Ōkuninushi (Japanese: 大国主) was a famous hero and one of the more personable gods as part of the Japanese Izumo mythology. His name literally translates to "Great Land-Owner" or "Great Land Master" and he was in charge of firming the land during creation. He was known as the Lord of the Central Land of Reed Plains (another name for Japan). In Shintoism, Okuninushi-no-Mikoto is considered the god of the earth and the underworld, as well as of relationships, nation-building, commerce, medicine, and agriculture.
He is also known as Ōmononushi (大物主神) or Onamuchi, and the amiable Daikoku/Daikokuten of the Seven Lucky Gods is considered his counterpart (as their names have a similar reading).
Okuninushi was the youngest sibling of 80 cruel brothers, all deities living in Izumo. Hearing of the beautiful goddess Yagami-hime in the land of Inaba, every one of the brothers decided to try and woo her. Bringing along Okuninushi in order to carry all their luggage, he soon lagged behind his brothers from the burden. On the way to Inaba, the large group of brothers came across a suffering hairless hare, and decided to play a prank on it. They advised it to bathe in seawater, then stand on top of a high peak and let the winds and sun dry it, telling the hare this would help it recover more quickly. The hare did as the brothers said, but instead of recovering, things worsened as its skin dried out and cracked, agitated further by salt from the seawater. Unable to stand the pain, the hare fell to the ground. Trailing behind his brothers, when Okuninushi found the crying rabbit he asked what had happened. The rabbit told its story.
Originally from the island of Oki, the hare had wanted to travel to the mainland but was unable to do so on his own. So coming up with an idea, he challenged the sharks surrounding the island. He told them "Let’s see which there are more of, you sharks or us rabbits. Have all your fellow sharks line up one by one from here to Cape Keta, and I’ll count you. Then we’ll know for sure which group is bigger." As the sharks lined up, the hare jumped from shark to shark, counting each one. Just before it leapt to the mainland, it boasted about tricking the sharks, so the final shark bit off the rabbit's fur. Lying on the ground, that was where he met the large group of gods whose advice had made things worse.
After hearing the tale, Okuninushi told the hare to wash itself in the nearby fresh water river, then lay out fluff from the cattails and roll in it. Doing so, the rabbit's pain was soothed and it soon completely healed. In gratitude the hare gave a prophecy that Yagami-hime would choose Okuninushi over all of his brothers. When Okuninushi finally arrived where his brother's were, the princess told the elder brothers that she would have nothing to do with any of them, but would marry Okuninushi.
Enraged by and jealous of their younger brother who obtained the affection of the goddess-princess of Inaba, the elder brothers schemed to kill Okuninushi. They killed him twice, once with a smoldering boulder and once with a trap in the woods. Both times he was killed, Okuninushi was revived by his mother Sashikuni-waka-hime, a clam goddess. After the second time, Okuninushi was able to escape to the underworld ruled by Susanoo.
After fleeing to the underworld Ne no Kuni, Okuninushi met and fell in love with Suseri-hime. Her father, Susanoo, however, did not approve of the relationship and so decided to test the young man. First, he was told to sleep in a room full of snakes. Suseri-hime gave him a scarf that, when waved three times, would freeze the snakes, allowing Okuninushi to pass the night without incident. Second, he was to stay in a room full of wasps and centipedes. Again he was helped by Suseri-hime with a scarf that worked in the same way as the first. Finally, Susanoo took him to a big field and shot an arrow, telling Okuninushi to retrieve it, before setting the field on fire. About to succumb to the flames, a mouse ran up to him and told him that the "Once inside, it’s big and hollow, but the entrance is narrow and tight." Recognizing the invitation into the mouse's home, Okuninushi stomped on the hole where a large burrow opened up and he was able to wait out the fire. The mouse also helped him find the arrow and he returned it to Susanoo.
Still not completely unsatisfied, Susanoo then told Okuninushi to pick the lice out of his hair. However, rather than lice, Okuninushi found many centipedes. Suseri-hime again came to help him, giving him red clay and berries, which he chewed together and spat out, causing Susanoo to think it was the centipedes he was chewing and spitting out. Eventually falling asleep, Okuninushi then tied Susanoo's hair to the rafters of the house and blocked the door with a boulder. Then taking the sleeping god's sword, harp, and bow and arrows, Okuninushi and Suseri-hime fled together. But when the harp knocked against a tree. Susanoo awoke and his house fell around him, before he chased the couple all the way to the entrance to the underworld.
