jade Girl (玉女 Yùnǚ) and Golden Boy (金童 Jīntóng), her child attendants. Her crown also does not have the image of the Buddha Amitabha in it.
Māzǔ (Grandmother Ancestor)
Mazu, Meizhou Ancestral Temple
Possibly the most worshipped goddess in the world, Māzǔ (媽祖) is the most popular goddess in the Chinese diaspora. Known more often as Empress of Heaven (天后 Tiān Hòu), her meteoric rise to the highest position in heaven is incredible. She was born as a mortal called Lín Mòniáng (林默孃) in Fujian Province in 960 CE. She learned the Taoist arts and used her powers to save her brother and father during a typhoon. After she died aged 27, she became a patron saint of fishermen on her home island of Meizhou. As her popularity increased, her fame spread throughout the sea reliant southern Chinese people. Emperors bestowed titles on her and within a few hundred years, she became the Empress of Heaven. Nowhere is her influence more apparent than on Hong Kong, where no less than 80 temples are dedicated to Tin Hau.
Běidì (The Northern Emperor)
Beidi, Pak Tai Temple, Wanchai, Hong Kong
The Barefoot Northern Emperor is a very important god in Chinese tradition. He has a number of names aside from Northern Emperor (北帝 Běidì), he is called the Black Emperor (黑帝 Hēidì) and the Great Emperor of the Northern Peak (北岳大帝 Běiyuèdàdì). Originating in the Shang dynasty collapse in 1046 BCE, he has been worshipped for thousands of years. He gained particular support from Emperor Huizong of Song (宋徽宗 Sòng Huīzōng) in 1118 when the god appeared to him after a shamanic ritual. The martial god rules over the dark heaven, or jade void. He is a winter deity and is seen as a powerful exorcist. He is always depicted without shoes alongside a snake and turtle, making him one of the more easily identifiable of the gods. He is hugely popular in Hong Kong, where he is known as Pak Tai. Taoists also refer to him as Xuán Wǔ (玄武), the Mysterious Warrior.
Wénchāng Wáng (God of Culture and Literature)
Wenchang Wang, Cixian Temple, Taipei
Also known as Wénchāng Dìjūn (文昌帝君), Wénchāng Wáng (文昌王) was likely a mortal who fought in a rebellion in Sichuan in the 4 th century CE. The god was officially deified during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), but how he came to be associated with literature is unclear. He is represented in the heavens by a constellation that almost fits into what Western astronomers call the Big Dipper. He is worshipped primarily by students and their parents in the hopes that they are successful in their studies.
Kuí Xīng (Chief Star)
Kui Xing, Qin Ci Yang Taoist Temple, Shanghai
Kuí Xīng (魁星), known also as “Great Kui the Star Prince” (大魁星君 Dà Kuí Xīng Jūn), the impish looking god is worshipped for success in examinations. Originally presiding over the Imperial Examinations (科舉 Kējǔ), the god is much older than Wénchāng Wáng, who somehow usurped Kuí Xīng’s role. For this reason, Kuí Xīng always sits on a separate altar from the other god. He is depicted standing one-footed on the back of a turtle to represent coming first in the Kējǔ and holding a calligraphy brush in his hand. He is associated with the four stars that make up the spoon of the Big Dipper constellation.
Léi Gōng (Lord of Thunder)
Lei Gong, Kwun Yum Temple, Sau Mau Ping, Hong Kong
Transformed from being a mortal to a god by eating a peach from a magical tree, the thunder god is an unusual looking figure. Appearing very much like the Indian Garuda, Lord of Thunder (雷公 Léi Gōng) is a bird man who causes the thunder to sound. He carries a mallet to make the thunder and a chisel in order to punish the wicked. He is married to Lightning Mother (電母 Diàn Mǔ) and is associated with other elemental spirits Master of Rain (雨師 Yǔ Shī), Earl of Wind (風伯 Fēng Bó) and Cloud Boy (雲童 Yún Tóng).
Guān Dì (Emperor Guan)
Guan Di, Guanlin Temple, Luoyang
In life, Emperor Guan (關帝 Guān Dì) was a legendary general of the Three Kingdoms period (220 – 280 CE) named Guān Yǔ (關羽), who was loyal to the State of Shu. The warrior made a blood oath to serve with his sworn brothers Zhāng Fēi (張飛) and Liú Bèi (劉備). When Liú Bèi founded the State of Shu, Guān Yǔ followed him. Eventually, the famed soldier was captured and executed by Sūn Quán (孫權), the Emperor of Wu. Also known as Lord Guan (關公 Guān Gōng), the bearded, red-faced warrior came to be revered almost universally throughout China as a protector of people, businesses and homes. As the patron of fraternities, he is the god of both the police and the triads. In Hong Kong, he is the god of war and is referred to as Mo Tai (武帝).
