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Thunder Gods, Such as Yahweh…

Thunder gods, such as Yahweh, are popular all over the world. Making big noise and throwing lightning bolts, they get people’s attention, and fearful obedience. Wind gods and sky gods may also be thunder gods—sky gods tend to speak with voices of thunder and cause strong winds. There is further overlap between thunder gods, weather gods, storm gods, war gods, fire gods, and sun gods. A lot of deities tend to be noisy and flaming, up in the sky.

japanese thunder godSource
This Two-Fold Paper Screen, from the Tokyo National Museum, painted by Tawaraya Sota in the 17th century, shows the Japanese thunder god, left, and Wind God, right.

Thunderbolts as divine retribution are popular not only in the Bible, but in many ancient cultures. The Hindu lightning god Indra has the thunderbolt Vajra as his preferred weapon. Teshub, the Hurrian sky and storm god, has a triple thunderbolt; Zeus has his thunderbolt, given to him by the Cyclopes; and the Norse thunder god Thor has his magic hammer, Mjölnir (Pulverizier), which not only zaps what he aims at, but returns to him so he can fire again. The Mayan god Huracan is sometimes depicted as three bolts of lightning, and, as his name suggests, he was known for creating powerful whirlwinds.

Amadioha, the thunder and lightning god of Nigeria’s Igbo people, administers justice using thunderstones he hurls down to Earth. He is still a popular god these days, and, as with Yahweh, people swear the truth of what they’re saying by asking the god to strike them dead by lightning if they lie. If Amadioha strikes someone dead with lightning, the priests reportedly see it as the god’s will, and take the dead person’s property, leaving the body unburied. If a person has been cursed in Amadioha’s name, he can only release himself by transferring the curse to a goat that he releases into the wild. This is reminiscent of the Old Testament scapegoat, to whom the high priest of Israel confesses all his people’s sins, before releasing it. The Igbo phrase that translates as “Amadioha will punish you” is like the “God will get you” of Yahweh’s followers.

Perkele, the name of the Finnish thunder god, is a frequently used swear word in Finland. “Management by Perkele” is an expression for a Finnish leadership approach that takes fast action instead of considering everyone’s point of view.

raijin netsukeSource
The Japanese Thunder God Raijin, right, is in the form of a netsuke, a kind of button used in 17th- and 18th-century Japan to fasten men’s purses to the sashes of their robes.

The Australian Aborigine god Mamaragan typifies thunder gods in that he speaks with a voice of thunder, rides a storm cloud, and throws lightning bolts. But his abode is not the high mountains or heavens like most thunder gods, rather just a puddle. The Chinese god Lei Gong specializes in thunder; he has four assistants to help him produce lightning, clouds, rain, and winds, including his wife, Dian Mu, the goddess of lightning, who uses mirrors to flash bolts across the skies. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder writes of nine Etruscan gods who were able to shoot thunderbolts of various colors.

mayan serpent godSource
A Mayan Serpent God Scene from the ruins at Yaxchilan.

The ancient Roman religious deities, the Novensiles (sometimes identified as muses or as members of a divine council), specialize in “lightning readings”—revealing the divine intent behind lightning. Reportedly, Jupiter (or the Etruscan version, Tinia) can wield three types of lightning, from three different celestial regions. The first type, which he can use at his discretion, is perforating lightning,1 which is mild and meant as friendly persuasion or dissuasion.2 Crushing lightning, which is harmful, can be used only by approval of the Dii Consentes, a group of 12 major deities. Burning lightning, which is deadly, is used only by approval of the Dii Superiores et Involuti (hidden gods of the higher sphere).3

1. Massimo Pallottino, “The Doctrine and Sacred Books of the Disciplina Etrusca,” Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992), 43–44; Stefan Weinstock, “Libri fulgurales,” Papers of the British School at Rome 19 (1951), 125.
2. Georges Dumézil, La religion Romaine Archaïque (Paris 1974), 630, 633 (note 3), drawing on Seneca, Naturales Questiones 2.41.1–2 and 39.
3. Weinstock, Papers of the British School, 127.

