Tag Archive: benzaiten


“sri devi a.k.a dewi sri” by ~hanyasatu

“Wakasaname-no-Kami’s themes are providence, harvest, growth, patience and manifestation. Her symbols are rice and fire.  This Goddess’s name describes Her function in Japan – The Young Rice Planting Maiden. It is Wakasaname’s duty to oversee the rice transplanting at this time of year, as She was born of a union between the food Goddess and grain god. From a more spiritual perspective, Wakasaname-no-Kami offers us the providence and fulfillment that comes from a job patiently well attended.

Early in June, Japanese farmers transplant their rice seedlings into the paddies, asking for the blessings of the Goddess as they go. Prayers are made as ritual fires burn to get Wakasaname’s attention, and they probably act as an invocation to the sun. In you home this might mean going outside (if the weather permits) and offering to the Goddess so She can help you fulfill your work-related goals. Makes sure you keep your purpose in mind while the rice burns and speak your wishes into the smoke so it carries them before Wakasaname’s watchful eyes.

To inspire Wakasaname’s patience in your life, make a bowl of rice. Breathe deeply, then try to pick up one grain with chopsticks. This is an old meditative method from the East, and believe me, it teaches much more about the benefits of persistence and practice!”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Inari” by Susan Seddon Boulet

For today’s entry, the only information I could find on today’s Goddess, Wakasaname-no-Kami, was the following, “The god of Rice called Inari is usually depicted as a bearded old man, but he can transform himself into Wakasaname-no-Kami [Young Rice-Planting Maiden].  This is the spirit whose alter ego, ally or vehicle is the fox.  And a fox is believed to be able to transform itself into the rice spirit, too. ” [1]  (Hmm, interesting considering our encounter a few evenings ago with Fox…)

“Inari” by Matthew Meyer

Further research proved Inari to be a very complex deity.  “Inari has been depicted both as male and as female. The most popular representations of Inari, according to scholar Karen Ann Smyers, are a young female food Goddess, an old man carrying rice, and an androgynous bodhisattva…Inari is sometimes identified with other mythological figures. Some scholars suggest that Inari is the figure known in classical Japanese mythology as Ukanomitama or the Kojiki‘s Ōgetsu-Hime; others suggest Inari is the same figure as Toyouke. Some take Inari to be identical to any grain kami.

Inari’s female aspect is often identified or conflated with Dakiniten, a Buddhist deity who is a Japanese transformation of the Indian dakini or with Benzaiten of the Seven Lucky Gods.

  

Inari is often venerated as a collective of three deities (Inari sanza); since the Kamakura period, this number has sometimes increased to five kami (Inari goza). However, the identification of these kami has varied over time. According to records of Fushimi Inari, the oldest and perhaps most prominent Inari shrine, these kami have included IzanagiIzanamiNinigi, and Wakumusubi, in addition to the food deities previously mentioned. The five kami today identified with Inari at Fushimi Inari are Ukanomitama, Sarutahiko, Omiyanome, Tanaka, and Shi. However, at Takekoma Inari, the second-oldest Inari shrine in Japan, the three enshrined deities are Ukanomitama, Ukemochi, and Wakumusubi.  According to the Nijūni shaki, the three kami are Ōmiyame no mikoto (water,) Ukanomitama no mikoto (grain,) and Sarutahiko no mikami (land.)” [2]

As I then turned my focus onto Inari, I came across this tale and found a rather interesting comparison to Corn Mother which I’ll explain later.  “Uke Mochi, the Japanese Goddess of food, was married to Inari, the god of rice.  One day the moon god Tsuki-yomi, brother of the sun Goddess Amaterasu, dropped in for a visit. In an attempt to be hospitable, Uke Mochi threw up vast quantities of fish, seaweed, game and boiled rice.  Tsuki-yomi was so disgusted by the manner in which he had been served that he killed Her.  Herds of cattle and horses stampeded out of Uke Mochi’s head.  Rice, millet, and red beans spilled out of Her eyes, ears and nose.  Wheat sprouted from Her genitals, soy beans grew from Her rectum, and even a mulberry tree crawling with silkworms sprang from Her body.” [3]

“Uke Mochi” by Kabuki Katze

I find it interesting, and obvious now that I think about it, that two such important staples (corn and rice) are associated with Goddesses; Goddesses with different names and epithets across the regions They reign across (as there are many names for the Corn Mother among the various tribes of North America and for rice Goddesses across Asia – see Phosop).  Now, read this synopsis of the two main version about Corn Mother.  “The story of the Corn Mother is related in two main versions with many variations.

