Ced earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies in 1999. His interests include history, traveling, and mythology.
Money and wealth occupy paradoxical positions in religion.
Many religions have explicit warnings about money, or more accurately, the greed for money. Despite that, the offering of monetary gifts as charity is a core part of religious practices worldwide. Most faiths also consider wealth, especially an unexpected windfall, a form of divine blessing.
Furthermore, money and wealth gods are prominent in many cultures. From ancient times until now.
The following are 9 gods and goddesses of wealth from both eastern and western cultures. Before proceeding, it’s important to highlight that many do not purely represent financial wellbeing. More often than not, gaining the favor of these deities is regarded as having fulfilled divine expectations of having lived a “good life.”
In other words, if Caishen or Plutus decide to shower you with gold, it’s not only because they personally like you, it’s also because you are an exemplary person in the eyes of all gods.
9 Wealth Gods and Goddesses From World Mythology
- The Shichi-Fuku-Jin
- Juno Moneta
A popular name for wealth management services and the inspiration for a cryptocurrency, Plutus is the ancient Greek God of Wealth. Because of the way his name is spelled in English, he is (without surprise) frequently confused with Pluto, the Roman God of the Underworld (Hades) *. To be clear, the two gods are separate.
Most commonly described as the son of Harvest Goddess Demeter and the mortal Iasion, Plutus is typically portrayed as a child and teen in artworks. In the most famous depictions from the ancient world, he either holds a Cornucopia or is within one.
This is an indication of his traditional association with agricultural abundance and the bounty of the earth. In ancient societies, possessing either or both of these blessings could easily lead to great wealth. Conversely, the lack of either makes wealth impossible.
Interestingly, the comic playwright Aristophanes famously described Plutus as blinded by Zeus—an extreme measure to ensure Plutus’ coveted gifts were always given without prejudice. Aristophanes also envisioned the god as lame, for he always takes a long time to arrive, and winged, so that he can depart before anyone. The playwright’s satirical message is unmistakable.
Even more interestingly, in the Divine Comedy, Dante reimagined the ancient god as a demon overseeing the Fourth Circle of Hell. Tasked with overseeing the punishment of those who led a life of greed, Plutus in this form uttered the infamous (and highly ambiguous) Pape Satàn, pape Satàn aleppe proclamation, before being admonished by Virgil.
* Hades, in his Greek or Roman form, was associated with riches too, thus adding to the confusion. The ruler of the underworld was viewed as the owner of all natural and buried riches.
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One of the most widely worshipped goddesses in Hinduism, Lakshmi is the eternal consort of the Preserver God Vishnu and within the faith, known by many names. Described in the Mahabarata as born from the churning of the primeval milky ocean, she is not just the Hindu Goddess of Wealth. The beloved deity also represents good fortune, youth, fertility, prosperity, and beauty.
Lakshmi is furthermore associated with lotuses, which she is often shown holding or standing atop. Lastly, to accompany the many avatars of her husband, Lakshmi has assumed many forms, thus her numerous names. In the Ramayana, she was the chaste Sita. In the Mahabarata, she was Queen Rukmini. Regardless of name or form, she is always the beloved wife of Vishnu’s avatars.
Coming to worship, the Shaktism sect regards Lakshmi as the prosperity aspect of the Mother Goddess, while Vaishnavism venerates her as a supreme goddess/consort who assists Vishnu in his creation and protection of the universe.
Together with the important goddesses Saraswati and Parvati, Lakshmi also forms the Tridevi. This triad of Hindu goddesses is described in Shaktism as a manifestation of Adi Parashakti, the divine mother. Alternatively, Adi Parashakti could also be interpreted as the Hindu Supreme Being.
More Avatars/Forms Than Her Husband?
Thanks to religious and cultural syncretization, Lakshmi is not only worshipped by Hindus. In Thailand, she is the household guardian Nang Kwak, beloved for her ability to invite good fortune and attract business. In this form, she is always depicted with a beckoning gesture.
Over in Japan, she is known as Kishijoten, the Goddess of Prosperity. Kishijoten is occasionally regarded as one of the Shichi-Fuku-Jin, i.e., the Seven Gods of Good Fortune.
And in Chinese Buddhism, she is one of the Twenty-Four Protective Deities/Devas, with the name of Jixiang Tiannu. Without surprise, in this form, she is still associated with fortune and prosperity, as well as all things auspicious.