Fortunately, during the trials Susanoo had grown fond of Okuninushi, and so instead of catching them he let them go. Instead he told Okuninushi to take his tools to the surface and defeat his brothers, then build a palace for Suseri-hime that would reach the heavens.
Using the magical items lent by Susanoo, Okuninushi defeated all of his brothers in Izumo, allowing him to become ruler of the land. With the help of the dwarf god Sukunabiko, Okuninushi began to firm/form the land. Along with his friend the dwarf god they also developed medicine and managed to decrease the destructiveness of birds and insects. For this a shrine was built in Izumo for Okuninushi.
When Takemikazuchi descended to heaven with the command to pacify and unify the Central Land of Reed Plains, Okuninushi transferred his power over to Niningi, the grandson of Amaterasu. For this he was given rulership of magic and the unseen, where he then moved to the land of darkness, the underworld.
Veles, also known as Volos (Russian: Волос, Влас, Власий), is a major Slavic god of earth, waters, livestock, and the underworld. His attributes are wet, wooly, hairy (bearded), dark and he is associated with cattle, the harvest, wealth, music, magic, and trickery.
According to reconstruction by some researchers, he is the opponent of the supreme thunder god Perun. As such he probably has been imagined as a dragon, which in the belief of the pagan Slavs is a chimeric being, a serpent that devours livestock. His tree is the willow much like Perun's tree is the oak.
Volos is mentioned as god of cattle and peasants, who will punish oath-breakers with diseases, the opposite of Perun who is described as a ruling god of war who punishes by death in battle.
According to Ivanov and Toporov, Veles' portrayal as having a penchant for mischief is evident both from his role in the storm myth and in carnival customs of Koledari shamans. In his role as a trickster god, he is in some ways similar to both Greek Hermes and Scandinavian Loki. He was connected with magic. The word volhov, obviously derived from his name, in some Slavic languages still means sorcerer while in the 12th century Ruthenian epic The Tale of Igor's Campaign, the character of Boyan the wizard is called Veles' grandson. Veles was also believed to be protector of travelling musicians. For instance, in some wedding ceremonies of northern Croatia (which continued up to the 20th century), the music would not start playing unless the bridegroom, when making a toast, spilled some of the wine on the ground, preferably over the roots of the nearest tree. The symbolism of this is clear, even though forgotten long ago by those still performing it: the musicians will not sing until a toast is made to their patron deity.
As a god of the underworld and dragons, he became identified with the Devil. His more benevolent sides were transformed to several Christian saints. As a protector of cattle, he became associated with Saint Blaise, popularly known among various Slavic nations as St. Vlaho, St. Blaz, or St. Vlasiy (Armenian: Սուրբ Վլասի; germ: Blasius; fr: Blaise; sp: San Blas; port: São Brás; it: San Biagio; Croat: sv. Blaž; eng: Blase; Greek: Άγιος Βλάσιος). In Yaroslavl, for example, the first church built on the site of Veles's pagan shrine was dedicated to St Blaise, for the latter's name was similar to Veles and he was likewise considered a heavenly patron of shepherds. As mentioned already, in many Eastern Slavic folk tales, he was replaced by St. Nicholas, probably because the popular stories of the saint describe him as a giver of wealth and a sort of a trickster.
The Russian philologists Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov reconstructed the mythical battle of Perun and Veles through comparative study of various Indo-European mythologies and a large number of Slavic folk stories and songs. An unifying characteristic of all Indo-European mythologies is a story about a battle between a god of thunder and a huge serpent or a dragon. In the Slavic version of the myth, Perun is a god of thunder while Veles acts as a dragon who opposes him, consistent with the Vala etymology; he is also similar to the Etruscan underworld monster Vetha and to the dragon Illuyankas, enemy of the storm god of Hittite mythology.