“Corn Maiden” by Marti Fenton (White Deer Song)

In the first version (the ‘immolation version’), the Corn Mother is depicted as an old woman who succors a hungry tribe, frequently adopting an orphan as a foster child. She secretly produces grains of corn by rubbing Her body. When Her secret is discovered, the people, disgusted by her means of producing the food, accuse Her of witchcraft. Before being killed—by some accounts with Her consent—She gives careful instructions on how to treat Her corpse. Corn sprouts from the places over which Her body is dragged or, by other accounts, from Her corpse or burial site.

In the second version (the ‘flight version’), She is depicted as a young, beautiful woman who marries a man whose tribe is suffering from hunger. She secretly produces corn, also, in this version, by means that are considered to be disgusting; She is discovered and insulted by Her in-laws. Fleeing the tribe, She returns to Her divine home; Her husband follows Her, and She gives him seed corn and detailed instructions for its cultivation.” [4]

“The Slaying of Mother Earth” by Matthew Bandel

Do you see the common theme in both the Japanese and Native American stories?  In all three stories, the Goddess produces food in ways that are considered “disgusting”.  In all three stories, She is sent away (either killed or flees).  In both the Japanese and Native American “immolation version”, food – vital staples for survival, sprout from Her body.  Really think about that.  Really think about the “disgusting” and “dirty” things that the Goddess does and is associated with that are necessary for life to flourish.  She takes abuse, is ridiculed and exploited for Her “dirtiness”; that which She freely sacrifices and gives out of love in order for Her children to live.  Thinking about this can get pretty deep…

 

 

 

Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Corn Mother“.

Hathaway, Nancy. The Friendly Guide to Mythology: A Mortal’s Companion to the Fantastical Realm of Gods and Goddesses Monsters Heroes, “Uke Mochi“.

Khandro.net, “Rice“.

Wikipedia, “Inari Ōkami“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

OnMark Productions, “INARI / Oinari / Oinari-sama Shinto God/Goddess of Rice & Food“.

Kazuo, MATSUMURA.  “Alone Among Women: A Comparitive Mythic Analysis of the Development of Amaterasu Theology“.

Kuchinsky, Charolette. Yahoo! Voices, “The Myth of the Japanese Goddess, Ukemochi“.

Roberts, Jeremy. “Japanese Mythology A – Z“. (This is a PDF)

Yoose, Becky. University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, “INARI = Shinto Rice Kami“.

Goddess Sarasvati

“Goddess Saraswati”

“Sarasvati’s themes are learning, wisdom and communication.  Her symbols are white flowers (especially Lotus), marigolds and swans. A Hindu Goddess of eloquence and intelligence, Sarasvati extends a refreshing drink from her well of knowledge to complete the month with aptitude. In Hindu tradition, Sarasvati invented all sciences, arts and writing. In works of arts she is depicted as white-skinned and graceful, riding on a swan or sitting on an open lotus blossom.

Today is an excellent time to embark on any course of study or to reinforce your learning in a specific area. In Hindu tradition, Sarasvati’s festival is held on or around this date. During the celebration, students gather in the Katmandu Valley (Nepal) bearing gifts for the Goddess, who visits here today. Traditional offerings at the temples include lotus and marigold blossoms and incense, while students often bring pens or books to invoke Sarasvati’s aid with their studies.

Adapting this a bit, try dabbing your personal tools or educational books with a little lotus oil, and burn any sweet-scented incense to improve your awareness (rosemary is a good choice).

To generate Sarasvati’s assistance in matters of communication, find a white flower and remove its petals. Place these in any moving water source, saying something like:

‘Sarasvati, let my words bear gentle beauty and truth
falling lightly on other’s ears
even as these petals to the water.’

Let the water (which also represents this Goddess) carry your wish.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

Patricia Monaghan wrote: “As every Hindu god must have a Shakti, or enlivening female force, to function, so Brahma the creator needed Sarasvati for the world to come into being. She is not only the water Goddesses, one of the trinity that also includes Ganga and Yamuna, but She is also the Goddess of eloquence, which pours forth like a flooding river.

Inventor of all the arts and sciences, patron of all intellectual endeavors, Sarasvati is the very prototype of the female artist. She invented writing so that the songs She inspired could be recorded; She created music so the elegance of her being could be praised. In her identity as Vach, Goddess of speech, She caused all words to come into being, including religious writings. Sometimes it is said that She is the rival of Laksmi, Goddess of material wealth; if anyone has the favor of one Goddess, the other will turn away so that no one is ever blessed with both Sarasvati’s genius and Laksmi’s blessing” (p. 273).

