Myth & Magic An Introduction to the Gods and Goddesses of Religion
Presentation by Allegra Geller July 14, 2008 Philosophy 205
Native American Gods All Native American religions are animistic, and polytheistic in that it is believed all of nature is alive with spirits. There is a belief in a Supreme Being, or High God/Great Spirit, along with many lesser gods. The High God is not appealed to, rather it is the lesser deities which are often prayed to for guidance. The Wendigo spirit (above) is a malevolent and cannibalistic creature in Algonquin myths. It is the embodiment of gluttony, greed, and excess; and is never satisfied consuming one person, but constantly looks for new victims. In some traditions, it is said that humans who became overpowered by greed would turn into Wendigos. This myth serves as a method of encouraging cooperation and moderation in traditional Algonquin society.
The Raven is a powerful Native American spirit believed by many tribes to have created the world. One legend has it that Raven lived in the land of the spirits until he carried a stone in his beak, dropping it into the ocean. The stone then expanded until it formed the world. Myths can depict Raven as a jester or trickster.
Coyote is also often portrayed as a trickster spirit and in some tribes is highly sexualized. He is also a humorous spirit, and sometimes clever. He is known to possess negative traits such as greed or desire, recklessness, impulsiveness and jealousy. Coyote figures prominently in several creation myths as well. In one myth, Coyote created the first people by kicking around a ball of dirt or mud until he had formed the first man
Although there is great diversity in the beliefs and practices of the many traditional African religions, the belief of a High God, Olorun, is common among most of them. Most African religions are polytheistic in daily practice, and it is generally believed that Olorun created the universe, including many minor gods, goddesses and spirits, called Orishas. While Olorun is distant and rarely appealed to for assistance, the lesser gods are recognized and worshiped in temples by priests, and with rituals practiced informally by individuals and within families. The gods are often given offerings of food, wine. There are more than 1,700 Orishas in African religion. Elegua, Shango and Yemaya are the three most popular Orishas African Gods An Orisha stick with cowrie shells, often used as an offering to the gods.
Elegua is a messenger for Olorun, and the Guardian of the Crossroads of Life. When there are decisions to be made Elegua gives humans opportunities and second chances. He is also a trickster, and can sometimes make things complicated. He is whimsical, and can turn a simple choice into a vast conundrum of paradox. Elegua is especially fond of cigars and rum as offerings. He is most often depicted being coloured red and black.
<ul><li>Yamaya is the Goddess of the sea, motherhood, childbirth, and is a protector of children. She floats above the ocean, being adverse to salt, and is identified with the number seven. Yemaya/Yemaja is a contraction of the Yoruba words "Yeye emo eja" which translate to 'Mother whose children are like the fish' </li></ul>
Shango is the God of thunder, drums and dance. He was once the fourth King of the Yoruba tribe, and a great warrior. He is identified with the number six, and the colors red and white. When thunder is heard he is revered by the cry of 'Cabio Sile Shango'. Shango is worshiped on the 4 th of December, and is given the offerings of okra, apples, cornmeal, and red wine.
Hinduism is the oldest and most complex of all world religions. Within its great diversity of philosophies, there are millions of major and minor gods and goddesses. Hindus believe in Brahman, who is the Supreme Being, and who is viewed in the three main forms called the Trimurti. The Trimurti is comprised of Brahma, the creator; Lord Shiva, the destroyer, and Vishnu, the preserver. Hinduism
"There can really be as many Hindu Gods as there are devotees to suit the moods, feelings, emotions & social background of the devotees." ~ Sri RamaKrishna Vishnu is known as the preserver. He is a god of love, benevolence and forgiveness, and is also very playful. Vishnu joins with humanity in the joy of playfulness, and is a trickster and prankster. He is also concerned for all humanity, and has come to Earth numerous times in different forms to help people. Devotees of Vishnu are called Vaishnavites, they worship Vishnu by writing both songs and poetry to him.
