Examples of representations of deities in different cultures. Clockwise from upper left: Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba, Roman, Maya, Inca.

Sri Mariamman Temple Singapore 2 amk
Skanda at Miaoying Temple
Gold beaker, Inca, 1450-1532 AD, southern Peru - Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde München - DSC08504
Musée africain Lyon 130909 01
Itzamna e Ixchel
Maestro dei mesi, 01 giano bifronte (anno vecchio e anno nuovo) gennaio, 1225-1230 ca. 03

A deity (/ˈdiːɪti/ (listen), /ˈdeɪ-/ (listen))[1] is a supernatural being considered divine or sacred.[2] The Oxford Dictionary of English defines deity as "a god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion)", or anything revered as divine.[3] C. Scott Littleton defines a deity as "a being with powers greater than those of ordinary humans, but who interacts with humans, positively or negatively, in ways that carry humans to new levels of consciousness, beyond the grounded preoccupations of ordinary life".[4] In the English language, a male deity is referred to as a god, while a female deity is referred to as a goddess.

Religions can be categorized by how many deities they worship. Monotheistic religions accept only one deity (predominantly referred to as God),[5][6] polytheistic religions accept multiple deities.[7] Henotheistic religions accept one supreme deity without denying other deities, considering them as aspects of the same divine principle;[8][9] and nontheistic religions deny any supreme eternal creator deity but accept a pantheon of deities which live, die and may be reborn like any other being.[10]:35–37[11]:357–58

Although most monotheistic religions traditionally envision their God as omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and eternal,[12][13][14] none of these qualities are essential to the definition of a "deity"[15][16][17] and various cultures conceptualized their deities differently.[15][16] Monotheistic religions typically refer to God in masculine terms,[18][19]:96 while other religions refer to their deities in a variety of ways – masculine, feminine, androgynous and without gender.[20][21][22]

Historically, many ancient cultures – including the ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Norsemen– personified natural phenomena, variously as either deliberate causes or effects.[23][24][25] Some Avestan and Vedic deities were viewed as ethical concepts.[23][24] In Indian religions, deities were envisioned as manifesting within the temple of every living being's body, as sensory organs and mind.[26][27][28] Deities were envisioned as a form of existence (Saṃsāra) after rebirth, for human beings who gain merit through an ethical life, where they become guardian deities and live blissfully in heaven, but are also subject to death when their merit is lost.[10]:35–38[11]:356–59


Kobayashi Izanami and Izanagi
Kobayashi Eitaku painting showing the god Izanagi (right) and Izanami, a goddess of creation and death in Japanese mythology.

The English language word "deity" derives from Old French deité,[29] the Latin deitatem or "divine nature", coined by Augustine of Hippo from deus ("god"). Deus is related through a common Proto-Indo-European (PIE) origin to *deiwos.[30] This root yields the ancient Indian word Deva meaning "to gleam, a shining one", from *div- "to shine", as well as Greek dios "divine" and Zeus; and Latin deus "god" (Old Latin deivos).[31][32][33]:230–31 Deva is masculine, and the related feminine equivalent is devi.[34]:496 Etymologically, the cognates of Devi are Latin dea and Greek thea.[35] In Old Persian, daiva- means "demon, evil god",[32] while in Sanskrit it means the opposite, referring to the "heavenly, divine, terrestrial things of high excellence, exalted, shining ones".[34]:496[36][37]

The closely linked term "god" refers to "supreme being, deity", according to Douglas Harper,[38] and is derived from Proto-Germanic *guthan, from PIE *ghut-, which means "that which is invoked".[33]:230–31 Guth in the Irish language means "voice". The term *ghut- is also the source of Old Church Slavonic zovo ("to call"), Sanskrit huta- ("invoked", an epithet of Indra), from the root *gheu(e)- ("to call, invoke."),[38]

An alternate etymology for the term "god" comes from the Proto-Germanic Gaut, which traces it to the PIE root *ghu-to- ("poured"), derived from the root *gheu- ("to pour, pour a libation"). The term *gheu- is also the source of the Greek khein "to pour".[38] Originally the German root was a neuter noun. The gender of the monotheistic God shifted to masculine under the influence of Christianity.[33]:230–31[38] In contrast, all ancient Indo-European cultures and mythologies recognized both masculine and feminine deities.[37]


There is no universally accepted consensus on what a deity is,[2] and concepts of deities vary considerably across cultures.[2] Huw Owen states that the term "deity or god or its equivalent in other languages" has a bewildering range of meanings and significance.[39]:vii-ix It has ranged from "infinite transcendent being who created and lords over the universe" (God), to a "finite entity or experience, with special significance or which evokes a special feeling" (god), to "a concept in religious or philosophical context that relates to nature or magnified beings or a supra-mundane realm", to "numerous other usages".[39]:vii–ix

A deity is typically conceptualized as a supernatural or divine concept, manifesting in ideas and knowledge, in a form that combines excellence in some or all aspects, wrestling with weakness and questions in other aspects, heroic in outlook and actions, yet tied up with emotions and desires.[40][41] In other cases, the deity is a principle or reality such as the idea of "soul". The Upanishads of Hinduism, for example, characterize Atman (soul, self) as deva (deity), thereby asserting that the deva and eternal supreme principle (Brahman) is part of every living creature, that this soul is spiritual and divine, and that to realize self-knowledge is to know the supreme.[42][43][44]

Theism is the belief in the existence of one or more deities.[45][46] Polytheism is the belief in and worship of multiple deities,[47] which are usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, with accompanying rituals.[47] In most polytheistic religions, the different gods and goddesses are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles, and can be viewed either as autonomous or as aspects or emanations of a creator God or transcendental absolute principle (monistic theologies), which manifests immanently in nature.[47] Henotheism accepts the existence of more than one deity, but considers all deities as equivalent representations or aspects of the same divine principle, the highest.[9][48][49] Monolatry is the belief that many deities exist, but that only one of these deities may be validly worshipped.[50][51]

Pantheists believe that the universe itself and everything in it forms a single, all-encompassing deity.[52][53]

Monotheism is the belief that only one deity exists.[54][55][56][57][58][59][60] A monotheistic deity, known as "God", is usually described as omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent and eternal.[12][13] However, not all deities have been regarded this way[15][17][61][62] and an entity does not need to be almighty, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent or eternal to qualify as a deity.[15][17][61]

Deism is the belief that only one deity exists, who created the universe, but does not usually intervene in the resulting world.[63][64][65] Deism was particularly popular among western intellectuals during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.[66][67] Pantheism is the belief that the universe itself is God[52] or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent deity.[53] Panentheism is the belief that divinity pervades the universe, but that it also transcends the universe.[68] Agnosticism is the position that it is impossible to know for certain whether a deity of any kind exists.[69][70][71] Atheism is the non-belief in the existence of any deity.[72]


