Thunderstorm Deities

As we’ve had some spectacular thunderstorms in the last couple of days, I though it was time to introduce my favourite redhead to you:

Amy Pond

Amy Pond

Ahem, no, not that one – though bless, she is very sweet, but this one:

Thor

Thor

Although there are many deities from around the world who are associated with thunder and storms, I’m going to start with Thor, in the above picture as diplomatic and tactful as ever. I’m biased, so sue me ;p  Among those of us with many rather than one, there is usually one of that number who is responsible for storms and thunder.  Typically it’s a man with a lot of muscle (and in the case of Thor not a lot of diplomacy…)

Thor:

The red-haired and red-bearded god in the Norse and Germanic mythology, happier solving problems with brawn and not brains.  The son of Odin and a giantess, his most famous aspect is that of his hammer, Mjöllnir, which he can throw and it will return to him.  He also possesses a belt which gives him the strength of a giant, and a pair of magic gloves.  Though the son of a giant, he tends to fight them fairly frequently during the saga tales.  He travels in a chariot pulled by two goats.  Don’t laugh, he really does ;p    The stories which he appears in are many,  two of which are listed here:

A noted story involving Thor, told in Þrymskviða and the Prose Edda, was the time when Þrymr, King of the Giants, stole Thor’s hammer, Mjöllnir. Thor went to Loki, hoping to find the culprit responsible for the theft, then Loki and Thor went to Freyja for counsel. Freyja gave Loki the Feather-robe so that he could travel to the land of the giants, to speak to their king. The king admitted to stealing the hammer, and would not give it back unless Freyja gave him her hand in marriage. Freyja angrily refused, so the gods decided to think of a way to trick the King. Heimdall suggested dressing up Thor in a bridal gown, so that he could take Freyja’s place. Thor at first refused to humiliate himself in such a way, but Loki insisted that he do so or the Giants would attack and defeat Asgard since he did not have his hammer to defend it. So Thor, disguised as a bride in one of Freyja’s gowns and a veil and accompanied by Loki as his attendant, rode to the wedding feast. The king noted that his bride ate and drank significantly more than he would expect. Loki explained that she had gone without food for eight days and nights in her eagerness to marry him. He then asked why his bride’s eyes gleamed like fire, and Loki responded similarly, that she had not slept for eight days and nights in her excitement. Then the giant commanded that the hammer be brought to his wife and placed in her lap to bless her. Once it was in Thor’s possession, he threw off his disguise and killed

Altuna picture stone

Altuna picture stone

all the giants in the room. The giants were careful not to try the same trick again.  Thor in a dress, not an image that I like to think on, but made funnier because Thor is known for his strength and prowess rather than tact and diplomacy.

In a story told in Hymiskviða and the Prose Edda, Thor went fishing for the Midgard Serpent with the giant Hymir as his reluctant companion, killing his best ox to use its head for bait, rowing his boat out far beyond where the giant considered safe, then once he had hooked the gigantic monster, hauling so hard on the line to bring its head within range of a killing blow that both his feet went through the bottom of the boat and he was bracing himself against the sea-bottom. Hymir, terrified, cut the line and Thor knocked him overboard head-first and waded ashore with the boat.

There is an image of this from the picture stone found at Altuna.  You can see a figure holding a hammer, sat in a boat with his foot through the bottom, and the World Serpent beneath.  The figure is holding a line over the side from which dangles the ox head bait.

Teshub:

Although far from Thor, some parallels are apparent with this god of the Hurrians, who derive from Mesopotamia about 2500BC

He is depicted holding a triple thunderbolt and a weapon, usually an axe (often double-headed) or mace. The sacred bull common throughout Anatolia was his signature animal, represented by his horned crown or by his steeds Seri and Hurri, who drew his chariot or carried him on their backs. In the Hurrian schema, he was paired with Hebat the mother goddess.  Myths also exist of his conflict with the sea creature (possibly a snake or serpent) Hedammu. According to Hittite myth, one of his greatest acts was the slaying of the dragon Illuyanka.

Taranis:

Taranis

Taranis

From Celtic mythology comes Taranis, god of thunder worshipped in Hispania, usually represented with a thunderbolt in one hand and a wheel in the other.  There have been thousands of finds of votive Celtic Wheels from sanctuaries in Belgic Gaul, dating from 50BC to 50AD thought to be connected with his cult of worship.  The wheel is thought to represent the sun.

Lei Gong:

In Chinese mythology, Lei Gong (Chinese: “Duke of Thunder”), also called Lei Kung, or Lei Shen (“Thunder God”), is the Chinese Taoist deity who, when so ordered by heaven, punishes both earthly mortals guilty of secret crimes and evil spirits who have used their knowledge of Taoism to harm human beings. Lei Gong carries a drum and mallet to produce thunder and a chisel to punish evildoers.  Lei Gong is depicted as a fearsome creature with claws, bat wings, and a blue face with a bird’s beak and wears only a loincloth. Temples dedicated to him are rare, but some persons do him special honor in the hope that he will take revenge on their personal enemies.