Lord Shiva is the god of death, destruction and disease, and is also the god of dance. He is also the god of vegetable, animal and human reproduction, which is the main reason for his popularity. Worshippers of Shiva (called Shivaites) consider themselves separate from Shiva due to ignorance, karma, and illusion, and strive to achieve union with him. Shivaites meditate, study with learned gurus, and often chant many special mantras in their quest for union with Shiva.
Annapurna, goddess of food and cooking. Ganesha, elephant god of internal balance. Kali, goddess of time and transformation/death. Lakshmi, goddess of light, beauty & wealth . Hanuman, monkey god of courage and faithfulness . Saraswati, goddess of music and creativity.
Jainism Statue of Mahavira Jainism is a religion which believes in reincarnation, and that this cycle must be broken by human achievement. In Jainism, the gods are of little consequence. Jains also believe that the world is eternal, and therefore was never created, so there is no need for a creator god. Jains are aware of gods, but deem them to be beings who live on another level of existence than that of humans, and are not at all involved. Mahavira is regarded the traditional founder of Jainism. He also coined the well known phrase “Live and let live”.
Buddhism Buddhism is more of a spiritual philosophy, than a religion. Buddhists do not believe in a creator god, though they do venerate and worship Gautama Buddah, the founder of Buddhism (as well as other Buddahs). Gautama Buddha taught that thoughts make the world, and that reliance and belief in creation by a supreme being / god leads to a lack of effort among humans.
Mahayanist Buddhists believe in a class of beings called Bodhisattvas, who help humans with the problems of life. Some of the Bodhisattvas are thought to reside in Heaven, while others are incarnated as human beings, though they are all believed to respond to the prayers of those who ask them for help. One of the most important Bodhisattvas is Wenshu, the initiator and master of all Buddhas, and the Bodhisattva of wisdom. Dizang is the Bodhisattva who consoles children and those in hell, while Kwan yin has compassion and love for all human beings. ( Below: row of Bodhisattvas in Thailand)
Chinese Religions Traditional Chinese religion is determinedly polytheistic. People worshipped many different gods in ancient China, some of which are representations of the weather or natural forces like the sun or the moon or the rain. Some gods are based on Taoist ideas, such as the eight gods of the Pa Hsien, who represent the eight ways of being human: young, old, poor, rich, a peasant, an aristocrat, a boy, and a girl. The Pa Hsien (or Ba Xian) are symbols of good fortune throughout China. Taoists believe in the Tao, an undefinable source of the universe, and that the gods evolved from the flow of the Tao. The Eight Pa Hsien
The Jade Emperor is the Supreme God of ancient Chinese Religion. According to Taoist mythology, he is considered the ruler of Heaven and creator of the Universe. The Jade Emperor's Birthday is the ninth day of the first lunar month. On this day, there are rituals performed in Taoist temples during which priests (as well as) laymen prostrate themselves and make offerings of food and burn incense. On Chinese New Year's Eve, the Jade Emperor makes his annual inspection of the deeds of humans, in order to reward or punish them accordingly.
Kuan yin is revered by Taoists as the Goddess of compassion and caring. She supports the distressed and hungry, rescues the unfortunate from peril, and gives comfort and aid wherever it is needed. Childless women pray to her for offspring. She is also a Goddess of rice. Kuan yin is usually depicted wearing a white flowing robe, and necklaces of Chinese royalty. Some coastal and river areas of China regard Kuan yin as the protector of fishermen and sailors. She is commonly regarded as a Goddess of luck and good fortune.
Confucianism Confucianism is a philosophy, or 'code of conduct for life' based on the teachings of Confucius, a great teacher who founded Confucianism. Confucius taught that gods existed and that while worship and rituals had the value of community, they were of lesser importance to equitable social order. He believed in respecting gods or spirits, but keeping them at a distance, and that praying to them should not interfere with social duties. He believed that the way to please the gods or spirits was through good conduct with family, neighbours, and general society. In Confucianism, there are no churches, priests or teachings on worshipping gods.