Cái Shén (God of Wealth)
Zhao Gongming, Yuen Tan Temple, Shek Mun Kap, Hong Kong
One of the most important deities in Chinese culture is the God of Wealth (財神 Cái Shén). He has many incarnations and aspects that are sometimes represented individually in their own statues. The most common is the basic image of a seated man holding gold bars. This god is the Wealth Star Lord (財帛星君 Cái Bó Xīng Jūn), originally a county magistrate of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 535 CE) called Lǐ Guǐzǔ (李詭祖). Another popular god of wealth is Bǐ Gān (比干), uncle of the evil King Zhou of Shang (商紂王 Shāng Zhòu Wáng), who met with a gristly end and was deified after the Zhou Dynasty came to power on the fall of Shang in 1046 BCE. Another popular god of wealth is Zhào Gōngmíng (赵公明), the Martial God of Wealth. Also deified after the Shang collapse, the black skinned and bearded figure is depicted in a fearsome manner riding a tiger and holding an iron cudgel. People pray to these gods for money and financial success.
Nezha, Na Tcha Temple, Macau
Nézhā (哪吒), the boy god of war is an interesting character who can possibly trace his origins to the Indian deity Balakrishna. Created after the fall of the Shang dynasty in 1046 BCE, the god is also known as the Third Lotus Prince (蓮花三太子 Liánhuā Sān Tàizǐ), or the Marshal of the Central Altar (中壇元帥 Zhōng Tán Yuán Shuài) to the Taoists. Having defeated dragons, he is a powerful protective deity who wields the divine weapons the Fire-tipped Spear and Universe Ring. He flies through the skies on his Wind Fire Wheels. The youthful god has a small, but prominent temple in the centre of historic Macau, where he is called Na Tcha.
Bǎoshēng Dàdì (Life Protection Emperor)
Baosheng Dadi, Baoan Temple, Taipei
Particularly popular in Taiwan, Bǎoshēng Dàdì (保生大帝) is a god of medicine. While many lower ranked gods perform this function, the Life Protection Emperor is the highest of them all. Originally a doctor called Wú Běn (吳本) who practiced during the Song Dynasty, he was deified upon his death in 1036 CE. As a doctor, he was famed for his medical prowess and as a Taoist practitioner, he performed miracles. He is said to have been taught exorcism by the Queen Mother of the West. The Baoan Temple in Taipei is dedicated to the god and is always bustling with worshippers.
Cháng’é (Goddess of the Moon)
Chang’e Flying to the Moon, Ren Shuai Ying, 1955, China’s National Museum of Fine Arts
The consumption of moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China is a homage to Cháng’é (嫦娥), the Moon Goddess. Her story starts with her husband, Hòu Yì (后羿), the divine archer. The world was plagued by ten suns that caused the crops to fail. Hòu Yì shot down nine of the suns, personified as three-legged crows, and was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. He did not want to consume it and leave his wife Cháng’é as a mortal. One day, when Hòu Yì was out, his jealous apprentice Féng Méng (逢蒙) came to steal the elixir. Realising that he would overpower her, Cháng’é drank the potion and ascended to the moon as a goddess, wishing to stay as near to her husband as possible.
Lóng Wáng (Dragon King)
Dragon King. Meizhou Ancestral Temple
The Dragon King (龍王 Lóng Wáng), sometimes known as the Dragon God (龍神 Lóng Shén), is the personification of all dragons (龍 lóng). Dragons are water deities and are thought to bring flooding and drought through their control over the rains. In ancient times, complex rituals were performed to appease them. The most important of the dragon deities are the Dragon Kings of the Four Seas (四海龍王 Sìhǎi Lóng Wáng), who are often found in temples of other sea deities, they usually are shown with dragon heads and human bodies. Worship of the Dragon King is not as prevalent today as it was when more of China was water dependant and fishing was a key trade for most coastal dwelling Chinese.
Èr Láng Shén (Second Son God)
Er Lang Shen, Kwun Yum Temple, Sau Mau Ping, Hong Kong
Also known as Great Emperor of Flowering Brightness (花光大帝 Huá Guāng Dà Dì), the Second Son God (二郎神 Èr Láng Shén) is said to be the child of the Jade Emperor’s sister and the greatest warrior god of heaven. He has a truth seeing third eye in the centre of his forehead. Historically, he may have been the son of a governor of Sichuan during the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BCE) who helped to build advanced irrigation systems. The historical persona has been superseded by the deified one and his cult was absorbed into Taoism, spreading his fame throughout China.