Museum of Anatolian Civilizations 1320259 nevit
Statuette of a nude, corpulent, seated woman flanked by two felines from Çatalhöyük, dating to c. 6000 BCE, thought by most archaeologists to represent a goddess of some kind[73][74]

Scholars infer the probable existence of deities in the prehistoric period from inscriptions and prehistoric arts such as cave drawings, but it is unclear what these sketches and paintings are and why they were made.[75] Some engravings or sketches show animals, hunters or rituals.[76] It was once common for archaeologists to interpret virtually every prehistoric female figurine as a representation of a single, primordial goddess, the ancestor of historically attested goddesses such as Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Cybele, and Aphrodite;[77] this approach has now generally been discredited.[77] Modern archaeologists now generally recognize that it is impossible to conclusively identify any prehistoric figurines as representations of any kind of deities, let alone goddesses.[77] Nonetheless, it is possible to evaluate ancient representations on a case-by-case basis and rate them on how likely they are to represent deities.[77] The Venus of Willendorf, a female figurine found in Europe and dated to about 25,000 BCE has been interpreted by some as an exemplar of a prehistoric female deity.[76] A number of probable representations of deities have been discovered at 'Ain Ghazal[77] and the works of art uncovered at Çatalhöyük reveal references to what is probably a complex mythology.[77]

Regional cultures

Sub-Saharan African

Musée africain Lyon 130909 02
A Yoruba deity from Nigeria.

Diverse African cultures developed theology and concepts of deities over their history. In Nigeria and neighboring West African countries, for example, two prominent deities (locally called Òrìṣà)[78] are found in the Yoruba religion, namely the god Ogun and the goddess Osun.[78] Ogun is the primordial masculine deity as well as the archdivinity and guardian of occupations such as tools making and use, metal working, hunting, war, protection and ascertaining equity and justice.[79][80] Osun is an equally powerful primordial feminine deity and a multidimensional guardian of fertility, water, maternal, health, social relations, love and peace.[78] Ogun and Osun traditions were brought into the Americas on slave ships. They were preserved by the Africans in their plantation communities, and their festivals continue to be observed.[78][79]

In Southern African cultures, a similar masculine-feminine deity combination has appeared in other forms, particularly as the Moon and Sun deities.[81] One Southern African cosmology consists of Hieseba or Xuba (deity, god), Gaune (evil spirits) and Khuene (people). The Hieseba includes Nladiba (male, creator sky god) and Nladisara (females, Nladiba's two wives). The Sun (female) and the Moon (male) deities are viewed as offsprings of Nladiba and two Nladisara. The Sun and Moon are viewed as manifestations of the supreme deity, and worship is timed and directed to them.[82] In other African cultures the Sun is seen as male, while the Moon is female, both symbols of the godhead.[83]:199-120 In Zimbabwe, the supreme deity is androgynous with male-female aspects, envisioned as the giver of rain, treated simultaneously as the god of darkness and light and is called Mwari Shona.[83]:89 In the Lake Victoria region, the term for a deity is Lubaale, or alternatively Jok.[84]

Ancient Near Eastern


La Tombe de Horemheb cropped
Egyptian tomb painting showing the gods Osiris, Anubis, and Horus, who are among the major deities in ancient Egyptian religion[85]

Ancient Egyptian culture revered numerous deities. Egyptian records and inscriptions list the names of many whose nature is unknown and make vague references to other unnamed deities.[86]:73 Egyptologist James P. Allen estimates that more than 1,400 deities are named in Egyptian texts,[87] whereas Christian Leitz offers an estimate of "thousands upon thousands" of Egyptian deities.[88]:393–94 Their terms for deities were nṯr (god), and feminine nṯrt (goddess);[89]:42 however, these terms may also have applied to any being – spirits and deceased human beings, but not demons – who in some way were outside the sphere of everyday life.[90]:216[89]:62 Egyptian deities typically had an associated cult, role and mythologies.[90]:7–8, 83

Around 200 deities are prominent in the Pyramid texts and ancient temples of Egypt, many zoomorphic. Among these, were Min (fertility god), Neith (creator goddess), Anubis, Atum, Bes, Horus, Isis, Ra, Meretseger, Nut, Osiris, Shu, Sia and Thoth.[85]:11–12 Most Egyptian deities represented natural phenomenon, physical objects or social aspects of life, as hidden immanent forces within these phenomena.[91][92] The deity Shu, for example represented air; the goddess Meretseger represented parts of the earth, and the god Sia represented the abstract powers of perception.[93]:91, 147 Deities such as Ra and Osiris were associated with the judgement of the dead and their care during the afterlife.[85]:26–28 Major gods often had multiple roles and were involved in multiple phenomena.[93]:85–86

The first written evidence of deities are from early 3rd millennium BCE, likely emerging from prehistoric beliefs.[94] However, deities became systematized and sophisticated after the formation of an Egyptian state under the Pharaohs and their treatment as sacred kings who had exclusive rights to interact with the gods, in the later part of the 3rd millennium BCE.[95][86]:12–15 Through the early centuries of the common era, as Egyptians interacted and traded with neighboring cultures, foreign deities were adopted and venerated.[96][88]:160


Zeus Yahweh
A 4th century BCE drachm (quarter shekel) coin from the Persian province of Yehud Medinata, possibly representing Yahweh seated on a winged and wheeled sun-throne.[97]:766[98]:190

The ancient Canaanites were polytheists who believed in a pantheon of deities,[99][100][101] the chief of whom was the god El, who ruled alongside his consort Asherah and their seventy sons.[99]:22–24[100][101] Baal was the god of storm, rain, vegetation and fertility,[99]:68–127 while his consort Anat was the goddess of war[99]:131, 137–39 and Astarte, the West Semitic equivalent to Ishtar, was the goddess of love.[99]:146–49 The people of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah originally believed in these deities,[99][101][102] alongside their own national god Yahweh.[103][104] El later became syncretized with Yahweh, who took over El's role as the head of the pantheon,[99]:13–17 with Asherah as his divine consort[98]:45[99]:146 and the "sons of El" as his offspring.[99]:22–24 During the later years of the Kingdom of Judah, a monolatristic faction rose to power insisting that only Yahweh was fit to be worshipped by the people of Judah.[99]:229–33 Monolatry became enforced during the reforms of King Josiah in 621 BCE.[99]:229 Finally, during the national crisis of the Babylonian captivity, some Judahites began to teach that deities aside from Yahweh were not just unfit to be worshipped, but did not exist.[105][39]:4 The "sons of El" were demoted from deities to angels.[99]:22