Caishen literally means “wealth god” in the Chinese language. Because of that, the name is, more accurately, a title. Well-known worldwide nowadays thanks to frequent displays during Lunar New Year celebrations, the most popular image of Caishen is also that of a jovial courtier in red imperial robes. Usually, the god would be holding or be surrounded by gold ingots too.
Within Chinese folklore, however, there exist two versions of the wealth god. The above-mentioned courtier is the Wen Caishen, or scholarly wealth god. More popular with businessmen is the Wu Caishen, or martial wealth god. The latter deity is typically depicted wearing armor, riding a tiger, and bearing a fierce visage.
As for the actual identities of the gods, there is no consensus. Some beliefs claim the scholarly god is the mythical courtier Bi Gan or the Kingdom of Yue advisor Fan Li. (According to legend, Fan Li was hugely successful in business after retiring from politics.) Other tales describe the martial god as the Taoist Guardian Zhao Gongming or none other than General Guan Yu himself.
Few Chinese bother with such details, though. Scholarly courtier or fearsome general, Caishen is welcomed in any Chinese household. Some may even consider any New Year celebration unimaginable without an appearance of the god. That is, in the form of decorations.
4. The Shichi-Fuku-Jin
Ask most Japanese and chances are, you’d be told the Japanese Gods of Wealth are the Shichi-Fuku-Jin, or the “Seven Lucky Gods.”
Those with time on their hands, however, might ponder before replying the answer is one or more of the Seven Lucky Gods. Ambiguous as this would be, it is a more accurate answer as the Shichi-Fuku-Jin each represents a different type of fortune. Each god is also a patron for specific trades.
In general, any of the following names would be a “correct” answer.
- Daikokuten: The “Black Sky” is the Japanese version of the Tibetian Buddhist deity Mahakala; Mahakala is the Buddhist version of the Hindu Destroyer God Shiva. Rather than a fearsome dark-skin deity, the Japanese envisioned him as a friendly, hat-wearing stout man, with a drum and holding a bag of treasures. To the Japanese, he is also the God of Commerce and Prosperity, and the patron of cooks, farmers, and bankers.
- Ebisu: The only member of the Shichi-Fuku-Jin who’s entirely Shinto in origin, Ebisu is a child of Izanagi and Izanami, and is always portrayed as a fisherman. He represents business prosperity and wealth, and agricultural abundance, and is the protector of fishermen.
- Benzaiten: The Japanese version of Sarasvati, the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge and Music, Benzaiten is an elegant, beautiful goddess seldom seen without a biwa. She is associated with financial fortune and is the patron of geishas and artists. The second kanji of her name is sometimes written using the kanji for wealth too.
Most people nowadays wouldn’t immediately associate Cernunnos with wealth or money because of his appearance.
A mighty, ancient Celtic deity worshiped as the “Lord of Wild Things,” Cernunnos was described as donning stag antlers and accompanied by a stag or a horned serpent. Associated with nature and fertility, Celtic artworks of him are also numerous, the most famous of which are a rock painting at Val Camonica, Italy, and the gilded Gundestrup Cauldron. Both these show the deity as looking rather feral.
As for Cernunnos’ association with material wealth, much of this is surmised from the above-mentioned artworks. The torque is a Celtic neck ornament associated with royalty, power, and wealth. Cernunnos is often shown wielding one or wearing them on both of his horns.
A bas-relief from Rheims also famously depicted the god as holding an overflowing sack of plenty that animals ate from. As highlighted earlier, plentiful harvests were often a metaphor for wealth in agrarian societies. It is thus unsurprising that a god of nature would take on the aspect of wealth.
Lastly, if you find the above picture of Cernunnos somewhat resembling a certain dark being, you’re not alone. The Celtic god’s status as a major pagan deity, with horns, is believed to have influenced Christian medieval imageries of Satan.
His association with wealth, and money, probably reinforced this impression.
6. Juno Moneta
In his The Heroes of Olympus series, American author Rick Riordan went to lengths to demonstrate how Juno, the Roman version of Hera, was substantially different from her Greek counterpart. In general, the series was also built on how Roman interpretations of ancient Greek Gods often resulted in the deities becoming less individualistic, more “organized,” and more socially benevolent.
Riordan was, of course, writing creatively. However, it was historically true that several Greek gods underwent marked transformations when worshiped by the Romans. Instead of the vehement, long-suffering, sometimes even unscrupulous Queen of the Gods the Greeks saw Hera as, Juno was beloved as the protectress and counselor of the state. As a part of the important Capitoline Triad, she was also portrayed as armed and worshiped as a patron of Rome.