codex borgia page 10Source
The Aztec Codex Borgia always has something interesting going on. These scenes constitute page 10 of the 1898 facsimile edition. See all 76 pages at
Maruts. These Hindu storm gods number from two to 180 depending on the story. They are extremely warlike, with lightning, thunderbolts, and iron teeth. They roar like lions as their fiery red horses pull their golden chariots through the skies.
Dios Cocijo ( Zapotec god of the rain ) found at Monte Alban, in the Valley of Oaxaca, circa 200-500 CE.source
Cocijo, Zapotec god of the rain, from Monte Alban, in Oaxaca, circa 200-500 CE.
chariot of zeusSource
Zeus, the Greek version of Jupiter, is shown in his chariot, preparing to launch a lightning bolt.
Chaac, the Mayan god of rain, lightning, and thunder, is shown here reproduced from the Dresden Codex, the oldest known book written in the Americas, from the 11th or 12th century CE.
falling thunder godSource
Falling Thunder God.
Native American Thunderbird.

Thunderbirds Shooting Lightning, old sign.

modern-day thunderbirdsSource
Modern-Day Thunderbirds follow the leader.

The Norse Thunder God Thor, above, in his Germanic version as Donner, uses his hammer to summon the storm clouds in Richard Wagner’s opera, Das Rheingold.
sami offering to diermes or thorSource
Horagalles is the god of sky, thunder, lightning, the rainbow, weather, oceans, and lakes for the northern European Arctic indigneous Sami people. He is usually shown with a nail in his head and holding a hammer.
blackhawk spiritbeingSource
Haokah, above. In about 1880, the Lakota Sioux Chief Black Hawk illustrated a vision he had of himself as the horned thunder god Haokah, 'changed to a destroyer and riding a buffalo eagle.' The rainbow shown is the entrance to the spirit world, and the dots are hail.
papa and rangiSource
Papa (left) and Rangi. This Māori carving likely represents the primal creator couple, Papa the Earth Mother and Rangi the Sky Father, locked in embrace.
Mississippian birdman. 'A digital illustration by the artist Herb Roe, based on a S.E.C.C. design whelk shell engraving from Spiro, Oklahoma.'
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The Aztec Suns

Page 14 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition. As in so much Aztec art, the question that leaps to mind is, 'What is going on here?' Click  for a bigger look.
Page 14 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition. As in so much Aztec art, the question that leaps to mind is, 'What is going on here?' Click for a bigger look.

The Aztecs believed that there had been four great cycles, or “Suns”, since the beginning of humankind, and that we are now in the Fifth Sun, the “Sun of Movement”, due to end soon with movement of the Earth that will kill almost everyone. Unfortunately, although the Aztecs knew that the Fifth Sun was already very old, having begun in the fourth millennium BCE, they had forgotten how to calculate exactly when the Fifth Sun will end. They thus conducted massive amounts of human sacrifices in hopes of postponing the end of the Fifth Sun. Since it continued to work for them, they came to believe that they were carrying out a divine mission to keep the Fifth Sun alive, which necessitated lots of war-waging so as to have plenty of humans to sacrifice.

Unlike the Aztecs, however, some of the earlier peoples had calculated exactly when a great movement of the earth could be expected to bring the Fifth Sun to an end…. [T]he Mayas, justifiably regarded as the greatest ancient civilization to have arisen in the New World, left behind a wealth of calendrical records. Expressed in terms of the modern dating system, these enigmatic inscriptions convey a rather curious message: the Fifth Sun, it seems, is going to come to an end on 23 December, AD 2012. —Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods

Or maybe not. At any rate, in his book, Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock quotes from “a rare collection of Aztec documents known as the Vaticano-Latin Codex:

First Sun, Matlactli Atl: duration 4008 years. Those who lived then ate water maize called atzitzintli. In this age lived the giants…. The First Sun was destroyed by water in the sign Matlactli Atl (Ten Water). It was called Apachiohualiztli (flood, deluge), the art of sorcery of the permanent rain. Men were turned into fish. Some say that only one couple escaped, protected by an old tree living near the water. Others say that there were seven couples who hid in a cave until the flood was over and the waters had gone down. They repopulated the earth and were worshipped as gods in their nations….