Ancient Akkadian Cylindrical Seal Depicting Inanna and Ninshubur
Akkadian cylinder seal impression showing Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, sex, and war[106]:92, 193
Wall relief depicting the God Ashur (Assur) from Nimrud.
Wall relief of the Assyrian national god Aššur in a "winged male" hybrid iconography.[107]:73

Ancient Mesopotamian culture in southern Iraq had numerous dingir (deities, gods and goddesses).[19]:69–74[108] Mesopotamian deities were almost exclusively anthropomorphic.[109]:93[19]:69–74[110] They were thought to possess extraordinary powers[109]:93 and were often envisioned as being of tremendous physical size.[109]:93 They were generally immortal,[109]:93 but a few of them, particularly Dumuzid, Geshtinanna, and Gugalanna were said to have either died or visited the underworld.[109]:93 Both male and female deities were widely venerated.[109]:93

In the Sumerian pantheon, deities had multiple functions, which included presiding over procreation, rains, irrigation, agriculture, destiny, and justice.[19]:69–74 The gods were fed, clothed, entertained, and worshipped to prevent natural catastrophes as well as to prevent social chaos such as pillaging, rape, or atrocities.[19]:69–74[111]:186[109]:93 Many of the Sumerian deities were patron guardians of city-states.[111]

The most important deities in the Sumerian pantheon were known as the Anunnaki,[112] and included deities known as the "seven gods who decree": An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu and Inanna.[112] After the conquest of Sumer by Sargon of Akkad, many Sumerian deities were syncretized with East Semitic ones.[111] The goddess Inanna, syncretized with the East Semitic Ishtar, became popular,[113][106]:xviii, xv[111]:182[109]:106–09 with temples across Mesopotamia.[114][109]:106–09

The Mesopotamian mythology of the first millennium BCE treated Anšar (later Aššur) and Kišar as primordial deities.[115] Marduk was a significant god among the Babylonians. He rose from an obscure deity of the third millennium BCE to become one of the most important deities in the Mesopotamian pantheon of the first millennium BCE. The Babylonians worshipped Marduk as creator of heaven, earth and humankind, and as their national god.[19]:62, 73[116] Marduk's iconography is zoomorphic and is most often found in Middle Eastern archaeological remains depicted as a "snake-dragon" or a "human-animal hybrid".[117][97][118]



Stater Zeus Lampsacus CdM
Zeus, the king of the gods in ancient Greek religion, shown on a gold stater from Lampsacus (c. 360–340 BCE)
Poseidon Penteskouphia Louvre CA452
Corinthian black-figure plaque of Poseidon, the Greek god of the seas (c. 550–525 BCE)
Aphrodite swan BM D2
Attic white-ground red-figured kylix of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, riding a swan (c. 46–470 BCE)
Bust Athena Velletri Glyptothek Munich 213
Bust of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, copy after a votive statue of Kresilas in Athens (c. 425 BCE)

The ancient Greeks revered both gods and goddesses.[119] These continued to be revered through the early centuries of the common era, and many of the Greek deities inspired and were adopted as part of much larger pantheon of Roman deities.[120]:91–97 The Greek religion was polytheistic, but had no centralized church, nor any sacred texts.[120]:91–97 The deities were largely associated with myths and they represented natural phenomena or aspects of human behavior.[119][120]:91–97

Several Greek deities probably trace back to more ancient Indo-European traditions, since the gods and goddesses found in distant cultures are mythologically comparable and are cognates.[33]:230–31[121]:15–19 Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, for instance, is cognate to Indic Ushas, Roman Aurora and Latvian Auseklis.[33]:230–32 Zeus, the Greek king of gods, is cognate to Latin Iūpiter, Old German Ziu, and Indic Dyaus, with whom he shares similar mythologies.[33]:230–32[122] Other deities, such as Aphrodite, originated from the Near East.[123][124][125][126]

Greek deities varied locally, but many shared panhellenic themes, celebrated similar festivals, rites, and ritual grammar.[127] The most important deities in the Greek pantheon were the Twelve Olympians: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hermes, Demeter, Dionysus, Hephaestus, and Ares.[121]:125–70 Other important Greek deities included Hestia, Hades and Heracles.[120]:96–97 These deities later inspired the Dii Consentes galaxy of Roman deities.[120]:96–97

Besides the Olympians, the Greeks also worshipped various local deities.[121]:170–81[128] Among these were the goat-legged god Pan (the guardian of shepherds and their flocks), Nymphs (nature spirits associated with particular landforms), Naiads (who dwelled in springs), Dryads (who were spirits of the trees), Nereids (who inhabited the sea), river gods, satyrs (a class of lustful male nature spirits), and others. The dark powers of the underworld were represented by the Erinyes (or Furies), said to pursue those guilty of crimes against blood-relatives.[128]

The Greek deities, like those in many other Indo-European traditions, were anthropomorphic. Walter Burkert describes them as "persons, not abstractions, ideas or concepts".[121]:182 They had fantastic abilities and powers; each had some unique expertise and, in some aspects, a specific and flawed personality.[129]:52 They were not omnipotent and could be injured in some circumstances.[130] Greek deities led to cults, were used politically and inspired votive offerings for favors such as bountiful crops, healthy family, victory in war, or peace for a loved one recently deceased.[120]:94–95[131]


Kirkby Stephen Stone by Petersen
The Kirkby Stephen Stone, discovered in Kirkby Stephen, England, depicts a bound figure, who some have theorized may be the Germanic god Loki.[132]

In Norse mythology, Æsir means gods, while Ásynjur means goddesses.[133]:49–50 These terms, states John Lindow, may be ultimately rooted in the Indo-European root for "breath" (as in "life giving force"), and to the cognates os which means deity in Old English and anses in Gothic.[133]:49–50

Another group of deities found in Norse mythology are termed as Vanir, and are associated with fertility. The Æsir and the Vanir went to war, according to the Norse and Germanic mythologies. According to the Norse texts such as Ynglinga saga, the Æsir–Vanir War ended in truce and ultimate reconciliation of the two into a single group of deities, after both sides chose peace, exchanged ambassadors (hostages),[134]:181 and intermarried.[133]:52–53[135]

The Norse mythology describes the cooperation after the war, as well as differences between the Æsir and the Vanir which were considered scandalous by the other side.[134]:181 The goddess Freyja of the Vanir taught magic to the Æsir, while the two sides discover that while Æsir forbid mating between siblings, Vanir accepted such mating.[134]:181[136][137]

Temples hosting images of Nordic deities (such as Thor, Odin and Freyr), as well as pagan worship rituals, continued in Nordic countries through the 12th century, according to historical records. This shocked Christian missionaries, and over time Christian equivalents were substituted for the Nordic deities to help suppress paganism.[134]:187–88


MANNapoli 6705 creation of the man sarcophagus
A 4th-century Roman sarcophagus depicting the creation of man by Prometheus, with major Roman deities Jupiter, Neptune, Mercury, Juno, Apollo, Vulcan watching.

