Cry havoc and let slip the gods of war! Had to be said. (And yes, I know it’s supposed to be dogs of war.) The Greek god of war Ares and his Roman counterpart Mars get most of the attention in pop culture. Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at some of the neglected war gods from around the world.
Lore: Aireskoi was identified with the Aurora Borealis. While other Iroquois souls would go to the conventional afterlife warriors slain in battle got to reside with Aireskoi in the heavens, their souls glowing with the grandeur of their battlefield heroics, thus accounting for the brightness of the Aurora Borealis.
Aireskoi was one of the gods who tried to woo the goddess Iagentci when she was carrying her Marriage Bread to the chief deity Hawenneyu. Aireskoi was also associated with fire since the Iroquois used fire to torture captives taken in wartime.
For more Iroquois deities click HERE
Lore: This Hittite god of war was called Astabis by the Hurrians. He carried an eagle-headed staff and had many of the same attributes as the Akkadian god Ninurta. Zababa was a staunch ally of the storm god Tarhun and aided him in his battle with the basalt giant Ullikummi.
Zababa’s mate was Ishara, the goddess of contracts, treaties and oaths. Their children were the Sebitti, identified with the seven stars of the Pleiades. The Sebitti were considered lesser war deities and they accompanied their father into battle.
For more Hittite deities click HERE
Lore: Skanda – also called Karttikeya – was the son of Shiva the destroyer and Ganga, the goddess of the river Ganges. (Though some versions make the mountain goddess Parvati the mother) One metaphorical description of his birth depicted Skanda as a spurt of semen from Shiva that was so intensely hot that only the waters of the Ganges could cool it. As it cooled, Skanda was formed, like a child in a womb.
The young godling was suckled by the daughters of several kings and after they died years later the war god raised them into the heavens as the Pleiades. His wife was the collective deity Devasena (“god army”).
Skanda took over as the god of war in place of Indra the storm god, who was the patron deity of the warrior class in the Rig Veda. Clad in armor and wielding multiple weapons in his numerous arms Skanda rides a giant peacock into battle. Skanda, as a son of Shiva, was the only deity capable of overcoming the demon Taraka when he had deposed the gods as rulers of the universe.
For more Hindu deities click HERE
Pantheon: Hawaiian (And as Tu, other Polynesian island groups)
Lore: Ku was one of the first-born children of the sky god Rangi (also called Wakea) and the Earth goddess Papa. When Ku’s brother, the god Kane, freed all the gods trapped underground by separating the sky and the Earth, the storm god Apu-Hau sought to conquer all the other deities. Ku’s prowess in battle prevented this.
Ku’s warlike nature proved especially effective in the next godly war that followed – the battle for supremacy between Kane, the god of fertility and wild vegetation and Kanaloa, the sea god. With the unstoppable Ku as an ally Kane emerged triumphant, but the original Polynesian home island of Havaiki was submerged during the coflict. This caused the nautical diaspora of all the Polynesians to other island groups.
Ku’s most famous weapon was a club whose head burned like a torch. The supernatural flame was caused by the burning of the souls of all the chieftains Ku had slain in combat.
For more Hawaiian deities click HERE
Lore: Hachiman came down from Takamagahara (The High Plain of Heaven, the Mt Olympus/ Asgard of the Shinto deities) to incarnate as the future Emperor Ojin in the womb of the Japanese Empress Jingo. Jingo carried the baby for three years while she continued conducting her late husband’s war against the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
Hachiman returned to Takamagahara after his mortal body died and then resumed his role as the god of war. This deity did not just embody all military skills he also embodied the societal security brought about by a strong army. In conjunction with that notion Hachiman was considered the protector of children. He was also the patron deity of spies.
Hachiman’s son by a mortal woman was Yoshi-Iye, an early hero of the Minamoto (aka Genji) Clan, one of the warring families in the Japanese epic Heike Monogatari. Hachiman helped his son during his campaigns against the Ainu people.
For more Shinto deities click HERE
Lore: Huitzilopochtli was the war god and the god of the state for the Aztecs. Think of Marduk in the Babylonian pantheon for a comparison. Huitzilopochtli was born to the Earth goddess Coatlicue when a bundle of feathers became lodged in her womb (?).
This god sprang fully armed from Coatlicue’s vagina just in time to save her life by slaying her four hundred other sons who suspected her pregnancy meant she had been unfaithful to their father – the sky god Mixcoatl. Eventually Huitzilopochtli would personally walk the Earth to lead the ancient Aztecs on campaigns of conquest.
This long task was complicated by the repeated interference of the scorpion goddess Malinalxochi, another child of Coatlicue and Mixcoatl, who hated Huitzilopochtli for killing four hundred of her brothers.
For more Aztec deities click HERE
Lore: The goddess Nafanua was the war deity of the Samoans. Her father was Savea, the god who ruled over the land of the dead. Her mother was one of the twin patron goddesses of tattooing (accounts vary as to which). Nafanua was born of a clot of blood and her mother – assuming she had miscarried – threw the clot away. Savea found her and provided life to Nafanua.
None of the other Samoan gods could defeat Nafanua in combat. She had the strength of hundreds of human beings and wielded an enormous wooden club in battle. Long ago she helped the Samoans defeat the armies of an evil warlord who wanted to conquer all of the Samoan Islands. On one occasion Nafanua drank enough kava for an entire village.
The center of this goddess’ worship was in Falealili and Samoan chiefs would often make a pilgrimage there to ask for Nafanua’s blessing before starting a military campaign.
For more Samoan deities click HERE
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