"The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved". ~ Confucius
Shinto Shinto, 'the way of the gods' is the ancient faith of the Japanese people. Shinto gods are called kami, and are sacred spirits which take the form of things important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility. After death, humans become kami and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. The kami are believed to reside in shrines, at which they are worshipped. The Sun Goddess Amaterasu is the most important kami in Shinto. She is described as the goddess from which all light emanates and is referred to as the Sun Goddess because of her warmth and compassion for all people. Amaterasu translates as “that which illuminates Heaven”.
The Shichi-fuku-jin are the seven gods of luck in Japanese mythology that are believed to bring good fortune and happiness. They are Ebisu (God of Fishing) Daikokuten (God of Wealth), Bishamonten (Destroyer of Enemies), Benzaiten (Goddess of Love), Fukurokuju (God of Health), Jurojin (God of Longevity) and Hotei (God of Happiness and Generosity). During the New Year season, Japanese often make pilgrimages to the shrines of the Shichi-fuku-jin and make offerings.
Zoroastrianism . Zoroastrians are monotheistic, and believe that there is only one true creator god, Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda translates to 'Wise Lord'. Two spirits emanate from Ahura Mazda, Spenta Mainyu (the Beneficent Spirit) and Angra Mainyu (the Evil Spirit). It is believed that they have co-existed since the beginning of time, and that they are controlled by Ahura Mazda.
It is believed that Ahura Mazda revealed himself to humans through six forms, or attributes of himself, called the Amesha-Spenta (Holy Immortals). Three of these are masculine, and three feminine, and bear the qualities of their respective sex. The three masculine immortals are Asha (knowledge of the law of God and the law itself), Vohu-Mana (love), and Kshathra (loving service). The three feminine immortals are Armaiti (piety), Haurvatat (wholeness and perfection) and Ameretat (immortality). Zoroastrians pray that the six holy immortals will enter into their homes and bless their family
Judaism Jews believe in a single, all powerful creator god. The sacred name of this god, as revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus, is YHWH. They strongly believe that their god is a single, whole, complete indivisible entity that cannot be divided into parts or described by attributes. Jews believe that YHWH is the only god to whom we should offer praise. While referred to using masculine terms (Hebrew has no neutral gender) Jews believe that YHWH is neither male nor female. To the Jews, their god is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and eternal, as well as merciful. Jews worship YHWH through prayer. In Judaism the image, or face of YHWH is considered extremely taboo. A central belief of the Jewish people is that they have been chosen by their YHWH to be in a special covenant with him. The burning bush, where the prophet Moses heard the Voice of YHWH .
"For you are a holy people to YHWH, your God, and God has chosen you to be his treasured people from all the nations that are on the face of the earth." Deuteronomy 14:2 Russian icon of Moses with the burning bush
Christianity is one of the major monotheistic religions of the world. Christians believe in one creator god who is a 'personal' god in that he is capable of having a relationship with humans. The Christian god is neither impersonal nor distant. Most Christians believe that their god is the Lord of the Universe, and that the belief in, and worship of the other gods and goddesses of other world religions is punishable by eternal damnation. To Christians, their god is infinite, divine, as well as just and merciful. Christianity
Christians believe in what is called the Holy Trinity, which is the idea of their god existing as three persons, but as one being. These three persons are called God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity states "that the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". Belief in the Holy Trinity is a mark of the Oriental and Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and many mainstream traditions which arose from the Protestant Reformation. The idea of the Holy Trinity is considered central dogma of Christian theology. Painting depicting God the Son (left) God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit/Ghost (a dove)
St Martin de Porres was a 16 th century Peruvian monk who was caring and compassionate to all animals. His feast day is Nov 3rd. Saints are beings venerated and prayed to by many Catholics. There are more than 10,000 Roman Catholic Saints. Saints are people who are recognized by fellow believers as someone who lived a divine life and who is in the divine presence of god after death. The veneration of Saints describes a particular popular devotion to the Saints, and while the term 'worship' is often used, it is intended in the old sense meaning to honour to the Saints (as Divine Worship is properly reserved only for God). In Roman Catholic theology, it states that the Saints are alive in Heaven and can intercede with God for all people
A saint may be designated as a patron of particular causes, or invoked against specific illnesses or disasters. Relics of saints are revered in a similar manner to holy images and icons, with the practices of past centuries in calling upon relics of saints for healing being taken from the early Christian church. The worship of saints is referred to as 'hagiolatry'. Saints are honored annually (Feast Days) Saint Blaise was a Bishop of Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early 4 th century. Saint Blaise cared for animals, and could tame and cure them with a touch. He is the patron of wild animals, throat illness, and the city of Dubrovnik. His feast day is on February third .