Bāo Gōng (Justice Bao)
Bao Gong, Tin Hau Temple, Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong
Justice Bao (包公 Bāo Gōng) was a magistrate of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127 CE) in Kaifeng, China. Born to a middle class family, Bāo Zhěng (包拯) worked hard to become educated. Upon passing the Imperial Examination, he became a magistrate, a role that was normally performed by corrupt men looking to fill their pockets. He was fair and honest and stood up for the poor. He had no qualms about bringing the ruling classes to justice and even executed a member of the imperial household for his crimes. After his death, he became a black-faced deity who can help bring solutions to legal problems and justice for those in dispute.
Sān Xīng (Three Stars)
San Xing, Qingshan Temple, Taipei
Better known as Fú Lù Shòu (福祿壽), these three folk figures are personifications prosperity, status and longevity. Each is a star in the skies and they came to particular prominence during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE). The Three Stars (三星 Sān Xīng) are some of the most recognisable figures of the Chinese pantheon and are found in most homes in some form or another. They represent the core values of the Chinese people and are much loved by the population as a whole, including the more secular.
Tai Sui, Qin Ci Yang Taoist Temple, Shanghai
The sixty generals (太歲 Tài Suì) take it in turns to look after the world for one year. These gods rotate the power of dominion of human fate in sixty year cycles. They are not seen as benevolent and need to be appeased so that they do not bring misfortune. Depending on your birth year, when certain Tài Suì when in command can bring great trouble your way. In temples, an array of all sixty statues can be found and a sign is put in front of the governing god. These gods are often accompanied by Dǒu Mǔ (斗母), the Goddess of Measure and personification of the Pole Star. She is responsible for the measurement of time and is sometimes depicted with the Twenty-eight Mansions (二十八宿 Èr Shí Bā Xiù), which are constellations in the Chinese system. These stellar gods are very important to the Chinese, as they believe that the impact their daily lives.
Chénghuáng (City God)
Chenghuang, Shanghai City God Temple
The City God (城隍 Chénghuáng) was originally the god of the moat and walls of a city. He eventually came to be responsible for the people of the city and particularly of the dead. At Chénghuáng temples, people pray for a good afterlife for their ancestors and burn joss items, such as paper money and other paper versions of worldly goods for their deceased relatives to receive. The Chinese have many beliefs concerning what happens once we die, but a prevalent one is that they need their living descendants to make offerings for them to use in the next life so that they do not become hungry ghosts (餓鬼 èguǐ). The City God seems to have absorbed some of the responsibility for presiding over this from the King of Hell.
Tǔ Dì Gōng (Earth God)
Earth God, Tin Hau Temple, Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong
The jolly looking figure of the Earth God is found all over China and he is one of the most ancient, widespread and popular gods among the everyday people. The Lord of the Soil and the Ground (土地公 Tǔ Dì Gōng) is responsible for local areas and villages. He is somewhat akin to a local level administrator in the Heavenly Bureaucracy. In charge of protecting the people of the district, he is often confused with another tutelary deity called the Righteous God of Virtue and Blessing (福德正神 Fúdé Zhèngshén). The wealth factor is very prominent and he is depicted as a bearded old man holding a gold tael. Villagers pray to him for the wealth of the land and agricultural success. His shrines are found in every village and district in traditional Chinese areas. He is sometimes depicted with his wife Grandmother of the Soil and the Ground (土地婆 Tǔ Dì Pó), but has an alternate consort, the Queen of the Earth (后土 Hòutǔ).
Zào Jūn (Stove Master)
Stove God at Mountain Folkcraft, Hong Kong
The most well-known household deity is the Kitchen God. Dwelling in every kitchen in each Chinese home, the Stove Master (灶君 Zào Jūn) protects the hearth and family, but also reports on their comings and goings to the Jade Emperor. Just before the Lunar New Year, he must return to Heaven and give his report. People will often smear his effigy’s lips with honey to sweeten his words. The activities of the household around this time a blur of cleaning and diligently getting the home ready for the report of the god and the coming New Year.
Zhōng Kuí (The Demon Queller)
Zhong Kui Amulet
Zhōng Kuí (鍾馗), the ghost controlling god, is often found on doors and in people’s houses to protect the living from the dead and demonic forces. He was originally a scholar who passed the Imperial Examination, but was stripped of his title due to his ugly appearance. The dark, gristly figure then killed himself in protest by smashing his head against the imperial palace doors. In hell, Yán Wáng saw potential in Zhōng Kuí and made him the King of Ghosts. Much later, Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (唐玄宗 Táng Xuánzōng), was being severely ill. One night, he had a dream that he was being troubled by a small ghost. Zhōng Kuí appeared and captured the ghost and introduced himself to the Emperor. When he awoke, he was well again and he commissioned a painting of Zhōng Kuí, thereby making him a popular deity.
