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Myths & Pantheons

Tea Myths And Deities

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Tea is an important part of many witch practices and spells. In fact, it’s one of my favorite tools for witchcraft. I might go so far as to call myself a tea witch at this point, and as I learn more about herbalism and consider getting a herbalist certification in the future, that is likely to become even more true.

But are there any deities linked specifically to tea? Is there a deity that tea witches can turn to for advice and guidance? Yes, there are a few deities that you can turn to!

Because tea originated in Asia, it is in Asia where we find deities most closely related to this wonderful gift. However, there is a whole class of deities that we can turn to even if we don’t work with the Chinese or Japanese deities listed in this blog post. Read on to find out more!

Tea Origin Legends

Two possible origin legends for tea come from Emperor Shennong. This emperor is most likely a mythological character similar to King Arthur (though there is always the possibility that both of them were based on real people) from Chinese pre-history.

One of his tea legends is that he was drinking boiled water one day when some leaves fell into his water. The emperor continued to drink the water and realized he enjoyed the taste or benefits of the leafy water.

An alternative story involving Emperor Shennong is that he enjoyed nibbling on leaves and herbs in order to find new medicines to help his subjects.

Either way, tea was discovered, and he taught brewing to his subjects.

Some people hold that he became a god of all plants.

Another myth of the origin of tea comes from Gautama Buddha or Bodhidhama. The story goes that he had been meditating for many years, but found that he kept falling asleep. This lack of discipline upset him so much that in order to stop it from happening again, he cut off his eyelids and threw them to the ground.

From his eyelids, tea plants grew.

That’s not exactly my favorite myth, but hey! I enjoy tea, so I guess I can’t complain!

Tea Deities

Inari Okami

This Shinto deity is of unknown or multiple genders and may be 5 different kami rolled into one. Many believe Inari is a kitsune, or a trickster god in the form of a shapeshifting fox spirit. Others don’t think that can be true, because Inari is supposed to be a kind deity while kitsune are, well… tricksters. They’re kind of jerks sometimes.

Either way, Inari is usually depicted riding or being escorted by white foxes, so that could explain the confusion.

This is a food deity whose male aspect carried a big basket of rice on his back. “Inari” means “rice load”.

As a food deity, Inari was related to all foods and drinks, including tea and sake.

Mint green tea in cups

Lu Yu

Admittedly, Lu Yu is less of a deity and more of a sage or saint. He lived between 733 and 804 CE. Still, he is worthy of respect as an ancestor that had a huge influence on the spread and use of tea.

He was called the Saint of Tea and wrote the first book that was entirely dedicated to tea. He called tea “the dew of heaven”.

Kuan Yun

This goddess of mercy was thought to have been based on a real woman who became a goddess. She rescues lost travelers in distress and one legend holds that she only agreed to become a goddess if she was allowed to care for and help mortals still.

Black tea and oolong tea are associated with her, because they are nourishing and comforting teas.

Huchi-Fuchi

Also known as Grandmother Heart, this Japanese goddess of the stove was important to tea because she heats the water that allowed the tea to be brewed.

The intricate Japanese tea ceremony was partially meant to honor her. She was known to intercede with the gods on behalf of mortals.

Goddesses Of The Hearth

As we saw with Huchi-Fuchi, hearth deities are important to tea brewing and thus any hearth deity can be connected to tea.

Some modern pagans give offerings of tea to the goddess Brigid, because she is tied to both fire and water and tea combines those two elements.

Sources

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