Category Archives: Deities (individual)

Descriptions of various deities.

Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom and war

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Category: Deities (individual)

Athena (Ἀθηνᾶ)
Greek Pantheon
Goddess of wisdom, war, civilization, arts & crafts
Also called Pallas or Pallas Athena
Burst forth from the head of Zeus, armed and ready for battle. She swore to remain a virgin forever and never married.

Although she is a goddess of war, she comes to the fight in a spirit of justice rather than anger. She is the patron goddess of heroes and artists of all kinds. She shows up in many myths as the helper of heroes; she helped Jason get the golden fleece, Theseus slay the Minotaur, Perseus slay the Medusa, and Herakles complete his seven labors. She took her chastity very seriously, and no man was allowed to so much as see her naked. A man named Tiresias came upon her while she was bathing, and she struck him blind; however, the one glimpse of her naked gave him the wisdom to see the future and understand the speech of birds. She was a favorite of ancient Greek writers, and shows up to help heroes of the Illiad, the Odyssey, and many other works of literature. As goddess of wisdom and learning, she came to be a symbol of civilized life.

 

Symbols:

  • Owl
  • Shield made from the head of a gorgon
  • Spear & armor
  • Olive tree
  • She often holds Nike, the goddess of victory, in her hand

Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love

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Category: Deities (individual)

 

Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη) / Venus
Greek / Roman pantheon
Goddess of love, beauty, passion, fertility
Also called Cytherea & Cypris
Sometimes considered the daughter of Zeus & Dione, sometimes born of seafoam. Wife of Hephaestos. She bore many children, but the most famous is Eros / Cupid.

In the earliest story of her birth, the titan Cronus castrated Uranus and threw his testicles into the ocean, and from the seafoam rising up from them Aphrodite was born, already a woman. Her beauty caused a lot of trouble among gods and mortals alike, because men all lusted over her and wanted to possess her. She was forced to marry the ugly and humorless Hephaestus, god of metalworkers, to keep everyone out of trouble. He considered himself to have gotten the good end of that deal, and in gratitude made her the cestus, a beautiful belt which unfortunately made her even more irresistible to men. Aphrodite herself was less pleased with the marriage and had many affairs, including with Ares and Adonis. In the Judgment of Paris, which started the Trojan War, she was named the most beautiful of women and awarded the golden apple. She is one of the most popular deities among modern Hellenists. Offerings include fruit, flowers, sweet incense & wine.

Symbols:

  • scallop shell
  • pearls
  • roses
  • dolphins
  • swans

Anubis, Egyptian god of the afterlife

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Category: Deities (individual)

Anubis
Egyptian Pantheon
God of Embalming who ushers the soul into the afterlife
Anput is both his consort and his female equivalent. Their daughter is the serpent goddess Kebechet.

Anubis was originally the Lord of the Underworld, though in time Osiris replaced him in this context. He is sometimes shown as a jackal, sometimes as a human, but most often as a combination of the two. Since these wild dogs like to hang around tombs, people naturally came to associate them with the dead. Anubis himself rescued the murdered Osiris from oblivion by embalming him. His functions are those of a priest and psychopomp: He invented and oversees the process of embalming; he receives the mummy as it is brought into the tomb, and then ushers the soul to the Field of Celestial Offerings; and he monitors the Scales of Truth, which weigh the hearts of the dead. He is associated with the color black, because embalming methods of the day caused the corpse to take on a very dark hue.

Symbols:

  • Scale
  • Fetish
  • Flail
  • Oxhide hanging from a pole

Green Tara

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Category: Deities (individual)

Buddhist Bodhisattva

Buddha of enlightened activity, savior goddess of compassion

Mantra: Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

The word “tara” means star. The taras are a group of Buddhas particularly popular in Tibetan Buddhism, representing various spiritual attainments.Green Tara is a compassionate helper in difficult and dangerous situations. In her role as a savior, she is able to overcome despair in even the most hopeless situations. Modern Tibetans pray to her when they are sick, beginning a journey, or looking for success in some venture. But the first Dalai Lama also identified eight symbolic perils, representing negative thought modes, that Tara can help us overcome: lions (pride), wild elephants (delusion and ignorance), forest fires (hatred), snakes (jealousy), robbers (wrong views, including fanatical views), prisons (greed and miserliness), floods (desire and attachment), and demons (doubts caused by delusion).

 

Symbols:

  • Her lotus seat represents the purity of emptiness.
  • Her right hand gesture is the mudra of granting boons
  • Her left hand gesture is the mudra of refuge
  • Her left leg is relaxed in a pose of contemplation, while her right leg is outstretched and ready for action.
  • She holds a blue lotus, symbolizing purity and power.

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Kwan Yin

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Category: Deities (individual)

Buddhist Pantheon (Chinese origin)

Bodhisattva of Compassion and Mercy, protector of women, children & sailors, patron of vegetarians

Also known by Guan Yin, Quan Yin,  Kannon (in Japan)

Kwan Yin is a goddess of compassion, whose name means “One who hears the cries of the world.” She is regarded as a feminine bodhisattva, an enlightened being. Her worship took its current form when Buddhism came to China. As the female analog of The Buddha of Mercy, Avilokiteshvara, she’s loved by all. One variation is Kwan Yin of 1000 Arms, who has vowed never to rest until she has freed all humankind from mortal suffering. People of certain walks of life and situations traditionally seek her  favor, and many of the symbols we see on statues reflect this. Here’s a key to some symbols and other features of statues, along with their meanings:

  • dragon for ancient wisdom and spiritual transformation
  • with a baby, giving strength and blessings to mothers and children
  • lotus for contemplation and purity
  • bottle of medicine, sometimes with a stream of water, for healing
  • sea serpent, as a protector of sailors
  • waterfall for tears of compassion
  • sprig of foliage from the weeping willow, also signifying tears of compassion
  • rice bowl, for having one’s material needs met
  • hand cupped in the yoni mudra representing the universal feminine
  • pearls of illumination

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