Mén Shén (Door Gods)
Door God, Pak Tai Temple, Mui Wo, Hong Kong
Apart from Zhōng Kuí, another set of gods can be found on the doors of Chinese buildings. While there are many various kinds, the most common Door Gods (門神 Mén Shén) are the military pair called Qín Shūbǎo (秦叔寶) and Yùchí Jìngdé (尉遲敬德). Emperor Taizong of Tang (唐太宗 Táng Tàizōng) was being plagued at night by the ghost of a Dragon King he had executed. Eventually, he had his two generals Qín Shūbǎo and Yùchí Jìngdé posted outside his bedroom doors and slept soundly from that point on. Images of the two guardians began to be put on doors throughout China and they became the most popular door gods.
Hóng Shèng (Hung the Saint)
Hung Shing, Hung Shing Temple, Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong
Known as Hung Shing in Cantonese, but often called Tai Wong (大王 Dà Wáng), meaning “Great King”, Hung the Saint (洪聖 Hóng Shèng) was an official of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 CE) serving in Guangdong. His good service and scientific approach to weather prediction earned him deification after his early death. Now a sea god responsible for the Southern Sea, many temples to Hung Shing can be found by the shore in Guangdong and Hong Kong.
Lóng Mǔ (Mother of Dragons)
Long Mu, Tam Kung Temple, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong
The Dragon Mother (龍母 Lóng Mǔ) was born in Guangxi in 290 BCE. She found an egg in the river and took it home. The egg hatched and out came five serpents that she cared for like a mother. The snakes became dragons and Lóng Mǔ, through the power of her dragon children gained control over the rains. When the first emperor of China, Qín Shǐhuáng (秦始皇), heard of her powers, he summoned her to court, but her dragons did not allow the boat to leave Guangxi and she remained there until her death. Being a Southern goddess, she is particularly worshipped in the South of China. In Hong Kong, there is a temple dedicated especially to Lung Mo, as she is called in Cantonese, on the island of Peng Chau.
Huáng Dàxian (Great Immortal Huang)
Wong Tai Sin, Tam Kung Temple, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong
Although he originally came from near Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, this Taoist immortal, came to be worshipped as a god in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, where he has the better known name Wong Tai Sin (黃大仙 Huáng Dàxian). Born to a poor family, Wong Tai Sin was a shepherd who learned Taoism from an immortal and after years of practice in solitude on Red Pine Mountain, was able to perform miraculous feats. His immense popularity in Hong Kong is due to an image brought by a traditional medicine practitioner from Guangzhou in the early 20 th century. People visiting his shop started praying to the icon and over time, the huge temple Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin was built to accommodate the faithful.
Chē Gōng (Lord Che)
Che Kung, Che Kung Temple, Tai Wai, Hong Kong
Known as Che Kung (車公 Chē Gōng) in Guangdong and Hong Kong, the Great Warrior was a general of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279 CE). He is said to have helped the last two child emperors of the dynasty escape the Mongol invasion. He is particularly important in the South of China and is especially revered during Chinese New Year. He is said to have the power to avert plagues and people pray to him for health and fortune. He is associated with metal pinwheels and his followers spin them after praying.
Tam Kung (Lord Tam)
Tam Kung, Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall, Hong Kong
Tam Kung (譚公 Tán Gōng), the boy god, may be historically grounded in the last child emperor of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 CE), who escaped to the South of China following the Mongol invasion. Popular folk belief in Hong Kong and Macau, where his cult is most evident says that he was an immortal from Huizhou in Guangdong who could cure the sick as a child. He is said to have become an immortal as a young man, but that he appears as a child to fishermen in order to cure their ills and predict the weather. The sea deity is usually depicted as a child holding a bell.
The Goddess Tara Most ancient living worship of God the Mother
The Goddess Tara is by far the most popular deity in the Tibetan pantheon: so much so that some have suggested that Tibetan Buddhism should be called Taraism. She is worshipped throughout Tibet, Nepal and much of South-East Asia. She is less known in China and Japan, but in those areas the closely-related Quan Yin (Japanese Kannon) takes Her place.
Her Name means "star", and she is said to have been born from the water, like Aphrodite. Thus her iconography may be related to that of Mary, who is called Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) and foam-born Venus/Aphrodite who is represented by the Morning/Evening Star, Venus.
Not only is Aphrodite connected by scholars with Ishtar and Astarte, but some have linked these names etymologically with the name of the Goddess Tara.
What we have here is clearly a very fundamental symbolic – and probably linguistic – matrix of iconography related to the very earliest worship of Our Mother God, which yet remains in continuous practice through the worship of the Goddess Tara, the Bodhisattwa Kuan Yin and, in the West, the officially non-Divine Mary, Who nonetheless manifests all the symbology of the Mother-Creatrix.
Goddess Tara continues after break
Other occurrences of the name Tara have been noted, including the Taramata (Mother Tara) Festival held in ancient Athens and even Tar, the Woman of Wisdom in ancient Finnish mythology. Goddesses of similar name and star-association have also been noted in Africa and the ancient Americas.