Second Sun, Ehecoatl: duration 4010 years. Those who lived then ate wild fruit known as acotzintli. This Sun was destroyed by Ehecoatl (Wind Serpent) and men were turned into monkeys…. One man and one woman, standing on a rock, were saved from destruction….

Third Sun, Tleyquiyahuillo: duration 4081 years. Men, the descendants of the couple who were saved from the Second Sun, ate a fruit called tzincoacoc. This Third Sun was destroyed by fire….

Fourth Sun, Tzontlilic: duration 5026 years…. Men died of starvation after a deluge of blood and fire….

An alternative description of the Four Suns is from the Sun Stone of Axayacatl, weighing 24.5 tons and dating from 1479 CE. It says that during the First Sun “lived the giants that had been created by the gods but were finally attacked and devoured by jaguars.” At the end of the Second Sun, “the human race was destroyed by high winds and hurricanes and men were converted into monkeys.” In the Third Sun, “everything was destroyed by a rain of fire from the sky and the forming of lava. All the houses were burnt. Men were converted into birds to survive the catastrophe.” At the end of the Fourth Sun, “destruction came in the form of torrential rains and floods. The mountains disappeared and men were transformed into fish.” At the end of the Fifth Sun, allegedly coming right up, “There will be a movement of the earth and from this we shall all perish.”


Aztec religion is the Mesoamerican religion practiced by the Aztec empire. Like other Mesoamerican religions, it had elements of human sacrifice in connection with a large number of religious festivals which were held according to patterns of the Aztec calendar. It had a large and ever increasing pantheon; the Aztecs would often adopt deities of other geographic regions or peoples into their own religious practice. Aztec cosmology divided the world into upper and nether worlds, each associated with a specific set of deities and astronomical objects. Important in Aztec religion were the sun, moon and the planet Venus—all of which held different symbolic and religious meanings and were connected to deities and geographical places.

Large parts of the Aztec pantheon were inherited from previous Mesoamerican civilizations and others, such as Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, were venerated by different names in most cultures throughout the history of Mesoamerica. For the Aztecs especially important deities were Tlaloc the god of rain, Huitzilopochtli the patron god of the Mexica tribe, Quetzalcoatl the culture hero and god of civilization and order, and Tezcatlipoca the god of destiny and fortune, connected with war and sorcery. Each of these gods had their own temples within the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan–Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli were both worshipped at the Templo Mayor. A common Aztec religious practice was the recreation of the divine: Mythological events would be ritually recreated and living persons would impersonate specific deities and be revered as a god—and often ritually sacrificed.

Page 10 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition.
Page 10 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition.
Page 17 of the Codex Borgia.
Page 17 of the Codex Borgia.
Aztec ritual human sacrifice, page 141, Codex Magliabechiano.
Aztec ritual human sacrifice, page 141, Codex Magliabechiano.
Aztec Gods from the Digital Edition of the Florentine Codex created by Gary Francisco Keller.  Complete digital facsimile edition on 16 DVDs. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 2008.
Aztec Gods from the Digital Edition of the Florentine Codex created by Gary Francisco Keller. Complete digital facsimile edition on 16 DVDs. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 2008.
Aztec Gods from the Digital Edition of the Florentine Codex created by Gary Francisco Keller. Complete digital facsimile edition on 16 DVDs. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 2008.
Aztec statue of the goddess Chicomecoatl, 1300-1521 CE.
Aztec statue of the goddess Chicomecoatl, 1300-1521 CE.