The Roman pantheon had numerous deities, both Greek and non-Greek.[120]:96–97 The more famed deities, found in the mythologies and the 2nd millennium CE European arts, have been the anthropomorphic deities syncretized with the Greek deities. These include the six gods and six goddesses: Venus, Apollo, Mars, Diana, Minerva, Ceres, Vulcan, Juno, Mercury, Vesta, Neptune, Jupiter (Jove, Zeus); as well Bacchus, Pluto and Hercules.[120]:96–97[138] The non-Greek major deities include Janus, Fortuna, Vesta, Quirinus and Tellus (mother goddess, probably most ancient).[120]:96–97[139] Some of the non-Greek deities had likely origins in more ancient European culture such as the ancient Germanic religion, while others may have been borrowed, for political reasons, from neighboring trade centers such as those in the Minoan or ancient Egyptian civilization.[140][141][142]

The Roman deities, in a manner similar to the ancient Greeks, inspired community festivals, rituals and sacrifices led by flamines (priests, pontifs), but priestesses (Vestal Virgins) were also held in high esteem for maintaining sacred fire used in the votive rituals for deities.[120]:100–01 Deities were also maintained in home shrines (lararium), such as Hestia honored in homes as the goddess of fire hearth.[120]:100–01[143] This Roman religion held reverence for sacred fire, and this is also found in Hebrew culture (Leviticus 6), Vedic culture's Homa, ancient Greeks and other cultures.[143]

Ancient Roman scholars such as Varro and Cicero wrote treatises on the nature of gods of their times.[144] Varro stated, in his Antiquitates Rerum Divinarum, that it is the superstitious man who fears the gods, while the truly religious person venerates them as parents.[144] Cicero, in his Academica, praised Varro for this and other insights.[144] According to Varro, there have been three accounts of deities in the Roman society: the mythical account created by poets for theatre and entertainment, the civil account used by people for veneration as well as by the city, and the natural account created by the philosophers.[145] The best state is, adds Varro, where the civil theology combines the poetic mythical account with the philosopher's.[145] The Roman deities continued to be revered in Europe through the era of Constantine, and past 313 CE when he issued the Edict of Toleration.[129]:118–20

Native American


Inti Raymi, a winter solstice festival of the Inca people, reveres Inti – the sun deity. Offerings include round bread and maize beer.[146] Right: Deity Viracocha.

Inti Raymi2

The Inca culture has believed in Viracocha (also called Pachacutec) as the creator deity.[147]:27–30[148]:726–29 Viracocha has been an abstract deity to Inca culture, one who existed before he created space and time.[149] All other deities of the Inca people have corresponded to elements of nature.[147][148]:726–29 Of these, the most important ones have been Inti (sun deity) responsible for agricultural prosperity and as the father of the first Inca king, and Mama Qucha the goddess of the sea, lakes, rivers and waters.[147] Inti in some mythologies is the son of Viracocha and Mama Qucha.[147][150]

Inca people have revered many male and female deities. Among the feminine deities have been Mama Kuka (goddess of joy), Mama Ch'aska (goddess of dawn), Mama Allpa (goddess of harvest and earth, sometimes called Mama Pacha or Pachamama), Mama Killa (moon goddess) and Mama Sara (goddess of grain).[150][147]:31–32 During and after the imposition of Christianity during Spanish colonialism, the Inca people retained their original beliefs in deities through syncretism, where they overlay the Christian God and teachings over their original beliefs and practices.[151][152][153] The male deity Inti became accepted as the Christian God, but the Andean rituals centered around Inca deities have been retained and continued thereafter into the modern era by the Inca people.[153][154]

Maya and Aztec

Quetzalcoatl 1
The zoomorphic feathered serpent deity (Kukulkan, Quetzalcoatl).

In Maya culture, Kukulkan has been the supreme creator deity, also revered as the god of reincarnation, water, fertility and wind.[148]:797–98 The Maya people built step pyramid temples to honor Kukulkan, aligning them to the Sun's position on the spring equinox.[148]:843–44 Other deities found at Maya archaeological sites include Xib Chac – the benevolent male rain deity, and Ixchel – the benevolent female earth, weaving and pregnancy goddess.[148]:843–44 The Maya calendar had 18 months, each with 20 days (and five unlucky days of Uayeb); each month had a presiding deity, who inspired social rituals, special trading markets and community festivals.[154]

A deity with aspects similar to Kulkulkan in the Aztec culture has been called Quetzalcoatl.[148]:797–98 However, states Timothy Insoll, the Aztec ideas of deity remain poorly understood. What has been assumed is based on what was constructed by Christian missionaries. The deity concept was likely more complex than these historical records.[155] In Aztec culture, there were hundred of deities, but many were henotheistic incarnations of one another (similar to the avatar concept of Hinduism). Unlike Hinduism and other cultures, Aztec deities were usually not anthropomorphic, and were instead zoomorphic or hybrid icons associated with spirits, natural phenomena or forces.[155][156] The Aztec deities were often represented through ceramic figurines, revered in home shrines.[155][157]


Wooden idols of Polynesia (1830)
Deities of Polynesia carved from wood (bottom two are demons).

The Polynesian people developed a theology centered on numerous deities, with clusters of islands having different names for the same idea. There are great deities found across the Pacific Ocean. Some deities are found widely, and there are many local deities whose worship is limited to one or a few islands or sometimes to isolated villages on the same island.[158]:5–6

The Māori people, of what is now New Zealand, called the supreme being as Io, who is also referred elsewhere as Iho-Iho, Io-Mataaho, Io Nui, Te Io Ora, Io Matua Te Kora among other names.[107]:239 The Io deity has been revered as the original uncreated creator, with power of life, with nothing outside or beyond him.[107]:239Other deities in the Polynesian pantheon include Tangaloa (god who created men),[158]:37–38 La'a Maomao (god of winds), Tu-Matauenga or Ku (god of war), Tu-Metua (mother goddess), Kane (god of procreation) and Rangi (sky god father).[107]:261, 284, 399, 476

The Polynesian deities have been part of a sophisticated theology, addressing questions of creation, the nature of existence, guardians in daily lives as well as during wars, natural phenomena, good and evil spirits, priestly rituals, as well as linked to the journey of the souls of the dead.[158]:6–14, 37–38, 113, 323


Abrahamic religions


Švenčiausioji Trejybė
Holy Trinity (1756–1758) by Szymon Czechowicz, showing God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all of whom are revered in Christianity as a single deity[159]:233–34