With such a widespread and ancient cultus we are clearly dealing with associations that go further back than any established historical or linguistic connexions and cannot look to modern scholarship to confirm all of them, particularly the extra-Eurasian occurrences.
But great ancientness seems to be very much associated with the Goddess Tara. The Finnish Tar is said to be five million years old, while in the early Sanskrit tradition Tara (the noun "tara" means to this day "star" in all Sanskrit-based languages) was also called Dhruva, the Pole Star. Now Polar Symbolism is known to characterise the early Ages of the Historical Cycle, having very anciently taken priority even over the Solar Symbolism of more recent world-eras, both matriarchal and patriarchal.
Thus the Tara/Astarte-Aphrodite/Mary Form of Dea appears to have a continuity from the very remotest Ages of human history.
On the identity of the Goddess Tara with Mary, no less a traditional patriarchal authority than the Dalai Lama has made an authoritative statement. Speaking of rangjung – the miraculous appearance of images of the Goddess Tara out of living rock – and similar phenomena connected with the Virgin Mary, His Holiness said: "Yes, this would be rangjung, the same thing as we have been talking about, of course, the same thing" and again: "Yes, Tara and Mary create a good bridge. This is a good direction to go in."
For the Déanist wishing to worship Our Mother God outside the context of patriarchal religion, the Goddess Tara makes a valuable point of approach, connecting living Western iconography as preserved in devotion to Mary with living Eastern iconography, both of Tara and Kuan Yin, and of the Great Hindu figure of the lotus-throned Mother Goddess.
The Tibetan/Nepalese figure of the Goddess Tara has a providential centrality, lying at the nexus between the Indo-European and East Asian worlds both geographically and culturally. Her connexion with Quan Yin to the East is undisputed, and H.H. the Dalai Lama has authorised a Virgin Mary Purity meditation for those seeking to assimilate White Tara to Lady Mary.
We regard this as important, not because we place ourselves under patriarchal authority, but because we are well aware that an incautious modern Western-style syncretism, which ties together images from various traditions with a variety of notions, gleaned from western political ideology, individualist psychology and popular "science", can be at best futile and at worst dangerous.
We wish, and determine, to worship the One Eternal Dea as She was worshipped from the beginning but we must also be humble enough to realise that we do not possess a living tradition and to proceed with caution, reverence and humility, leaving our modern Western notions – our noisy rebellions, superstitious awe of material "science" and individualist pride – firmly outside the door of the Temple [see further discussion on this].
That an incarnate representative of Dea – even in a patriarchal stream – should confirm and underwrite the identity of the Goddess Tara with the Western image of Mary allows us to be confident that we have here a living ritual actuality that goes back to the deepest roots of the Mother Religion. This is something far deeper and more trustworthy than the glib syncretism of Western "New Age" thought.
Further, the cultus of the Goddess Tara is formally open to non-initiates. Various Tibetan authorities have confirmed that while most practices require the authorisation of a guru, the central Tara Ritual Praises and Requests to the Twenty-One Taras may be freely practised by any devotee anywhere. This would presumably extend to the use of the Mantra at the core of this Ritual:
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SWAHA
We are not recommending the adoption of the Buddhist path. We are, and have always been, pure devotees of Our Mother God. We are also humble enough to recognise our lack of a living tradition in this world and to realise that spiritual practices and influences do require living transmission.
That is why, while we consider ancient Goddesses from no-longer-living traditions to be important for purposes of comparison and understanding of our religious roots, we always recommend the use of images from living traditions for actual devotion.
Images of Mahalakshmi, Quan Yin, Lady Mary and the Goddess Tara do not involve the adoption of Hindu, Buddhist or Christian doctrine, but they do allow us to connect ourselves to living and current streams of Our Mother's Grace.
The assimilation of White Tara to Lady Mary, sanctioned by the H.H. the Dalai Lama, clearly allows for a devotion that is not strictly Buddhist nor doctrinally Christian, but which draws on the profoundly ancient iconography common to both, which goes back to the very roots of the Mother Religion.
Our greatest trust of all is in the infinite love and compassion of Our Mother God to accept her lost little children who wish to return to Her, even though we have no living tradition, no authentic ritual method, no authorised succession of priesthood.
We have come to her with a simple "protestant" style of devotion, not pretending to efficacious or sacramental rituals, which can only be transmitted by an authentic disciplic succession. The succession of the Children of Dea was broken long ago, and modern claimants to such a succession bear the all-too-clear stamps of a very modern and very Western origin.
While we strive for all the wisdom we can, we must put our faith in simple bhakti the pure love of Our Mother God and trust in Her love for us.
At the same time, the emergence of rangjung – perfect appearances of the Goddess Tara from the living rock – and similar phenomena related to Lady Mary, and the even-patriarchally-authorised assimilation of the two is surely an Act of Divine Compassion taking place in this very generation.
