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Fire has played an important role in the advancement of human civilization since it was claimed to have been discovered 1.7 – 2.0 million years ago. The awe and significance it commands has given it a unique status in various mythologies around the world, and in almost every mythology, there are powerful deities associated with fire who play crucial roles. Here’s a look at a list of some of the most well-known fire gods, their significance, powers and relevance today.
Hephaestus – Greek Mythology
The Greek god of fire, forges, metalworking and technology, Hephaestus was a son of Zeus and the goddess Hera. He learned his craft among the fumes and fire of volcanoes. Hephaestus was the blacksmith for the Olympian gods for whom he created the best weapons, armor and jewelry.
Many of Hephaestus’ creations such as the silver bow and arrows of Apollo and Artemis, Apollo’s golden chariot, Achilles’ shield, Hercules’ breastplate, and Athena’s spear became famous weapons of Greek mythology. The deity is often depicted with one or more of his symbols which include the hammer, anvil, tongs and volcano.
Vulcan – Roman Mythology
Vulcan was Hephaestus’ counterpart in Roman mythology and was also known as a fire god. However, Vulcan was associated with the destructive aspects of fire such as conflagrations and volcanoes, whereas Hephaestus was involved with the technological and practical uses of fire.
The Volcanalia, a festival dedicated to the deity, was held every year on the 23rd of August, at which Vulcan’s followers performed a strange ritual of unknown significance, where they would threw little fish into a fire.
Vulcan’s devotees invoked the god to prevent fires and since his powers were destructive, various temples in his name were built outside the city of Rome.
Prometheus – Greek Mythology
Prometheus was the Titan god of fire, famous for stealing fire from the Olympian gods and giving it to humans. In one of the most well-known stories, Zeus punished Prometheus and humankind by creating Pandora who married Epimetheus. It was she who brought all evils, disease and hard work into the world by taking off the lid of a jar she carried.
In an alternative version of the story, Zeus punished Prometheus by nailing him to a mountain for eternity, while an eagle pecked out his liver. Each night, the liver would regrow just in time to be eaten again the next day. Prometheus was later freed by Heracles.
Ra – Egyptian Mythology
Ra was typically depicted with the body of a human and a hawk’s head with a sun disk crowning his head. He had many children, including Sekhmet, who was created by the fire in his eye, and he was regarded as one of the most important of all Egyptian deities.
Agni – Hindu Mythology
Agni, whose name means ‘fire’ in Sanskrit, is a powerful Hindu fire god and the personification of sacrificial fire.
Agni is characteristically depicted with two faces, one malignant and the other beneficent. He has three to seven tongues, three legs, seven arms and hair that looks as though his head is on fire. He is almost always pictured with a ram.
Agni currently has no sect in Hinduism, but his presence was and is still at times invoked in certain rituals and ceremonies performed by the Agnihotri Brahmans.
Zhu Rong – Chinese Mythology
Zhu Rong was the Chinese god of fire, who is said to reside on Kunlun Mountain. It was believed that he sent kindling from the heavens to the earth and taught humans how to make and use fire.
According to certain legends and sources, Zhu Rong was a tribal leader’s son, originally known as ‘Li’. He was well-built and intelligent, with a red face and a hot temper. From the moment of his birth, he had a special connection with fire and became an expert at managing it and could keep it for a long period of time.
Later on, Zhu Rong was honored as a god of fire and remains one of the chief fire deities of Chinese mythology.
Kagu-tsuchi – Japanese Mythology
A Shinto god of fire, Kagutsuchi is also known as Homusubi, which means ‘he who starts fires’. According to the myth, Kagu-tsuchi’s heat was so fierce that he killed his own mother in the process of being born. His father was infuriated at this and chopped up the infant god who had inadvertently killed his mother.
Kagu-tsuchi’s body was dismembered into eight pieces which were then thrown around the land and where they fell, they formed the eight major volcanoes of Japan.
In a country that’s often plagued by fire, Kagutsuchi remains an important and prominent deity. The Japanese people hold periodic festivals to honor and appease the fire god and satiate his hunger for fires.
Mixcoatl – Aztec Mythology
An important Aztec deity, Mixcoatl was the son of one of the primordial creator gods, known as the inventor of fire. He was also both a creator and a destroyer. He was typically depicted with a black face or wearing a black mask, sporting a red and white striped body, and long, flowing hair.
Mixcoatl played many roles and one of them was teaching humans the art of making fire and hunting. In addition to being associated with fire, he also had a connection to thunder, lightning, and to the North.
Black God – Navajo Mythology
A Navajo god of fire, Black God was known for inventing the fire drill and was the first to discover how to create and maintain fire. He is also credited with creating the constellations in the night sky.
Black God is typically depicted with a full moon for a mouth and a crescent moon placed on his forehead, wearing a buckskin mask. Although he’s an important deity in Navajo mythology, he was never portrayed as heroic and admirable. In fact, he was mostly described as being slow, helpless, old, and moody.
The Yoruba god of fire and patron of blacksmiths, iron, metal weapons and tools, and warfare, Ogun was worshipped in several African religions. His symbols include iron, the dog, and the palm frond.
According to the myth, Ogun shared the secret of iron with humans and helped them to shape the metal into weapons, so that they could clear forests, hunt animals, and wage war.
Shango – Yoruba Mythology
Shango, also known as Chango, was a major fire Orisha (deity) worshipped by the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria. Various sources describe him as being a powerful deity with a voice that sounded like thunder and with fire spewing from his mouth.
The story goes that Shango killed several of his children and wives inadvertently by causing a thunderstorm and lightning, which struck them dead. Full of remorse, he traveled away from his kingdom to Koso and unable to cope with he had done, hung himself there. He remains one of the most feared gods in Santeria.
The above list is by no means an exhaustive one, as there are many fire deities from around the world. However, it showcases some of the most well-known gods from popular mythologies. If you’re wondering why there are no female deities on this list, that’s because we’ve written an entire article on fire goddesses, which covers popular fire goddesses from different mythologies.