Christianity is a monotheistic religion in which most mainstream congregations and denominations accept the concept of the Holy Trinity.[159]:233–34 Modern orthodox Christians believe that the Trinity is composed of three equal, cosubstantial persons: God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[159]:233–34 The first person to describe the persons of the Trinity as homooúsios (ὁμοούσιος; "of the same substance") was the Church Father Origen.[160] Although most early Christian theologians (including Origen) were Subordinationists,[161] who believed that the Father was superior to the Son and the Son superior to the Holy Spirit,[160][162][163] this belief was condemned as heretical by the First Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, which declared that all three persons of the Trinity are equal.[161] Christians regard the universe as an element in God's actualization[159]:273 and the Holy Spirit is seen as the divine essence that is "the unity and relation of the Father and the Son".[159]:273 According to George Hunsinger, the doctrine of the Trinity justifies worship in a Church, wherein Jesus Christ is deemed to be a full deity with the Christian cross as his icon.[159]:296

The theological examination of Jesus Christ, of divine grace in incarnation, his non-transferability and completeness has been a historic topic. For example, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE declared that in "one person Jesus Christ, fullness of deity and fullness of humanity are united, the union of the natures being such that they can neither be divided nor confused".[164] Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament, is the self-disclosure of the one, true God, both in his teaching and in his person; Christ, in Christian faith, is considered the incarnation of God.[39]:4, 29[165][166]


Ilah, ʾIlāh (Arabic: إله‎; plural: آلهة ʾālihah), is an Arabic word meaning "god".[167][168] It appears in the name of the monotheistic god of Islam as Allah (al-Lāh).[169][170][171] which literally means "the god" in Arabic.[167][168] Islam is strictly monotheistic[172] and the first statement of the shahada, or Muslim confession of faith, is that "there is no ʾilāh (deity) but al-Lāh (God)",[173] who is perfectly unified and utterly indivisible.[172][173][174]

The term Allah is used by Muslims for God. The Persian word Khuda (Persian: خدا) can be translated as god, lord or king, and is also used today to refer to God in Islam by Persian and Urdu speakers. The Turkic word for god is Tengri; it exists as Tanrı in Turkish.


Tetragrammaton scripts
The tetragrammaton in Phoenician (12th century BCE to 150 BCE), Paleo-Hebrew (10th century BCE to 135 CE), and square Hebrew (3rd century BCE to present) scripts

Judaism affirms the existence of one God (Yahweh, or YHWH), who is not abstract, but He who revealed himself throughout Jewish history particularly during the Exodus and the Exile.[39]:4 Judaism reflects a monotheism that gradually arose, was affirmed with certainty in the sixth century "Second Isaiah", and has ever since been the axiomatic basis of its theology.[39]:4

The classical presentation of Judaism has been as a monotheistic faith that rejected deities and related idolatry.[175] However, states Breslauer, modern scholarship suggests that idolatry was not absent in biblical faith, and it resurfaced multiple times in Jewish religious life.[175] The rabbinic texts and other secondary Jewish literature suggest worship of material objects and natural phenomena through the medieval era, while the core teachings of Judaism maintained monotheism.[175][176]

According to Aryeh Kaplan, God is always referred to as "He" in Judaism, "not to imply that the concept of sex or gender applies to God", but because "there is no neuter in the Hebrew language, and the Hebrew word for God is a masculine noun" as he "is an active rather than a passive creative force".[177]

Eastern religions


Left: A Buddhist deity in Ssangbongsa in South Korea; Right: A Chinese deity adopted into Buddhism.

Ssangbongsa 11-05266
A Chinese deity with sword accompanied by a tiger. Gouache Wellcome V0047141

Buddhists do not believe in a creator deity.[178] However, deities are an essential part of Buddhist teachings about cosmology, rebirth, and saṃsāra.[178] Buddhist deities (known as devas)[178] are believed to reside in a pleasant, heavenly realm within Buddhist cosmology,[179] which is typically subdivided into twenty six sub-realms.[10]:35 These beings are numerous, but they are still mortal;[179] they live in the heavenly realm, then die and are reborn like all other beings.[179] A rebirth in the heavenly realm is believed to be the result of leading an ethical life and accumulating very good karma.[179] A deva does not need to work, and is able to enjoy in the heavenly realm all pleasures found on Earth. However, the pleasures of this realm lead to attachment (Upādāna ), lack of spiritual pursuits, and therefore no nirvana.[10]:37 The vast majority of Buddhist lay people in countries practicing Theravada, states Kevin Trainor, have historically pursued Buddhist rituals and practices because they are motivated by their potential rebirth into the deva realm.[179][180][181] The deva realm in Buddhist practice in Southeast Asia and East Asia, states Keown, include gods found in Hindu traditions such as Indra and Brahma, and concepts in Hindu cosmology such as Mount Meru.[10]:37–38


Left: Ganesha deity of Hinduism, Right: Saraswati, Hindu goddess of knowledge and music.

1 Hindu deity Ganesha on ceramic tile at Munnar Kerala India March 2014
2 Hindu deity Sarasvati Saraswati on ceramic tile in Munnar Kerala India March 2014

The concept of God varies in Hinduism, it being a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism and monism among others.[182][183]

In the ancient Vedic texts of Hinduism, a deity is often referred to as Deva (god) or Devi (goddess).[34]:496[36] The root of these terms mean "heavenly, divine, anything of excellence".[34]:492[36] Deva is masculine, and the related feminine equivalent is devi. In the earliest Vedic literature, all supernatural beings are called Asuras.[184]:5–11, 22, 99–102[34]:121 Over time, those with a benevolent nature become deities and are referred to as Sura, Deva or Devi.[184]:2–6[185]

Devas or deities in Hindu texts differ from Greek or Roman theodicy, states Ray Billington, because many Hindu traditions believe that a human being has the potential to be reborn as a deva (or devi), by living an ethical life and building up saintly karma.[186] Such a deva enjoys heavenly bliss, till the merit runs out, and then the soul (gender neutral) is reborn again into Saṃsāra. Thus deities are henotheistic manifestations, embodiments and consequence of the virtuous, the noble, the saint-like living in many Hindu traditions.[186]


Padmavati, a Jain guardian deity.[187][188]

Like many ancient Indian traditions, Jainism does not believe in a creator, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal God; however, the cosmology of Jainism incorporates a meaningful causality-driven reality, and includes four realms of existence (gati), and one of them for deva (celestial beings, gods).[11]:351–57 A human being can choose and live an ethical life (karma), such as being non-violent (ahimsa) against all living beings, thereby gain merit and be reborn as deva.[11]:357–58[189]