The reason for the enmity between the two gods is Veles's theft of Perun's son, wife, or, usually, cattle. It is also an act of challenge: Veles, in the form of a huge serpent, slithers from the caves of the underworld and coils upwards the Slavic world tree towards Perun's heavenly domain. Perun retaliates and attacks Veles with his lightning bolts. Veles flees, hiding or transforming himself into trees, animals or people. In the end, he is killed by Perun and in this ritual death, whatever Veles stole is released from his battered body in the form of rain falling from the skies. This "storm myth", or "divine battle", as it is generally called by scholars today, explained to ancient Slavs the changing of seasons through the year. The dry periods were interpreted as the chaotic results of Veles' thievery. Storms and lightning were seen as divine battles. The ensuing rain was the triumph of Perun over Veles and the re-establishment of world order. On a deeper level, as has been said above, Perun's place is up, high and dry and Veles' down, low and wet. By climbing up into the sphere of Perun, Veles disrupts the equilibrium of the world and needs to be put in his place. Perun does this in a fierce battle by smiting him with his lightning and drives him down into the water under the tree stub and the log and by putting him back in his place Perun restores order. Then they stop being adversaries and remain just opponents until the next time Veles tries to crawl up into Perun's realm.
The myth was cyclical, repeating itself each year. The death of Veles was never permanent; he would reform himself as a serpent who would shed its old skin and would be reborn in a new body. Although in this particular myth he plays a negative role as bringer of chaos, Veles was not seen as an evil god by ancient Slavs. In fact, in many of the Russian folk tales, Veles, appearing under the Christian guise of St. Nicholas, saves the poor farmer and his cattle from the furious and destructive St. Elias the Thunderer, who represents Perun. The duality and conflict of Perun and Veles does not represent the dualistic clash of good and evil; rather, it is the opposition of the natural principles of earth and water (Veles) against heaven/sky and fire (Perun).
Aker was first depicted as the torso of a recumbent lion with a widely opened mouth. Later, he was depicted as two recumbent lion torsos merged with each other and still looking away from each other.
From Middle Kingdom onwards Aker appears as a pair of twin lions, one named Duaj (meaning "yesterday") and the other Sefer (meaning "tomorrow"). Aker was thus often titled "He who's looking forward and behind". When depicted as a lion pair, a hieroglyphic sign for "horizon" (two merged mountains) and a sun disc was put between the lions; the lions were sitting back-on-back.
In later times, Aker can also appear as two merged torsos of recumbent sphinxes with human heads.
Aker was first described as one of the earth gods guarding the "gate to the yonder site". He protected the deceased king against the three demonic snakes Hemtet, Iqeru and Jagw. By "encircling" (i.e. interring) the deceased king, Aker sealed the deceased away from the poisonous breath of the snake demons. Another earth deity, who joined and promoted Aker's work, was Geb. Thus, Aker was connected with Geb. In other spells and prayers, Aker is connected with Seth and even determined with the Set animal. This is interesting, because Seth is described as a wind deity, not as an earth deity.
In the famous Coffin Texts of Middle Kingdom period, Aker replaces the god Kherty, becoming now the "ferryman of Ra in his nocturnal bark". Aker protects the sun god during his nocturnal travelling through the underworld caverns. In the famous Book of the Dead, Aker also "gives birth" to the god Khepri, the young, rising sun in shape of a scarab beetle, after Aker has carried Khepri's sarcophagus safely through the underworld caverns. In other underworld scenes, Aker carries the nocturnal bark of Ra. During his journey, in which Aker is asked to hide the body of the dead Osiris beneath his womb, Aker is protected by the god Geb.
In several inscriptions, wall paintings and reliefs, Aker was connected to the horizon of the North and the West, forming a mythological bridge between the two horizons with his body. Certain sarcophagus texts from the tombs of Ramesses IV, Djedkhonsuiusankh and Pediamenopet describe how the sun god Ra travels through the underworld "like Apophis going through the belly of Aker after Apophis was cut by Seth". In this case, Aker seems to be some kind of representation of the underworld itself.
Aker appears for the first time during the 1st Dynasty with the kings (pharaohs) Hor Aha and Djer. An unfinished decorative palette from the tomb of Djer at Abydos shows Aker devouring three hearts. The location of Aker's main cult center is unknown, though. His mythological role was fully described for the first time in the famous Pyramid Texts of king Teti.