Thunderbird:

The Thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples’ history and culture. It’s considered a “supernatural” bird of power and strength. It is especially important, and richly depicted, in the art, songs and oral histories of many Pacific Northwest Coast cultures, and is found in various forms among the people’s of the American Southwest and Great Plains.

Depending on the people telling the story, the Thunderbird is either a singular entity or a species. In both cases, it is intelligent, powerful, and wrathful. All agree that one should go out of one’s way to keep from getting thunderbirds angry.  The singular Thunderbird (as the Nuu-chah-nulth thought of him) was said to reside on the top of a mountain, and was the servant of the Great Spirit. The Thunderbird only flew about to carry messages from one spirit to another. It was also told that the thunderbird controlled rainfall.
The plural thunderbirds (as the Kwakwaka’wakw and Cowichan tribes believed) could shapeshift into human form by tilting back their beaks like a mask, and by removing their feathers as if it were a feather-covered blanket. There are stories of thunderbirds in human form marrying into human families; some families may trace their lineage to such an event. Families of thunderbirds who kept to themselves but wore human form were said to have lived along the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The story goes that other tribes soon forgot the nature of one of these thunderbird families, and when one tribe tried to take them as slaves the thunderbirds put on their feather blankets and transformed to take vengeance upon their foolish captors.

Heiltsuk Thunderbird

Heiltsuk Thunderbird

The Anishinaabe, have many stories about thunderbirds. During the sundance ceremony a thunderbird nest is put near the top of the tree of life. The dancers often face the nest while dancing, and their hands and arms reach up towards the nest at times. A thunderbird pipe is used during the ceremony, and thunderbird medicine is prepared as well. The area of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is related in some ways to the Anishinaabe stories of thunderbirds.
A famous story of the Thunderbird is “Thunderbird and Whale“. The Thunderbird mythology parallels tales of the Roc from around the Indian Ocean; as the Roc, it is generally assumed to be based on real (though mythically exaggerated) species of birds, specifically the Bald Eagle, which is very common on the Northwest Coast.

Chaac:

Chac

Chac

Chaac (also spelled Chac or, in Classic Mayan, Chaahk) is the name of the Maya rain deity. With his lightning axe, Chaac strikes the clouds and produces thunder and rain.Like other Maya gods, Chaac is both one and manifold. Four Chacs are based in the cardinal directions and wear the directional colors. In 16th-century Yucatan, the directional Chaac of the east was called Chac Xib Chac ‘Red Man Chaac’, only the colours being varied for the three other ones.  Contemporary Yucatec Maya farmers distinguish many more aspects of the rain and the clouds and personify them as different, hierarchically-ordered rain deities. The Chorti Maya have preserved important folklore regarding the process of rain-making, which involved rain deities striking rain-carrying snakes with their axes.

Among the rituals for the rain deities, the Yucatec Cha-Chaac ceremony for asking for rain was a ceremonial banquet for the rain deities; it included four boys acting as frogs. Asking for rain and crops was also the purpose of 16th-century rituals at the karstic wells, or cenotes, of Yucatan. Young men and women were lowered into these wells and left to drown there, so as to make them enter the realm (and possibly, become the escorts) of the rain deities. Alternatively, they were thrown into the wells later to be drawn up again, and give oracles.

Shango:

In the Yorùbá religion, Sàngó ( also spelled, Sango or Shango, often known as Xangô or Changó in Latin America and the Caribbean, and also known as Jakuta) is perhaps the most popular Orisha; he is a Sky Father, god of thunder and lightning. Sango was a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third king of the Oyo Kingdom. In the Lukumí (Olokun mi = “my dear one”) religion of the Caribbean, Shango is considered the center point of the religion as he represents the Oyo people of West Africa.
The energy given from this Deity of Thunder is also a major symbol of African resistance against an enslaving European culture. He rules the colors red and white; his sacred number is 6; his symbol is the oshe (double-headed axe), which represents swift and balanced justice. His dominance is over male sexuality and human vitality, in general. He is owner of the Bata (3 double-headed drums), as well as the arts of music, dance and entertainment

Mulungu:

The Nyamwezi people of Tanzania in East Africa worship Mulungu as the god who created all things and who watches over the earth.  Although he created the world, Mulungu is a very distant god with no personal relationship with living beings.  According to legend, Mulungu once lived on earth. He left and went to live in heaven because some people set fire to the landscape, causing devastation and killing many other people.  Unable to climb the tree that linked heaven and earth, Mulungu asked Spider to help him travel up to the sky. Spider climbed up, spun a thread, and let one end of the thread fall to earth.  Mulungu followed the thread up to heaven to escape the wickedness of humans.  He is revered now as a sky god, with thunder as his voice.  He cannot be reached by worship, the only way to communicate with him is through a chain of intermediary spirits.

So, there’s a taster of only a few of the deities from around the globe who are associated with thunder and thunderstorms.  Hail Thunderer!

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