The wind is a form of energy that the universe has bestowed upon earth. It is even considered synonymous with power. It is no surprise then that various mythologies across cultures have umpteen references to wind gods and deities.
Every year, the world appreciates wind energy and tries to discover new ways to harness it. This Global Wind Day, Soulveda explores the mighty mythical gods who personify this element of nature.
People in ancient Greece worshipped the Anemoi–the four wind gods, who corresponded to four directions, and were associated with different seasons. Boreas is the god of northern winds and winter. The god of western winds, Zephyrus, is also the god of spring. The god of southern winds is Notus. He is entrusted with the task of ushering in rainclouds to cool down the earth during hot summers. The god of eastern winds Euros–also known as Sirocco–is connected with autumn. The four gods have been portrayed as either human-shaped, winged gods or horse-shaped figures in Grecian works of art.
“Shu is both light and air, and as the offspring of god, he is manifest life. As light, he separates the earth from the sky and as air, he upholds the sky vault,” says R T Rundle Clark in his book, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt. Egyptian mythologies describe Shu as the god of air, atmosphere and wind. He was created along with Goddess Tefnut, whom he later married. Shu is portrayed as a human with the head of an animal. Egyptian legends depict Shu in different forms–as a human wearing a headdress made of ostrich feathers, holding a sceptre and ankh (Egyptian symbol of life), and also as a lion.
Thousands of years ago, the Visayans (an ethnic group native to the Visayan island of Phillipines) worshipped lord Lihangin as the god of winds. He is the son of Kaptan, the ruler of the skies. Lihangin was married to Lidagat, the daughter of the sea goddess Magwayen and had four children. He is also worshipped as the weather deity by farmers for rains and by sailors for favourable winds.
The Mayan wind god is possibly the most famous amongst several wind gods because the word ‘hurricane was derived from his name, Huracan. Huracan means “one leg” in the Mayan language and thus, in some works of art, he is also depicted as a male figure with one leg. He is also considered the god of destruction. The proof of it lies in the many stories about terrified Caribbeans performing sacrifices and rituals to keep Huracan at bay. The Cubans depict him as a god with a head, no torso and two arms spiralling out from the sides of his head. Researchers suggest that the ancient Cuban stone sculpture of this god might have been inspired by the tropical cyclones that were common in the region.
Considered the source of existence, power and wisdom, Vayu is also worshipped as the Mukhya Prana (chief of life) by the Hindus.
The Chinese wind god Fei Lian is quite a spectacle! Fei Lian is depicted as a beast with the head of a sparrow, horns of a bull, body of a stag, and tail of a snake. This beastly god also has a human depiction–an old man wearing a yellow cloak and a blue and red hat, carrying wind in a goatskin bag, standing on a patch of green grass. Chinese legends describe him as a trouble maker, as he is known to cause damage by starting severe storms.
The Japanese god of wind Fujin is widely known as a scary demon who wears animal skin and carries a bag of wind over his shoulders. According to Shinto tales, Fujin had sent out winds to clear mists when the world was being created. Some also narrate how he had protected Japan by sending out heavy storms when the Mongolians tried to invade it in 1274 and seven years later, in 1281.
The wind god Vayu, also known as Pavana, is highly venerated as one of the gods of the Hindu Trinity (air, sun and water). Also known as Sada Gagha (ever moving) and Gandhavaha (bearer of perfumes), he is considered the most superior god as he represents the breath of life. He is depicted as a person with four hands, riding an antelope. Considered the source of existence, power and wisdom, Vayu is also worshipped as the Mukhya Prana (chief of life) by the Hindus.
Even though represented in different forms and known by various names, the wind god clearly holds a place of importance in the various mythologies across all cultures.