In ancient Roman religion, Ceres (/ˈsɪəriːz/ SEER-eez, Latin: [ˈkɛreːs]) was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres". Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales (Ceres' games). She was also honoured in the May lustratio of the fields at the Ambarvalia festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites.
Ceres is the only one of Rome's many agricultural deities to be listed among the Dii Consentes, Rome's equivalent to the Twelve Olympians of Greek mythology. The Romans saw her as the counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter, whose mythology was reinterpreted for Ceres in Roman art and literature.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Tellus Mater or Terra Mater ("Mother Earth") is a goddess of the earth. Although Tellus and Terra are hardly distinguishable during the Imperial era, Tellus was the name of the original earth goddess in the religious practices of the Republic or earlier.[ The scholar Varro (1st century BC) lists Tellus as one of the di selecti, the twenty principal gods of Rome, and one of the twelve agricultural deities. She is regularly associated with Ceres in rituals pertaining to the earth and agricultural fertility.
The attributes of Tellus were the cornucopia, or bunches of flowers or fruit. She was typically depicted reclining, or rising, waist high, from a hole in the ground. Her male complement was a sky god such as Caelus (Uranus) or a form of Jupiter. Her Greek counterpart is Gaia, and among the Etruscans her name was Cel. Michael Lipka has argued that the Terra Mater who appears during the reign of Augustus is a direct transfer of the Greek Ge Mater into Roman religious practice, while Tellus, whose ancient temple was within Rome's sacred boundary (pomerium), represents the original earth goddess cultivated by the state priests.
The word tellus, telluris is also a Latin common noun for "land, territory; earth," as is terra, "earth, ground". In literary uses, particularly in poetry, it may be ambiguous as to whether the goddess, a personification, or the common noun is meant.
This article preserves the practice of the ancient sources regarding Tellus or Terra.
In Greek mythology, Gaia (/ˈɡeɪə, ˈɡaɪə/;] from Ancient Greek Γαῖα, a poetical form of Γῆ Gē, "land" or "earth"), also spelled Gaea /ˈdʒiːə/, is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia is the ancestral mother—sometimes parthenogenic—of all life. She is the mother of Uranus (the sky), from whose sexual union she bore the Titans (themselves parents of many of the Olympian gods), the Cyclopes, and the Giants; as well as of Pontus (the sea), from whose union she bore the primordial sea gods. Her equivalent in the Roman pantheon was Terra.
Hesiod's Theogony tells how, after Chaos, "wide-bosomed" Gaia (Earth) arose to be the everlasting seat of the immortals who possess Olympus above. And after Gaia came "dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth", and next Eros the god of love. Hesiod goes on to say that Gaia brought forth her equal Uranus (Heaven, Sky) to "cover her on every side". Gaia also bore the Ourea (Mountains), and Pontus (Sea), "without sweet union of love" (i.e., with no father).
Afterwards with Uranus, her son, she gave birth to the Titans, as Hesiod tells it:
She lay with Heaven and bore deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos (Cronus) the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.
According to Hesiod, Gaia conceived further offspring with her son, Uranus, first the giant one-eyed Cyclopes: Brontes ("Thunder"), Steropes ("Lightning"), and Arges ("Bright"); then the Hecatonchires: Cottus, Briareos, and Gyges, each with a hundred arms and fifty heads. As each of the Cyclopes and Hecatonchires were born, Uranus hid them in a secret place within Gaia, causing her great pain. So Gaia devised a plan. She created a grey flint (or adamantine) sickle. And Cronus used the sickle to castrate his father Uranus as he approached his mother, Gaia, to have sex with her. From Uranus' spilled blood, Gaia produced the Erinyes, the Giants, and the Meliae (ash-tree nymphs). From the testicles of Uranus in the sea came forth Aphrodite.
By her son, Pontus, Gaia bore the sea-deities Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia.
Because Cronus had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overthrown by one of his children, he swallowed each of the children born to him by his Titan older sister, Rhea. But when Rhea was pregnant with her youngest child, Zeus, she sought help from Gaia and Uranus. When Zeus was born, Rhea gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling-clothes in his place, which Cronus swallowed, and Gaia took the child into her care.
With the help of Gaia's advice, Zeus defeated the Titans. But afterwards, Gaia, in union with Tartarus, bore the youngest of her sons Typhon, who would be the last challenge to the authority of Zeus.