We have turned in prayer to Our Lady, and, like a loving Mother, She has reached down to take our hand.
Buddhism arrived in China between 50 B . C . and A . D . 50, several hundred years after the rise of Confucianism and Taoism. One of its basic principles is that all suffering comes from earthly desire, and only by eliminating desire can one gain happiness.
The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, was an Indian prince who lived at about the same time as Confucius and Laozi. Gautama gave up his princely life to seek truth and wisdom. When these were revealed to him, he became the Buddha, or "enlightened one."
Buddhists believe that humans live many lives and are continually reincarnated, or reborn, to a new form of existence after death. An individual's actions in previous lives—known as karma—determine what type of existence that person has after rebirth. The goal of Buddhism is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth by achieving enlightenment and entering a timeless state known as nirvana, in which one is free of all desire.
Because Buddhism holds out the promise of a better existence in the next life, it appealed very much to Chinese peasants, who suffered great hardship and poverty Chinese Buddhism became much more elaborate than Indian Buddhism, incorporating many Taoist and ancient Chinese gods. Among the most popular Chinese Buddhist deities are Emituofo, ruler of the Western Paradise, and Kuanyin, the goddess of mercy.
The 10 Most Badass Goddesses Of World Mythology
Polytheism might've had a bad rap in the Bible, but it’s given rise to some of humanity’s most fascinating and enduring narratives. Some ancient pantheons, like the Greek and Norse gods, have traditionally been more prominent in the Western imagination in recent years, these narratives have been incorporated into popular stories like the Thor comic books and the Percy Jackson saga.
But not only do these stories leave out many of the world’s most compelling mythologies, they also privilege the accomplishments and powers of male deities over their female counterparts. So below, we’re celebrating 10 totally badass goddesses from belief systems all over the world. From the solar deities of ancient Egypt and the Shinto faith, to goddesses of the sky and the realms of death, these mythological women are the heroes of their own fascinating stories:
Despite being regarded as the creator of the universe, and the being who made the first men and women out of mud, the Jade Emperor (Yuhuang Shangdi in Chinese) isn’t especially prominent in Taiwanese temples. In keeping with his imperial rank, he’s typically depicted as sat on a throne and wearing a flat crown. Shrines where he’s worshipped mark his birthday on the ninth day of the first lunar month.
The history of the ancient Near East spans more than two millennia, from the Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age, in the region now known as the Middle East, centered on the Fertile Crescent. There was much cultural contact, so that it is justified to summarize the whole region under a single term, but that does not mean, of course, that each historical period and each region should not be looked at individually for a detailed description. This article will attempt to outline the common traits of ancient Near Eastern religions, and refer to sub-articles for in-depth descriptions.
The ancient Near East includes the following subregions:
The earliest sources, from c. 2500 BC, allow glimpses of Sumerian religion and ancient Egyptian religion.
Early Hittite religion bore traits descended from Proto-Indo-European religion, but the later Hittite religions became more and more assimilated to Mesopotamian religion. Also the Persian Zoroastrianism shared origin with Indian Vedism and the ancient Iranian religion. The Vedic religion is now generally accepted to be a predecessor of Hinduism, but they are not the same.
Ancient Greek religion and the following the Etruscan religion and the Religion in ancient Rome was strongly influenced by ancient Near Eastern religion, but is usually not included in the term. The Greco-Roman mysteries of the Hellenistic period were again consciously connected with ancient Egyptian religion.
The origins of the Roman Mithraism, however, are not resolved. There are theories of an origin in the Indian Vedic religion,  the Zoroastrianism and the Greeco-Roman Religion like Orion. 
There are broad practices that these religions often hold in common:
Typically, ancient Near Eastern religions were centered on theocracies, with a dominating regional cult of the god of a city-state. There were also super-regional mythemes and deities, such as the God Tammuz and the descent to the underworld.
- : seeing animals : drawing lots : observing the liver of an animal : cloud-watching : watching birds in flight : divination through smoke : divination through dreams
Identification of the gods and goddesses with heavenly bodies—planets, stars, the sun and the moon—and to assigning the seats of all the deities in the Heavens is found in Assyro-Babylonian religion.
The personification of the two great luminaries—the sun and the moon—was the first step in the unfolding of this system, and this was followed by placing the other deities where Shamash and Sin had their seats. This process, which reached its culmination in the post-Hammurabic period, led to identifying the planet Venus with Ishtar, Jupiter with Marduk, Mars with Nergal, Mercury with Nabu, and Saturn with Ninurta.
