Culture hero

A culture hero is a mythological hero specific to some group (cultural, ethnic, religious, etc.) who changes the world through invention or discovery. A typical culture hero might be credited as the discoverer of fire, or agriculture, songs, tradition, law or religion, and is usually the most important legendary figure of a people, sometimes as the founder of its ruling dynasty.

In some cultures, there are dualistic myths, featuring two culture heroes arranging the world in a complementary manner. Dualistic cosmologies are present in all inhabited continents[1] and show great diversity: they may feature culture heroes, but also demiurges (exemplifying dualistic creation myths in the latter case), or other beings; the two heroes may compete or collaborate; they may be conceived as neutral or contrasted as good versus evil; be of the same importance or distinguished as powerful versus weak; be brothers (even twins) or be not relatives at all.[2]

In many cultures the trickster and the culture hero are combined.[3] To illustrate, Prometheus, in Greek mythology, stole fire from the gods to give it to humans as did Māui in Polynesian mythology.

In many Native American mythologies and beliefs, the coyote spirit stole fire from the gods (or stars or sun) and is more of a trickster than a culture hero. Natives from the Southeastern United States typically saw a rabbit trickster/culture hero, and Pacific Northwest native stories often feature a raven in this role: in some stories, Raven steals fire from his uncle Beaver and eventually gives it to humans. The Western African trickster spider Ananse is also widely disseminated. In Norse mythology, Odin (yet another trickster deity) is said to have stolen the mead of poetry from Jotunheim and is credited as the discoverer of the runes.

See also



  1. ^ Zolotarjov 1980: 54
  2. ^ Zolotarjov 180: 40–43
  3. ^ Long 2005, p. 2090.


  • Long, Jerome H. (2005). "Culture Heroes". In Lindsay Jones et al. Encyclopedia of Religion. 3 (second ed.). Macmillan Reference USA: Thomas Gale.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Zolotarjov, A.M. (1980). "Társadalomszervezet és dualisztikus teremtésmítoszok Szibériában". In Hoppál, Mihály. A Tejút fiai. Tanulmányok a finnugor népek hitvilágáról (in Hungarian). Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó. pp. 29–58. ISBN 963-07-2187-2. Chapter means: "Social structure and dualistic creation myths in Siberia"; title means: "The sons of Milky Way. Studies on the belief systems of Finno-Ugric peoples".

Alulim was both the first king of Eridu and the first king of Sumer, according to the mythological antediluvian section of the Sumerian King List. Enki, the god of Eridu, is said to have brought civilization to Sumer at this point, or just shortly before.

The Sumerian King List has the following entry for Alulim:

After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug (Eridu). In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,800 years.

In a chart of antediluvian generations in Babylonian and Biblical traditions, Professor William Wolfgang Hallo of Yale University associates Alulim with the composite half-man, half-fish counselor or culture hero (Apkallu) Uanna-Adapa (Oannes), and suggests an equivalence between Alulim and Enosh in the Sethite genealogy given in Genesis chapter five. Hallo notes that Alulim's name means "stag". Professor William H. Shea suggests that Alulim was a contemporary of the biblical figure Adam, who may have been derived from Adapa of ancient Mesopotamian religion.


A minor god in Greek mythology, attested mainly by Athenian writers, Aristaeus (; Greek: Ἀρισταῖος Aristaios), was the culture hero credited with the discovery of many useful arts, including bee-keeping; he was the son of the huntress Cyrene and Apollo.

Aristeus ("the best") was a cult title in many places: Boeotia, Arcadia, Ceos, Sicily, Sardinia, Thessaly, and Macedonia; consequently a set of "travels" was imposed, connecting his epiphanies in order to account for these widespread manifestations.If Aristaeus was a minor figure at Athens, he was more prominent in Boeotia, where he was "the pastoral Apollo", and was linked to the founding myth of Thebes by marriage with Autonoë, daughter of Cadmus, the founder. Aristaeus may appear as a winged youth in painted Boeotian pottery, similar to representations of the Boreads, spirits of the North Wind. Besides Actaeon and Macris, he also was said to have fathered Charmus and Callicarpus in Sardinia.


In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Bunjil is a creator deity, culture hero and ancestral being, often depicted as a wedge-tailed eagle (or eaglehawk). In the Kulin nation in central Victoria he was regarded as one of two moiety ancestors, the other being Waa the crow. Bunjil has two wives and a son, Binbeal the rainbow. His brother is Palian the bat. He is assisted by six wirmums or shamans who represent the clans of the Eaglehawk moiety: Djart-djart the nankeen kestrel, Thara the quail hawk, Yukope the parakeet, Lar-guk the parrot, Walert the brushtail possum and Yurran the gliding possum.

Cecrops I

Cecrops (; Ancient Greek: Κέκροψ, Kékrops; gen.: Κέκροπος) was a mythical king of Attica which derived from him its name Cecropia, having previously borne the name of Acte or Actice (from Actaeus). He was the founder and the first king of Athens itself though preceded in the region by the earth-born king Actaeus of Attica. Cecrops was a culture hero, teaching the Athenians marriage, reading and writing, and ceremonial burial.