Saraswati, known as Sraosha in Zoroastrianism is the guardian of earth. Sraosha (“obedience”) is also the wife and messenger of Ahura Mazda, and her role as the “Teacher of Daena”, Daena being the hypostasis of both “Conscience” and “Religion”. She also guides the souls of the deceased to find their way to the afterlife. Her symbolic animal is the peacock, whose crowing calls the pious to their religious duties. She is also called Druga for fighting off Drug (Drug, the name for female demon in ancient Veda, from the Sanskrit root druh “to be hostile”). The name Druga is made of Sanskrit dru or dur “with difficulty” and gā or jā (“come”, “go”). Saraswati is known as a guardian deity in Buddhism who upholds the teachings of Gautama Buddha by offering protection and assistance to practitioners. She is known in Burmese as Thurathadi or Tipitaka Medaw, Chinese as Biàncáitiān (辯才天), in Thai as Surasawadee (สุรัสวดี) and in Japanese as Benzaiten (弁才天/弁財天). In the East Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa: Saraswati is considered to be a daughter of Lord Shiva and Durga along with her sister Lakshmi and her brothers Ganesha and Karthikeya. [1]

It is believed that Goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. [2]

“Sarasvati is one of the many faces refelceted in the image of the Divine Mother.  Called the Goddess of the Word, Sarasvati means “the one who gives the essence (Sara) or our own Self (Swa).”  She is also known as the Goddess of Learning and is the consort (wife) of the Hindu God Brahma (the Creator).

Considered knowledge itself personified as a feminine deity, Sarasvati is closely identified with culture, language, speech, wisdom, intellect, creativity and inspiration.  She contains all forms within Her, pervades all creation and is the power of intellegence and thought.” [3]  She is the Goddess of eloquence, and words pour from Her like a sweetly flowing river. One myth of this Goddess is that She is a jealous rival of the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and that pursuing wealth alone will assure that Sarasvati’s gifts will desert you.

“She holds in her four hands a vina instrument, an akshamala (prayer beads) in the right hand, and a pustaka (book) in the left, which represents the knowledge of all sciences. Holding the book or scriptures in one hand also indicates that this knowledge alone can bring us to the Truth. The vina shows the beauty of learning the fine arts. Playing her vina, she tunes the mind and intellect with her knowledge, and thus the seeker can be in harmony with the universe. The prayer beads represent all spiritual sciences, like meditation and japa (chanting the holy names of God), and, being held in the right hand, that it is more important than the secular knowledge contained in the book in her left hand. Her four arms represent her unrestricted power in the four directions. She also represents creativity, or the combination of power and intelligence, the basis of creativity.” [4]

The following popular ‘pranam mantra’ or Sanskrit prayer, Saraswati devotees utter with utmost devotion eulogizes the goddess of knowledge and arts:

Om Saraswati Mahabhagey, Vidye Kamala Lochaney |

Viswarupey Vishalakshmi, Vidyam Dehi Namohastutey ||
Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey |
Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey ||

The beautiful human form of Saraswati comes to the fore in this English translation of the Saraswati hymn:

“May Goddess Saraswati,
who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon,
and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops;
who is adorned in radiant white attire,
on whose beautiful arm rests the veena,
and whose throne is a white lotus;
who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me.
May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance.”
[5]

I had to throw this in.  Looking at the Hindu Sarasvati, Goddess of learning and the creative arts, She bears some striking resemblances to Brigit, as well as some important differences. Click here to read further in exploring  the image of Sarasvati as She appears in the Vedas and is developed in later Hinduism, compared images of  Brigit.

Sources:

Das, Subhamoy. About.com, “Saraswati: Goddess of Knowledge & Arts“.

Knapp, Stephen. Stephen-knapp.com, “Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning“.

Prophet, Elizabeth & Mark L. Sacredwind.com, “Sarasvati“.

Wikipedia, “Saraswati“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Faerywillow. Thegoddesstree.com, “Sarasvati“.

Wood, Hilaire. Brigitsforge.co.uk, “Sarasvati, Brigit and the Sacred Word“.

Yarber, Angela. Feminismandreligion.com, “Painting Saraswati By Angela Yarber“.

Goddess Benten

“Benten’s themes are luck, wealth and beauty. Her symbols are boats, dragons, guitars, snakes and saltwater.

As the Japanese Goddess steering the New Year’s Treasure Ship, Benten is a perfect figure to call on for financial improvements this year. She is the only Goddess of luck in Japan – the sole female among the Seven Gods of Fortune, and is referred to as queen of the seas and patroness of gamblers. Japanese woman invoke her to bring beauty and fortune into their lives; for she resides over love, eloquence, wisdom and the fine arts.  She is the patroness of geisha and those who take joy in the arts. Benten is depicted as riding a gold dragon, playing a biwa (guitar), and sending out white snakes with her missives. Her robe bears a jewel that grants wishes.

To welcome Benten’s prosperity into your home, sprinkle a little saltwater on the threshold today. Or, to generate beauty within and without, soak in a bath of Epsom salts while listening to guitar music.