The system represents a harmonious combination of two factors, one of popular origin, the other the outcome of speculation in the schools attached to the temples of Babylonia. The popular factor is the belief in the influence exerted by the movements of the heavenly bodies on occurrences on earth—a belief naturally suggested by the dependence of life, vegetation and guidance upon the two great luminaries. Starting with this belief the Priests and Priestesses built up the theory of the close correspondence between occurrences on earth and phenomena in the Heavens. The Heavens presenting a constant change even to the superficial observer, the conclusion was drawn of a connection between the changes and the ever-changing movement in the fate of individuals and of nature as well as in the appearance of nature.
To read the signs of the heavens was therefore to understand the meaning of occurrences on Earth, and with this accomplished, it was also possible to foretell what events were portended by the position and relationship to one another of the sun, the moon, the planets and certain stars. Myths that symbolized changes in season or occurrences in nature were projected on the heavens, which were mapped out to correspond to the divisions of the earth.
All the gods, demons and spirits had their places assigned to them in the heavens, and facts, including such as fell within the domain of political history, were interpreted in terms of astral theology. So completely did this system in the course of time sway men's minds that the cults and sects, from being an expression of animistic beliefs, took on the color derived from the "astral" interpretation of occurrences and doctrines. It left its trace in incantations, omens and hymns and gave birth to astronomy, which was assiduously cultivated because a knowledge of the heavens was the very foundation of the system of belief unfolded by the priests of Babylonia and Assyria.
As an illustration of the manner in which the doctrines of the religion were made to conform to the all-pervading astral theory, it will be sufficient to refer to the modification undergone in this process of the view developed in a very early period which apportioned the control of the universe among the three gods Anu, Enlil and Ea. Disassociating these Gods from all local connections, Anu became the power presiding over the Heavens, to Enlil was assigned the earth and the atmosphere immediately above it, while Ea ruled over the deep. With the transfer of all the Gods to the heavens, and under the influence of the doctrine of the correspondence between the heavens and the earth, Anu, Enlil and Ea became the three "ways" (as they are called) on the heavens.
The "ways" appear in this instance to have been the designation of the ecliptic circle, which was divided into three sections or zones—a northern, a middle and a southern zone, Anu being assigned to the first, Enlil to the second, and Ea to the third zone. The astral theology of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion, while thus bearing the ear-marks of a system devised by the priests, succeeded in assimilating the beliefs which represented the earlier attempts to systematize the more popular aspects of the religion, and in this way a unification of diverse elements was secured that led to interpreting the contents and the form of the religion in terms of the astral-theological system. [ clarification needed ]
On the ethical sides, the religion of Babylonia more particularly, and to a less extent that of Assyria, advances to noticeable conceptions of the qualities associated with the Gods and Goddesses and of the duties imposed on man. Shamash, the Sun-God, was invested with justice as his chief trait, Marduk is portrayed as full of mercy and kindness, and Ea is in general the protector of mankind, a father who takes them under his protection. The Gods, to be sure, are easily aroused to anger, and in some of them the dire aspects predominated, but the view becomes more and more pronounced that there is some cause always for the divine wrath. Though, in accounting for the anger of the Gods, no sharp distinction is made between moral offences and a ritualistic oversight or neglect, yet the stress laid in the hymns and prayers, as well as in the elaborate atonement ritual prescribed in order to appease the anger of the Gods, on the need of being clean and pure in the sight of the higher powers, the inculcation of a proper aspect of humility, and above all the need of confessing one's guilt and sins without any reserve—all this bears testimony to the strength which the ethical factor acquired in the domain of the Religion.
This factor appears to less advantage in the unfolding of the views concerning life after death. Throughout all periods of Babylonian-Assyrian history, the conception prevailed of a large dark cavern below the earth, not far from the Apsu—the fresh water abyss encircling and flowing underneath the earth—in which all the dead were gathered and where they led a miserable existence of inactivity, amid gloom and dust. Occasionally a favoured individual was permitted to escape from this general fate and placed in a pleasant island. It would appear also that the rulers were always singled out for divine grace, and in the earlier periods of the history, owing to the prevailing view that the rulers stood nearer to the Gods than other mortals, the kings were deified after death, and in some instances divine honours were paid to them even during their lifetime.
Ancient Near Eastern religion knew an elaborate system of benevolent, neutral and malevolent demons (which more resembled Greek daemons than the Christian concept of evil demons), and much of medicine consisted of exorcisms, e.g. of Lamashtu, the hermaphroditic demoness responsible for complications at childbirth and infant deaths.
In Assyrian and Babylonian mythology the seven evil demons were known as Shedu or Lamassu, meaning "storm-demon". They were represented in winged bull form, derived from the colossal bulls used as protective genii of royal palaces, the name "Shed" assumed also the meaning of a propitious genius in Babylonian magical literature. 
Ancient Iranian lands had a diversity of spiritual beliefs, and the religions included Zoroastrianism, Mazdakism, Manichaeism, Yazdanism, Mandeanism, and others. Ancient Mitanni was centred in modern-day Kurdistan, and from excavations it was discovered to have a history of Zoroastrian practices.