Jain texts reject a trans-cosmic God, one who stands outside of the universe and lords over it, but they state that the world is full of devas who are in human-image with sensory organs, with the power of reason, conscious, compassionate and with finite life.[11]:356–57 Jainism believes in the existence of the soul (Self, atman) and considers it to have "god-quality", whose knowledge and liberation is the ultimate spiritual goal in both religions. Jains also believe that the spiritual nobleness of perfected souls (Jina) and devas make them worship-worthy beings, with powers of guardianship and guidance to better karma. In Jain temples or festivals, the Jinas and Devas are revered.[11]:356–57[190]


Taq-e Bostan - High-relief of Ardeshir II investiture
Investiture of Sassanid emperor Shapur II (center) with Mithra (left) and Ahura Mazda (right) at Taq-e Bostan, Iran

Ahura Mazda (/əˌhʊrəˌmæzdə/);[191] is the Avestan name for the creator and sole God of Zoroastrianism.[192] The literal meaning of the word Ahura is "mighty" or "lord" and Mazda is wisdom.[192] Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, taught that Ahura Mazda is the most powerful being in all of the existence[193] and the only deity who is worthy of the highest veneration.[193] Nonetheless, Ahura Mazda is not omnipotent because his evil twin brother Angra Mainyu is nearly as powerful as him.[193] Zoroaster taught that the daevas were evil spirits created by Angra Mainyu to sow evil in the world[193] and that all people must choose between the goodness of Ahura Mazda and the evil of Angra Mainyu.[193] According to Zoroaster, Ahura Mazda will eventually defeat Angra Mainyu and good will triumph over evil once and for all.[193] Ahura Mazda was the most important deity in the ancient Achaemenid Empire.[194] He was originally represented anthropomorphically,[192] but, by the end of the Sasanian Empire, Zoroastrianism had become fully aniconic.[192]

Rational interpretations

Lightning cloud to cloud (aka)
The Greek philosopher Democritus argued that belief in deities arose when humans observed natural phenomena such as lightning and attributed such phenomena to supernatural beings.[121]:314

Attempts to rationally explain belief in deities extend all the way back to ancient Greece.[121]:311–17 The Greek philosopher Democritus argued that the concept of deities arose when human beings observed natural phenomena such as lightning, solar eclipses, and the changing of the seasons.[121]:311–17 Later, in the third century BCE, the scholar Euhemerus argued in his book Sacred History that the gods were originally flesh-and-blood mortal kings who were posthumously deified, and that religion was therefore the continuation of these kings' mortal reigns, a view now known as Euhemerism.[195] Sigmund Freud suggested that God concepts are a projection of one's father.[196]

A tendency to believe in deities and other supernatural beings may be an integral part of the human consciousness.[197][198][199][200]:2–11 Children are naturally inclined to believe in supernatural entities such as gods, spirits, and demons, even without being indoctrinated into a particular religious tradition.[200]:2–11 Humans have an overactive agency detection system,[197][201][200]:25–27 which has a tendency to conclude that events are caused by intelligent entities, even if they really are not.[197][201] This is a system which may have evolved to cope with threats to the survival of human ancestors:[197] in the wild, a person who perceived intelligent and potentially dangerous beings everywhere was more likely to survive than a person who failed to perceive actual threats, such as wild animals or human enemies.[197][200]:2–11 Humans are also inclined to think teleologically and ascribe meaning and significance to their surroundings, a trait which may lead people to believe in a creator-deity.[202] This may have developed as a side effect of human social intelligence, the ability to discern what other people are thinking.[202]

Stories of encounters with supernatural beings are especially likely to be retold, passed on, and embellished due to their descriptions of standard ontological categories (person, artifact, animal, plant, natural object) with counterintuitive properties (humans that are invisible, houses that remember what happened in them, etc.).[203] As belief in deities spread, humans may have attributed anthropomorphic thought processes to them,[204] leading to the idea of leaving offerings to the gods and praying to them for assistance,[204] ideas which are seen in all cultures around the world.[197]

Sociologists of religion have proposed that the personality and characteristics of deities may reflect a culture's sense of self-esteem and that a culture projects its revered values into deities and in spiritual terms. The cherished, desired or sought human personality is congruent with the personality it defines to be gods.[196] Lonely and fearful societies tend to invent wrathful, violent, submission-seeking deities (or God), while happier and secure societies tend to invent loving, non-violent, compassionate deities.[196] Émile Durkheim states that gods represent an extension of human social life to include supernatural beings. According to Matt Rossano, God concepts may be a means of enforcing morality and building more cooperative community groups.[205]

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Further reading

  • Baines, John (2001). Fecundity Figures: Egyptian Personification and the Iconology of a Genre (Reprint ed.). Oxford: Griffith Institute. ISBN 978-0-900416-78-1.

Amun (also Amon, Ammon, Amen; Greek Ἄμμων Ámmōn, Ἅμμων Hámmōn) is a major ancient Egyptian deity who appears as a member of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad. Amun was attested from the Old Kingdom together with his wife Amaunet.

With the 11th dynasty (c. 21st century BC), Amun rose to the position of patron deity of Thebes by replacing Montu.After the rebellion of Thebes against the Hyksos and with the rule of Ahmose I (16th century BC), Amun acquired national importance, expressed in his fusion with the Sun god, Ra, as Amun-Ra or Amun-Re.

Amun-Ra retained chief importance in the Egyptian pantheon throughout the New Kingdom (with the exception of the "Atenist heresy" under Akhenaten).

Amun-Ra in this period (16th to 11th centuries BC) held the position of transcendental, self-created creator deity "par excellence"; he was the champion of the poor or troubled and central to personal piety. His position as King of Gods developed to the point of virtual monotheism where other gods became manifestations of him. With Osiris, Amun-Ra is the most widely recorded of the Egyptian gods.As the chief deity of the Egyptian Empire, Amun-Ra also came to be worshipped outside Egypt, according to the testimony of ancient Greek historiographers in Libya and Nubia. As Zeus Ammon, he came to be identified with Zeus in Greece.


Chthonic (, UK also ; from Ancient Greek: χθόνιος, translit. khthónios [kʰtʰónios], "in, under, or beneath the earth", from χθών khthōn "earth") literally means "subterranean", but the word in English describes deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in Ancient Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to that which is under the earth, rather than the living surface of the land (as Gaia or Ge does), or the land as territory (as khora χώρα does).


Durga, identified as Adi Parashakti, is a principal and popular form of Hindu Goddess. She is the warrior goddess, whose mythology centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good. She is the fierce form of the protective mother goddess, willing to unleash her anger against wrong, violence for liberation and destruction to empower creation.Durga is depicted in the Hindu pantheon as a Goddess riding a lion or tiger, with many arms each carrying a weapon, often defeating Mahishasura (lit. buffalo demon).

The three principle forms of Durga worshiped are Maha Durga, Chandika and Aparajita. Of these, Chandika has two forms called Chandi who is of the combined power and form of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati and of Chamunda who is a form of Kali created by the goddess for killing demons Chanda and Munda. Maha Durga has three forms: Ugrachanda, Bhadrakali and Katyayani. Bhadrakali Durga is also worshiped in the form of her nine epithets called Navadurga.