The Shigoto Hajime festival honors the beginning of the work week in Japan, where it is believed that good omens for work begin today. If you want to get a peek at how your employment will fare this year, try divination by dice (a traditional gambler’s tool). Hold one die in your hand, ask for Benten to provide a sign, then roll it. The results can be interpreted as follows:

(1) a negative omen;
(2) feeling torn between two good options;
(3) a good omen;
(4) financial security;
(5) not much material change, but improvements in interoffice relationships;
(6) an excellent omen; roll again If you get two more sixes, Benten’s treasures will be yours!”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

Patricia Monaghan tells us that “among the seven Japanese divinities of good luck, only one was a goddess: Benten, who brought inspiration and talent, wealth, and romance to those who honored her.  Benten was also queen of the sea, a dragon woman who swam in state through her domain with a retinue of white snakes.  In her dragon body she protected her devotees from earthquakes by mating with the monstrous snakes who thrashed under the Japanese islands.  But she could also wear the form of a lovely human woman, and in this form she was usually portrayed, mounted on a dragon who was both her steed and her paramour” (p. 69).

saraswati benzaiten_saraswati

Benten, also called Benzaiten “is the Japanese name for the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. She is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra and often depicted holding a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute, in contrast to Saraswati who holds a stringed instrument known as a veena. Benzaiten is a highly syncretic entity with both a Buddhist and a Shinto side.

Benzaiten as a female kami is known as Ichikishima-hime-no-mikoto.  Also, she is believed by Tendai Buddhism to be the essence of kami Ugajin, whose effigy she sometimes carries on her head together with a torii. As a consequence, she is sometimes also known as Uga Benzaiten or Uga Benten. Shrine pavilions called either Benten-dō or Benten-sha, or even entire Shinto shrines can be dedicated to her, as in the case of Kamakura’s Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine or Nagoya’s Kawahara Shrine.” [1]

il_fullxfull.361170508_aluv

“Japanese Goddess of Sea” by KatyDidsCards

In Japanese mythology “…Benten was said to have descended to earth where she met and married a dragon in order to stop him eating young children. Because of this, she is sometimes depicted as riding a dragon in art.

Another legend tells of how the goddess helped the young poet Baishu. He had found a poem written by a maiden and had fallen in love with her, despite never having seen what she looked like. Praying to the goddess for help, Benten arranged for the young poet and the girl to meet outside the shrine. Later, it turned out that the young girl Baishu had fallen in love with was actually the soul of the women he later met and married.

chineese-goddess

8-Armed Benzaiten (Jp. = Happi Benzaiten 八臂弁財天)
At Hoan-den (Enoshima Island in Japan)
Kanagawa Pretectural Asset, Kamakura Period

In art, Benten is sometimes shown with snakes. Some statues of her reveal eight arms, six of these which are raised and the hands holding different objects. These include a bow and arrow and two hands are folded in prayer” [2] as well as a sword, a jewel, a wheel, and a key.

From The White GoddessArea of Influence:

Water, Words, Speech, Eloquence, Music, Knowledge, Fortune, Beauty

il_570xN.365169550_j2cu

“Benzaiten (Benten) Shinto Goddess of Music & Luck” by LaPetiteMascarade

Pantheon: Japanese

Abode: Caverns

Animals: Dragons, Sea Serpents

Colours: Bue, Silver, White, Yellow

Crystal: Conch, Mother of pearl, Iron, Gold

Direction: East, West

Element: Air, Water

Musical Instrument: Lute

Offerings: Honey, Yellow flowers, Wild berries

Planet: Venus

Plant/Tree: Lotus, Waterlillies, Yellow flowers

Symbols: Sword, Bow and arrow, Wheel, Key, Axe, Spear, Pestle

Tarot Card: Cups

Time: Summer Solstice

 

 

 

Also known as: Benjaiten, Bensai-Ten, Benzai-Ten, Benzai-Tennyo, Benzaiten, Ichiki-Shima-Hime, Sarasvati, Zeniari, [3]; and according to Thalia Took, “Benzaiten is also linked to Kwannon or Kwan Yin, the sometimes female, sometimes male Bodhisattva of compassion in Buddhism.” [4]

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities, “Benten“.

Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, “Benten”.

Slayford-Wei, Lian. Humanities360.com, “The History and Significance of the Goddedss Benten“.

Took, Thalia. A-Muse-ing Grace Gallery, “Benzaiten“.

The White Goddess, “Benten – Goddess of everything that flows“.

Wikipedia, “Benzaiten“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

A-to-Z Photo Dictionary: Japanese Buddhist Statuary, “BENZAITEN, BENTEN“.

The Broom Closet, “Benten: Japanese Goddess of Eloquence“.

Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities, “Benten“.

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Benten“.

Lindemans, Micha. Encyclopedia Mythica, “Benten“.

Took, Thalia. A-Muse-ing Grace Gallery, “Benzaiten“.

 

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