Danel (), father of Aqhat, was a culture hero who appears in an incomplete Ugaritic text of the fourteenth century BCE at Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra), Syria, where the name is rendered DN'IL, "El is judge".

Evander of Pallene

In Roman mythology, Evander (from Greek Εὔανδρος Euandros, "good man" or "strong man": an etymology used by poets to emphasize the hero's virtue) was a culture hero from Arcadia, Greece, who brought the Greek pantheon, laws, and alphabet to Italy, where he founded the city of Pallantium on the future site of Rome, sixty years before the Trojan War. He instituted the festival of the Lupercalia. Evander was deified after his death and an altar was constructed to him on the Aventine Hill.

In addition, Strabo, mention that one of the stories about Rome is that it was an Arcadian colony and was founded by Evander.

Flood myth

A flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primaeval waters found in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who "represents the human craving for life".The flood myth motif is found among many cultures as seen in the Mesopotamian flood stories, Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrative, Pralaya in Hinduism, the Gun-Yu in Chinese mythology, Bergelmir in Norse mythology, in the lore of the K'iche' and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca, and Cañari Confederation, in South America, and the Aboriginal tribes in southern Australia.


Fuxi, also known as Paoxi, is a culture hero in Chinese legend and mythology, credited along with his sister Nüwa with creating humanity and the invention of hunting, fishing, domestication, and cooking as well as the Cangjie system of writing Chinese characters around 2,000 BCE. Fuxi was counted as the first of the Three Sovereigns at the beginning of the Chinese dynastic period.

Hou Ji

Hou Ji (or Houji; Chinese: 后稷; pinyin: Hòu Jì; Wade–Giles: Hou Chi) was a legendary Chinese culture hero credited with introducing millet to humanity during the time of the Xia dynasty. Millet was the original staple grain of northern China, prior to the introduction of wheat. His name translates as Lord of Millet and was a posthumous name bestowed on him by King Tang, the first of the Shang dynasty. Houji was credited with developing the philosophy of Agriculturalism and with service during the Great Flood in the reign of Yao; he was also claimed as an ancestor of the Ji clan that became the ruling family of the Zhou dynasty.

Limbu language

Limbu (Limbu: ᤕᤠᤰᤌᤢᤱ ᤐᤠᤴ, yakthung pān) is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by the Limbu people of eastern Nepal and India (particularly Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sikkim, Assam and Nagaland) as well as expatriate communities in Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Canada and the US. The Limbu refer to themselves as Yakthung and their language as Yakthungpan. Yakthungpan has four main dialects: Phedape, Chhathare, Tambarkhole and Panthare dialects.Among four dialects and/or many dialects, the Phedape dialect is widely spoken and well understood by most Yakthungpan speakers. However, as there are some dominant Panthare scholars who have role to create knowledge and control knowledge in the Limbu communities, Panthare dialect is being popularised as a "standard" Limbu language. As Panthare Yakthungs are much more engaged in central political position and administrative positions, they are trying to introduce Panthare dialect as a Standard Yakthungpan.

Yakthungpan (Limbu language) is one of the major languages spoken and written in Nepal, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sikkim, Bhutan, Burma, and Thailand. Today, linguists have reached the conclusion that Yakthungpan resembles Tibetan and Lepcha.

Before the introduction of the Sirijanga script among Limbu Kirats, the Róng script was popular in east Nepal, especially in the early Maurong state. The Sirijanga script had almost disappeared for 800 years and it was brought back into use by Te-ongsi Sirijunga Xin Thebe of Tellok Sinam Limbuwan present day Nepal. The Limbu script is called 'Sirijanga' after the Limbu culture- hero Te-ongsi Sirijunga Xin Thebe, who is credited with its invention.

List of Australian Aboriginal mythological figures

The following is a list of Australian Indigenous Australian deities and spirits.

List of Māori deities

The following is a list of Māori deities.

Ara Tiotio – god of whirlwinds and tornadoes

Ārohirohi – goddess of mirages

Auahitūroa – personification of comets, and the origin of fire

Haumia-tiketike (Haumia) – god of wild or uncultivated food

Hine-nui-te-pō – goddess of night and death, and ruler of the underworld

Ika-Roa – the fish that gave birth to all the stars in the Milky Way

Ikatere – fish god; father of all sea creatures

Io Matua Kore - supreme being; personification of light and the world of the living and the forest

