L is for Lightning & Thunderbolts

Lightning imageL is for Lightning & Thunderbolts

Symbols in Stories from Around the World

For a while, lightning bolts flashed images of Harry Potter with his scar on his forehead.  Though once again, the fascinating sky gods from around the world now take their place of honor.  Many of the sky gods—as well as several sun deities—thrust thunderbolts and had lightning streak across the sky.

Sky gods tended to be male while the earth deities were usually female.  Yet, the Egyptians had a female sky god named Nut and arched over her husband, the earth deity Geb.

Many African cultures had either the hammer or the axe symbolize thunder.

The Chinese god of thunder, Lei Gong, carried a drum and mallet to create thunder and a chisel to punish evildoers.  Those who make good life choices did not have to fear Lei Gong though he was certainly intimidating with his claws, bat wings, and a blue face with a bird’s beak.  Sadly, some people dedicated temples to him in the hopes that he would take vengeance on their enemies.  Lei Gong combined forces with Dian Mu, the Mother of Lightning, who also became his wife.  She uses mirrors to flash lightning across the sky.  Yun Tong, Cloud Youth, sends the clouds swirling while Yu Zi, Rain Masters, takes a sword and dips it into a pot full of water.  Though flying across the skies were the Chinese dragons.  Every time they awoke from hibernation on earth, they caused the first thunderstorms of spring.

In the Japanese mythology, Raijin is the god of lightning, thunder, and storms.  Though children needed to protect their belly buttons during storms as parents told them that Raijin would eat their belly buttons or even take them away.

In the Vedas, Indra is the god of lightning, thunder, storms, and rains.  His storms defeated and killed Vritra who fought against the happiness and success of the humans.   Indra usually is shown holding a lightning bolt and riding on a white elephant named Airavata (see blog post E is for Elephant).

Other thunder and lightning gods are Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman equivalent of Zeus), Perun (Slavic), and Thor (Norse).  Indra and Thor share the most qualities as they both are famous for using a hammer that they throw, they both see to the safety of humans, and both have milked cloud-cows, and are known as gods of healing.

Perun was a god of the sky and of war.  Healing was not on his agenda.  He had many kinds of weapons besides thunder and lightning.  He also had firestone arrows and mythical golden apples.  These apples acted as bombs and were the most dangerous weapons in his arsenal.

The Batammaliba people were given everything by Kuiye, who created the world.  The people wre not happy and complained so much the Kuiye escaped to the sky.  With Kuiye gone, the people experienced death and cruelty on earth.  Kuiye had mercy and gave the Batammaliba people rain along with the thunder and lightning so that things could grow and become wonderful again.

There is also the belief in Buddhism where eight lightning gods were duty-bound by Buddha to protect the Dharma.  The thunderbolts used were as hard as diamonds and had the ability to obliterate evil and proved the strength of Buddha’s doctrine.  Depending on the need, the thunderbolt was two-edged and could create or destroy.

Some stories that feature storms, thunder, or lightning:

  • “The Boy of the Red Sky,” Canadian First Nations, the Spirit of the Storm tries to overturn the boat that a gifted boy is with his foster father and later learns the boy’s birth father was the sun
  • “Zeus and the Titans,” Greek, the Titans and the Olympian Gods battle with Zeus asking for thunderbolts from the cyclops so to send the Titans to Tartarus
  • “Indra battles Vritra,” Indian, Vritra turns into a dragon and consumes all the water on earth and then Indra tore Vritra’s stomach for a great storm to return water to humans

What stories do you know that involves thunder and lightning?  What sky or sun deities so you know?  Please comment below and share with others of this post.

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here: https://storycrossroads.com/2017-schedule/).  

We thank our fiscal sponsor, the Utah Storytelling Guild, as well as our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.

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