Virgin and martyr, Saint Agatha died at Catania in Sicily, in the Decian persecution (250-253). She was tortured by having her breasts torn off with hot pincers. She is the patron saint of breast illnesses. Her feast day is on February 5th Saint Catherine of Siena was a hermit, reformer, ascetic and mystic who received the wounds of stigmata. She died of self starvation in 1380. She is the patron saint of Italy. Her feast day is April 29th Saint Rose of Lima was devoted to her vow of chastity and used pepper and lye to destroy her beauty. She is the patron saint of Latin America and the Philippines, and her feast day is on August 30th
Jesus of Nazareth is the central figure of Christianity, and is revered by Christians as the incarnation of their god, and the messiah whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament of the Bible. Christians believe that after being brutally tortured and willingly crucified (to save their naturally sinful souls from eternal hellfire) Jesus rose from his tomb. He walked the earth as one of the undead for a few days before ascending into Heaven. Christians often believe that Jesus performed miracles and that he was immaculately conceived, and born of a virgin called Mary.
Islam "Allah" in Arabic The most fundamental belief in Islam is that there is only one creator god, known in the Arabic language and by Muslims as Allah . The pillar of faith in Islam is to declare that "there is no deity worthy of worship except the One True Almighty God" (in Arabic: "La ilaha ill Allah" ). In Islam, Muslims consider their god to be beyond their sight and understanding, yet at the same time "nearer to us than our jugular vein" (Qur'an 50:16). Muslims pray directly to god with no intermediary and seek guidance from him alone, because "...Allah knows well the secrets of your hearts" (Qur'an 5:7). Islam is based on the concept of Tawhid , or Unity of God, and is strictly monotheistic. Islam rejects any idea of god being visible or human and also rejects all idol worship.
As one of the five pillars of the Islam faith, a Muslim is duty-bound to pray five times daily to god. These prayers do not have to be made within the walls of a Mosque, though all prayers are performed facing the direction of Mecca, the holy city of Muslims.
Sikhism Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, believing in one Supreme Being. Sikhs believe that all religions essentially believe in the same God, but by different names. Therefore, devotion to the Supreme Being and not religion is the path to salvation. Sikhs also believe that their god cannot take human form. Sikhs worship God in his true abstract form, and do not use images or statues. Sikhs refer to their God as Waheguru, Akal Purakh and Oankar. Important to Sikhs is the understanding that there is one endless God, and that he is the eternal creator of everything in the universe. Sikhs worship their god through prayer, private and public. The Khanda (above) is the emblem of the Sikh faith.
The Bahá'í believe in one supernatural and supreme god who created the universe and all creatures and forces within it. This god is omnipotent and omniscient. Bahá'í believe that all religions, though they may have different concepts of god and call god by various names, are nevertheless speaking about the same unique supreme being. According to Bahá'í teachings, god is so far beyond his creation, that throughout all eternity, human beings will never be able to formulate any clear image of Him or attain to anything but the most remote appreciation of his superior nature. For Bahá'ís, the purpose of life is to know and love their god, and thus to grow spiritually. They worship him with obligatory prayers, meditation and occasionally with fasting Bahá'í The Bahá'ís symbol of their faith
Music written and performed by Glenn Danzig. 1992. 1 . Dirge of Defeat 2. Battle for Heaven 3. Conspiracy Dirge 4. And the Angels Weep 5. Overture of the Rebel Angels 6. Cwn Anwnn
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