Kiwa – divine guardian of the ocean

Kui – chthonic demigod

Mahuika – fire goddess

Makeatutara – father of Māui and guardian of the underworld

Maru – god of fresh water, southern god of war

Māui – demigod and culture hero

Papatūānuku (Papa) – primordial earth mother

Pūhaorangi – celestial god

Punga – ancestor of sharks, lizard, rays and all things ugly

Ranginui (Rangi) – primordial sky father

Rehua – star god with the power of healing

Rohe – goddess of the spirit world and wife of Māui

Rongo-mā-Tāne (Rongo) – god of cultivated plants

Rongomai – the name of a number of separate beings

Ruaumoko – god of volcanoes, earthquakes and seasons

Tama-nui-te-rā – personification of the sun

Tāne-mahuta (Tāne) – god of forests and birds

Tane-rore – personification of shimmering air

Tangaroa – god of the sea

Tangotango – celestial goddess

Tāwhaki – supernatural being associated with thunder and lightning

Tāwhirimātea – god of weather, thunder, lightning, rain, wind and storms

Te Uira – personification of lightning

Tinirau – guardian of fish

Tūmatauenga – god of war

Tū-te-wehiwehi – father of all reptiles

Uenuku – god of rainbows

Whaitiri – personification of thunder

Whiro – lord of darkness and embodiment of evil

Maya maize god

Like other Mesoamerican people, the traditional Mayas recognize in their staple crop, maize, a vital force with which they strongly identify. This is clearly shown by their mythological traditions. According to the 16th-century Popol Vuh, the Hero Twins have maize plants for alter egos and man himself is created from maize. The discovery and opening of the Maize Mountain - the place where the corn seeds are hidden - is still one of the most popular of Maya tales. In the Classic period (200-900 AD), the maize deity shows aspects of a culture hero.

Melia (consort of Inachus)

In Greek mythology, according to the mythographer Apollodorus, the Oceanid nymph Melia was the mother of culture hero Phoroneus, and Aegialeus, by her brother Inachus, the river-god of Argos. According to the Latin mythographer Hyginus however, Inachus fathered Phoroneus by an Oceanid nymph named Argia. According to Argive tradition, Phoroneus was the first man, or first inhabitant of Argos, who lived during the time of the Great Flood, associated with Deucalion.Melia was also said to have been the mother, by Inachus, of Mycene, the wife of Arestor, and eponym of Mycenae. Melia was also perhaps considered to be the mother, by Inachus, of Io, the ancestress, by Zeus, of the Greek dynasties of Argos, Thebes, and Crete.The consort of Apollo, who was an important cult figure at Thebes, was also said to be a daughter of Oceanus named Melia.

Māui (mythology)

Māui (Maui) is the great culture hero and trickster in Polynesian mythology. Exploits of Maui tend to fall more into the category of folklore rather than religion and myth. Very rarely was Maui actually worshipped, being less of a deity and more of a folk hero. His origins vary from culture to culture, but many of his main exploits remain relatively similar.Tales of his exploits and adventures are told throughout most of Polynesia. Some of his most common exploits that span the south seas, are stealing fire for humans from the underworld, fishing up islands with his magical hook, as well as lassoing the sun with his hair to extend the days. While Maui in most cases is regarded as a god or a fully divine figure, in some places he is regarded as simply a great human hero.Though Maui and tales of his adventures can be found on almost every Island group in Polynesia, there are a great deal of differences between them from nation to nation. Even Maui himself is portrayed differently, from being a handsome young man, to being an old wise wandering priest.Māui appears as a demigod and a primary character in the 2016 Disney film Moana, portrayed by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.


In Anishinaabe aadizookaan (traditional storytelling), particularly among the Ojibwe, Nanabozho [nɐˌnɐbʊˈʒʊ] also known as Nanabush is a spirit, and figures prominently in their storytelling, including the story of the world's creation. Nanabozho is the Ojibwe trickster figure and culture hero (these two archetypes are often combined into a single figure in First Nations mythologies, among others).

National poet

A national poet or national bard is a poet held by tradition and popular acclaim to represent the identity, beliefs and principles of a particular national culture. The national poet as culture hero is a long-standing symbol, to be distinguished from successive holders of a bureaucratically-appointed poet-laureate office. The idea and honoring of national poets emerged primarily during Romanticism, as a figure that helped consolidation of the nation states, as it provided validation of their ethno-linguistic groups.Most national poets are historic figures, though a few contemporary writers working in relatively new or revived national literatures are also considered "national poets." Some nations may have more than one national poet; the idea of a single one is always a simplification. It has been argued that a national poet "must write poetry that closely identifies with the nation's cause – or is thought to do so", with an additional assumption being "that a national poet must write in a national language".The following is a list of nations, with their associated national poets. It is not a list of sovereign states or countries, though many of the nations listed may also be such. The terms "nation" (as cultural concept), "country" (as geographical concept) and "state" (as political concept) are not synonyms.


In Greek mythology, Phoroneus (; Ancient Greek: Φορωνεύς means "bringer of a price") was a culture-hero of the Argolid, fire-bringer, primordial king of Argos.


Suiren (Chinese: 燧人, pinyin: suì rén) appears in Chinese mythology and some works which draw upon it. Suiren (literally, "Fire Maker") is credited as a culture hero who introduce humans to the production of fire and its use for cooking (Wu 1982, 51, and Christie 1968, 84). He was included on some ancient lists of the legendary Three August Ones, who lived long before Emperor Yao, Emperor Shun, and the emperors of the earliest historical Chinese dynasty (Xia), and even before the Yellow Emperor & Yandi. Suiren’s innovation may have been the bow drill which dates back at least to the Indus Valley Civilization.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.