The dominant religious rituals and beliefs of ancient Egypt merged and developed over time. As an example, during the New Kingdom, the gods Ra and Amun were syncretized into a single god, Amun-Ra.  Such syncretism should be distinguished from mere groupings, also referred to as "families" such as Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. Over time, gods took part in multiple syncretic relationships, for instance, the combination of Ra and Horus into Ra-Herakty. Similarly, Ptah, Seker, and Osiris became Ptah-Seker-Osiris.
The deities worshipped in Canaanite religion during the Late Bronze Age notably included El Elyon and his sons, the Elohim, the goddess Anat and Hadad, the storm god and heroic slayer of Yam. The composition of the Hebrew Bible began centuries after the Bronze Age collapse, but many of these names are still reflected in Biblical Hebrew, including Elohim and the title Ba'al, originally a title of Hadad, as the rival or nemesis of Yahweh.
Heavily influenced by Mesopotamian mythology, the religion of the Hittites and Luwians retains noticeable Indo-European elements, for example Tarhunt the God of thunder, and his conflict with the Serpent-God Illuyanka.
Tarhunt has a son, Telepinu and a daughter, Inara. Inara is involved with the Puruli spring festival. She is a protective Goddess ( d LAMMA). Ishara is a Goddess of the oath.
10 Gods and Goddesses of the Underworld
Belonging to different mythologies around the world, these are some of the major as well as minor gods and goddesses ruling the terrifying Netherworld.
Underworld, the world that lies deep under the Earth, has gods and goddesses ruling it. In different mythologies especially the Greek mythology in which gods of the underworld were called Chthonian gods or ‘Theoi Khthonioi’ held great prominence.
So here are some prominent gods and goddesses of the underworld.
Greek mythology regards Hades as the ancient chthonic god-king of the underworld. A son of Titans Cronus and Rhea, he had two brothers (Zeus and Poseidon) and three sisters (Hestia, Demeter, and Hera). He was often depicted with his three-headed guard dog Cerberus. He even became synonymous with the word ‘underworld’ itself.
A god of the underworld, Orcus was the punisher of broken promises in Roman and Italic mythology. He was depicted in the paintings in Etruscan tombs as a hairy, bearded giant. Palatine Hill in Rome may have had a temple to Orcus.
Persephone was the daughter of Zeus, vegetation goddess, and was the central figure of Eleusinian mysteries. In Greek mythology, she was the counterpart of Hades and the queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the powerful, venerable majestic princesses of the underworld.
In classical mythology, Pluto was the king of the underworld. In the ancient Greek religion and mythology, Pluto is described as the god who rules over the afterlife. Pluto also appears in other myths in a secondary role, mostly as the owner of a quest object. (8.1)
The East Asian and Buddhist mythology describes Yama as the Dharmapala or wrathful god. Also known as King Yan, Yanluo, or King of Hell, Yama is the ruler of Narakas (Hells or Purgatories) and judge of the underworld. He is said to pass the judgment on all the dead.
Ra was the ancient Egyptian sun deity who ruled the sky, the Earth, and the underworld when fused with the god Horus. When in the underworld, Ra visited all of his different forms and became the god of death after merging with Osiris.
In Sumerian mythology, Ereshkigal was the goddess of the land of the dead or underworld ‘Kur’. The chief temple dedicated to her was situated in Kutha. The ancient Sumerian poem “Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld” and Ereshkigal’s marriage to god Nergal are the two major myths involving her. (8.2)
According to Babylonian, Sumerian, and Akkadian mythology, Neti is the minor god of the Underworld. This chief gatekeeper of the Underworld and servant of the goddess Ereshkigal is mentioned notably in the epic legend of “Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld”.
Opening the seven gates of the kingdom and admitting the goddess, he removes one emblem of her power at every gate’s threshold until she is left completely powerless.
Tartarus was a deity as well as a place in the underworld in Greek mythology. Some ancient Orphic sources and mystery schools regard it as the infinite first-existing entity from which the Light and the cosmos are born.
Chernobog is a Slavic deity whose name means black god. In some of the South Slavic vernaculars, ‘zla boga’ phrase (meaning “to evil god or evil of god”) is used for expressing something which is exceedingly negative.
Throughout its life span of about 12 centuries, the Roman Empire worshiped the above 14, as well as many more deities. They believed that success, good health, and prosperity came from maintaining a very strong bond with these gods and goddesses. As a result, the Romans took to having gods and goddesses for every aspect of their society. A typical Roman had at least one of the major god or goddess’ shrine or monument at home. The multiplicity of the divine played a crucial role in the life of Rome. Today, these mythological stories entertain our imaginations by featuring extensively in our arts and literature.