She is a central deity in Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, where she is equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman. One of the most important texts of Shaktism is Devi Mahatmya, also known as Durgā Saptashatī or Chandi patha, which celebrates Durga as the goddess, declaring her as the supreme being and the creator of the universe. Estimated to have been composed between 400 and 600 CE, this text is considered by Shakta Hindus to be as important a scripture as the Bhagavad Gita. She has a significant following all over India, Bangladesh and Nepal, particularly in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar. Durga is revered after spring and autumn harvests, specially during the festival of Navratri.


Ganesha (Sanskrit: गणेश, Tamil: கணபதி, Gaṇeśa; listen ), also known as Ganapati, Vinayaka, Pillaiyar and Binayak, is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali (Indonesia), Bangladesh and Nepal. Hindu denominations worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains and Buddhists.Although He is known by many attributes, Ganesha's elephant head makes Him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the God of beginnings, He is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. Several texts relate mythological anecdotes associated with his birth and exploits. Ganesha likely emerged as a deity as early as the 2nd century CE, but most certainly by the 4th and 5th centuries CE, during the Gupta period, although He inherited traits from Vedic and pre-Vedic precursors. Hindu mythology identifies Him as the restored son of Parvati and Shiva of the Shaivism tradition, but He is a pan-Hindu God found in its various traditions. In the Ganapatya tradition of Hinduism, Ganesha is the supreme deity. The principal texts on Ganesha include the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana, and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa. Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana are other two Puranic genre encyclopedic texts that deal with Ganesha.

God complex

A god complex is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility. A person with a god complex may refuse to admit the possibility of their error or failure, even in the face of irrefutable evidence, intractable problems or difficult or impossible tasks. The person is also highly dogmatic in their views, meaning the person speaks of their personal opinions as though they were unquestionably correct. Someone with a god complex may exhibit no regard for the conventions and demands of society, and may request special consideration or privileges.


Indra (, Sanskrit: इन्द्र) is a Vedic deity in Hinduism, a guardian deity (Indā, Pālī) in Buddhism, and the king of the highest heaven called Saudharmakalpa in Jainism. His mythologies and powers are similar to other Indo-European deities such as Zeus, Jupiter, Perun, Thor, and Odin (Wotan).In the Vedas, Indra is the king of Svarga (Heaven) and the Devas. He is the god of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains and river flows. Indra is the most referred to deity in the Rigveda. He is celebrated for his powers, and the one who kills the great symbolic evil (malevolent type of Asura) named Vritra who obstructs human prosperity and happiness. Indra destroys Vritra and his "deceiving forces", and thereby brings rains and the sunshine as the friend of mankind. His importance diminishes in the post-Vedic Indian literature where he is depicted as a powerful hero but one who is getting in trouble with his drunken, hedonistic and adulterous ways, and the god who disturbs Hindu monks as they meditate because he fears self-realized human beings may become more powerful than he.Indra rules over the much sought Devas realm of rebirth within the Samsara doctrine of Buddhist traditions. However, like the Hindu texts, Indra also is a subject of ridicule and reduced to a figurehead status in Buddhist texts, shown as a god that suffers rebirth and redeath. In the Jainism traditions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, Indra is the king of gods and a part of Jain rebirth cosmology. He is also the god who appears with his wife Indrani to celebrate the auspicious moments in the life of a Jain Tirthankara, an iconography that suggests the king and queen of gods reverentially marking the spiritual journey of a Jina.Indra's iconography shows him wielding a lightning thunderbolt known as Vajra, riding on a white elephant known as Airavata. In Buddhist iconography the elephant sometimes features three heads, while Jaina icons sometimes show the elephant with five heads. Sometimes a single elephant is shown with four symbolic tusks. Indra's heavenly home is on or near Mount Meru (also called Sumeru).

List of death deities

Deities associated with death take many different forms, depending on the specific culture and religion being referenced. Psychopomps, deities of the underworld, and resurrection deities are commonly called death deities in comparative religions texts. The term colloquially refers to deities that either collect or rule over the dead, rather than those deities who determine the time of death. However, all these types are included in this article.

Many have incorporated a god of death into their mythology or religion. As death, along with birth, is among the major parts of human life, these deities may often be one of the most important deities of a religion. In some religions with a single powerful deity as the source of worship, the death deity is an antagonistic deity against which the primary deity struggles. The related term death worship has most often been used as a derogatory term to accuse certain groups of morally abhorrent practices which set no value on human life. In monotheistic religions, death is commonly personified by an angel instead of a deity.

List of lunar deities

In mythology, a lunar deity is a god or goddess of the moon, sometimes as a personification. These deities can have a variety of functions and traditions depending upon the culture, but they are often related. Some form of moon worship can be found in most ancient religions.

List of water deities

A water deity is a deity in mythology associated with water or various bodies of water. Water deities are common in mythology and were usually more important among civilizations in which the sea or ocean, or a great river was more important. Another important focus of worship of water deities has been springs or holy wells.

As a form of animal worship, whales and snakes (hence dragons) have been regarded as godly deities throughout the world (other animals are such as turtles, fish, crabs, and sharks). In Asian lore, whales and dragons sometimes have connections. Serpents are also common as a symbol or as serpentine deities, sharing many similarities with dragons.

Mercury (mythology)

Mercury (; Latin: Mercurius [mɛrˈkʊriʊs] listen ) is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the 12 Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.

He was considered the son of Maia, who was a daughter of the Titan Atlas, and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx ("merchandise"; cf. merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages); another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for "boundary, border" (cf. Old English "mearc", Old Norse "mark" and Latin "margō") and Greek οὖρος (by analogy of Arctūrus/Ἀρκτοῦρος), as the "keeper of boundaries," referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds. In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms; both gods share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes. He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his Greek equivalent Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.

Nike (mythology)

In ancient Greek religion, Nike (; Ancient Greek: Νίκη, "Victory" [nǐːkɛː]) was a goddess who personified victory. Her Roman equivalent was Victoria.

Puja (Hinduism)

Puja or Pooja (IAST: pūjā; Devanagari: पूजा; IPA: [puːʤɑː]; is a prayer ritual performed by Hindus of devotional worship to one or more deities, or to host and honor a guest, or one to spiritually celebrate an event. It may honour or celebrate the presence of special guest(s), or their memories after they die. The word "pūjā" is Sanskrit, and means reverence, honour, homage, adoration, and worship. Puja, the loving offering of light, flowers, and water or food to the divine, is the essential ritual of Hinduism. For the worshipper, the divine is visible in the image, and the divinity sees the worshipper. The interaction between human and deity, between human and guru, is called darshan, seeing. .