She was even given the epithet Moneta; this word, the very source of the English words “money” and “mint.” This title could be derived from the Latin term monēre, which means “to advise” or “to warn and caution.”
As Juno Moneta, the Roman Queen of the Gods was believed to protect funds. She would also warn the state in the face of impending danger. The Roman mint was even housed in her temple on Capitoline Hill.
Here's the short of it: No other goddess in history was as directly associated with money as the Roman Queen of the Gods was. Her title gave us several modern English words for money.
Kubera is the Hindu God of Wealth and the god-king of the Yakshas, a race of nature spirits. Depicted as plump and wielding a club, and accompanied by a money pot, Vedic text originally described him as a leader of evil spirits. However, the Puranas stated he later achieved godhood.
The Vishnudharmottara Purana further describes him as the embodiment of wealth, prosperity, and glory, aspects reflected by how the god is usually shown donning golden robes and precious ornaments. In Hindu religious art, Kubera is also sometimes shown riding a man, which is odd as all other Hindu divinities have animals as their vehicles. Some Hindus interpret this as a warning that worshipers must never allow money to dictate their lives.
With Hinduism frequently syncretizing with other Far Eastern faiths, Kubera as a god of wealth is, without surprise, also worshiped in Buddhism and Taoism, although he assumes quite different identities.
In Chinese Buddhism, he is venerated as Duowen Tianwang, or Vaishravana, and is one of the Four Heavenly Kings. He is hailed as the regent of the North too. In this form, he is still the leader of the Yakshas but is a mighty armor-wearing general wielding a miniature pagoda.
Closer to India in Tibet, Kubera takes the name of Jambhala. There are, however, five different versions of Jambhala in Tibetan Buddhism, with the Yellow Jambhala most popularly worshiped. Each version is furthermore an emanation of a different Buddha or Bodhisattva and venerated by a specific mantra.
And Over in Japan…
Kubera is known as Bishamon in the Land of the Rising Sun. Still a fearsome general wielding a pagoda, Bishamon is both a Buddhist Guardian and a member of the Shichi-Fuku-Jin (see above) here. He is venerated as a God of War and a protector against evil spirits.
Abundantia is the Roman personification of abundance and riches, “riches” here referring not just to money but also to luck, harvest, valuables, and intangible success.
So it was believed, that the goddess could help grow savings and investments. She could even protect you when you’re making a major purchase.
Historically, though, Abundantia was a Roman embodiment of a condition necessary for a thriving society, rather than an actual mythological figure. Thus, unlike the case of many other Roman deities, she has no older Greek counterpart. (Her image is inspired by Demeter, though). Within art both ancient and medieval, Abundantia was often shown with an overflowing Cornocopia. In later artworks, she was adorned with sheaves of corn or wheat too.
Such imageries seem to suggest the goddess was more a fertility or agricultural deity. However, and like the case for Plutus and Cernunnos, Abundanita historically appearing on many ancient Roman coinages imply such symbols of plentiful harvest could be metaphors for empire wealth/stability. Or at least, the wealth brought to Rome through its military conquests.
Whatever Abdundatia truly represented to the Romans, one thing is for sure. She is one goddess any Roman would welcome into the household.
To repeat one final time, many gods and goddesses of wealth in ancient faiths were not directly associated with money. Instead, what they were deemed capable of bestowing was interpreted as wealth. On this list, Cernunnos and Abdundatia are the most notable examples. In Norse mythology, Njǫrd would be the name to take note of.
Also known as Njǫror, Njǫrd is the father of Freyr and Freyja, and the Norse God of the Wind, the Sea, and all of the Sea’s riches. Part of the Vanir, a tribe of gods associated with commerce and wealth, Njǫrd notably lived among the warlike, rival Aesir tribe (that is, Odin’s tribe). This was part of a hostage exchange during a war between the two tribes. Religiously, Njǫrd was also prayed to by the Nordic people in hopes of aid in seafaring and fishing.
Within the Prose Edda, Njǫrd was mentioned as being very wealthy as well as capable of granting land and valuables to those who request his aid. The Icelandic Egils Saga furthermore contains a poem that described the character Arinbjörn dispensing wealth, after he received this power from Njǫrd and his son Freyr.
Of note, the Poetic Edda states that Njǫrd is destined to survive Ragnarok, the Norse version of doomsday. In stark contrast, practically all of the Aesir are destined to perish, mighty Odin himself included.
What this implies will make for an interesting discussion, do you not agree?
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© 2022 Ced Yong