Puja rituals are also held by Buddhists and Jains. In Hinduism, puja is done on a variety of occasions, frequency and settings. It may include daily puja done in the home, to occasional temple ceremonies and annual festivals. In other cases, puja is held to mark a few lifetime events such as birth of a baby or a wedding, or to begin a new venture. The two main areas where puja is performed are in the home and at temples to mark certain stages of life, events or some festivals such as Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja. Puja is not mandatory in Hinduism. It may be a routine daily affair for some Hindus, periodic ritual for some, and rare for other Hindus. In some temples, various pujas may be performed daily at various times of the day; in other temples, it may be occasional.Puja varies according to the school of Hinduism. Puja may vary by region, occasion, deity honored, and steps followed. In formal Nigama ceremonies, a fire may be lit in honour of deity Agni, without an idol or image present. In contrast, in Agama ceremonies, an idol or icon or image of deity is present. In both ceremonies, a lamp (diya) or incense stick may be lit while a prayer is chanted or hymn is sung. Puja is typically performed by a Hindu worshiper alone, though sometimes in presence of a priest who is well versed in a complex ritual and hymns. In temples and priest-assisted event puja, food, fruits and sweets may be included as sacrificial offerings to the ceremony or deity, which, after the prayers, becomes prasad – food shared by all gathered.Both Nigama and Agama puja are practiced in Hinduism in India. In Hinduism of Bali Indonesia, Agama puja is most prevalent both inside homes and in temples. Puja is sometimes called Sembahyang in Indonesia.

Rigvedic deities

There are 1000 hymns in the Rigveda, most of them dedicated to specific deities.

Indra, a heroic god, slayer of Vritra and destroyer of the Vala, liberator of the cows and the rivers; Agni the sacrificial fire and messenger of the gods; and Soma, the ritual drink dedicated to Indra, are the most prominent deities.

Invoked in groups are the Vishvedevas (the "all-gods"), the Maruts, violent storm gods in Indra's train and the Ashvins, the twin horsemen.

There are two major groups of gods: the Devas and the Asuras. Unlike in later Vedic texts and in Hinduism, the Asuras are not yet demonized, Mitra and Varuna being their most prominent members.

Aditi is the mother both of Agni and of the Adityas or Asuras, led by Mitra and Varuna, with Aryaman, Bhaga, Ansa and Daksha.

Surya is the personification of the Sun, but Savitr, Vivasvant, the Ashvins and the Rbhus, semi-divine craftsmen, also have aspects of solar deities. Other natural phenomena deified include Vayu, (the wind), Dyaus and Prithivi (Heaven and Earth), Dyaus continuing Dyeus, the chief god of the Proto-Indo-European religion, and Ushas (the dawn), the most prominent goddess of the Rigveda, and Apas (the waters).

Rivers play an important role, deified as goddesses, most prominently the Sapta Sindhu and the Sarasvati River.

Yama is the first ancestor, also worshipped as a deity, and the god of the underworld and death.

Vishnu and Rudra, the prominent deities of later Hinduism (Rudra being an early form of Shiva), are present as marginal gods.

The names of Indra, Mitra, Varuna and the Nasatyas have also attested in a Mitanni treaty, suggesting that some of the religion of the Mitannis was very close to that of the Rigveda.

Set (deity)

Set or Seth (Egyptian: stẖ; also transliterated Setesh, Sutekh, Setekh, or Suty) is a god of chaos, the desert, storms, disorder, violence, and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. In Ancient Greek, the god's name is given as Sēth (Σήθ). Set had a positive role where he accompanies Ra on his solar boat to repel Apep, the serpent of Chaos. Set had a vital role as a reconciled combatant. He was lord of the red (desert) land where he was the balance to Horus' role as lord of the black (soil) land.In Egyptian mythology, Set is portrayed as the usurper who killed and mutilated his own brother Osiris. Osiris' wife Isis reassembled (remembered) Osiris' corpse and resurrected her dead husband long enough to conceive his son and heir Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Set, and the myths describe their conflicts. This Osiris myth is a prominent theme in Egyptian mythology.

Solar deity

A solar deity (also sun god or sun goddess) is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms. The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios. The English word sun stems from Proto-Germanic *sunnǭ.


Syncretism () is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Syncretism also occurs commonly in expressions of arts and culture (known as eclecticism) as well as politics (syncretic politics).

Tutelary deity

A tutelary (also tutelar) is a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture, or occupation. The etymology of "tutelary" expresses the concept of safety, and thus of guardianship.

In late late Greek and Roman religion, one type of tutelary deity, the genius, functions as the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Another form of personal tutelary spirit is the familiar spirit of European folklore.


Yahweh was the national god of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah. His exact origins are disputed, although they reach back to the early Iron Age and even the Late Bronze: his name may have begun as an epithet of El, head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon, but the earliest plausible mentions of Yahweh are in Egyptian texts that refer to a similar-sounding place name associated with the Shasu nomads of the southern Transjordan.In the oldest biblical literature, Yahweh is a typical ancient Near Eastern "divine warrior", who leads the heavenly army against Israel's enemies; he later became the main god of the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and of Judah, and over time the royal court and temple promoted Yahweh as the god of the entire cosmos, possessing all the positive qualities previously attributed to the other gods and goddesses. By the end of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE), the very existence of foreign gods was denied, and Yahweh was proclaimed as the creator of the cosmos and the true god of all the world.

Yellow Emperor

The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch, the Yellow God or the Yellow Lord, or simply by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity (shen) in Chinese religion, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes included among the mytho-historical Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors and cosmological Five Forms of the Highest Deity (五方上帝 Wǔfāng Shàngdì). First calculated by Jesuit missionaries on the basis of Chinese chronicles and later accepted by the twentieth-century promoters of a universal calendar starting with the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi's traditional reign dates are 2697–2597 or 2698–2598 BCE.

Huangdi's cult became prominent in the late Warring States and early Han dynasty, when he was portrayed as the originator of the centralized state, as a cosmic ruler, and as a patron of esoteric arts. A large number of texts – such as the Huangdi Neijing, a medical classic, and the Huangdi Sijing, a group of political treatises – were thus attributed to him. Having waned in influence during most of the imperial period, in the early twentieth century Huangdi became a rallying figure for Han Chinese attempts to overthrow the rule of the Qing dynasty, which they considered foreign because its emperors were Manchu people. To this day the Yellow Emperor remains a powerful symbol within Chinese nationalism.

Traditionally credited with numerous inventions and innovations – ranging from the Chinese calendar to an ancestor of football – the Yellow Emperor is now regarded as the initiator of Chinese culture, and said to be the ancestor of all Chinese.

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