Throughout time we have been fascinated with tales of dragons and the dragon slaying heroes who protect us from them. From knights in shining armor to archangels, dragon slayers have come in all shapes and sizes (including several women dragon slayers).
Dragons themselves vary from region to region. In China, dragons appear as divine winged celestial serpents of benevolent and protective natures. In the far east they are the embodiment of wisdom. Throughout Europe and Japan they can be frightening and evil, causing chaos and devastation.In the 6th century in Japan not far from the little village of Koshigoe lived a terrible dragon. Of course most dragons are terrible, and the dragons of Japan can be especially fierce. But this dragon loved to eat children and much preferred the children from the village of Koshigoe.
Now this story definitely has a hero, but the hero is not a fearsome warrior, but rather the beautiful Japanese goddess, Benzaiten. Benzaiten was the daughter of a dragon herself, so it can be said that she was familiar with the habits of these powerful and fearsome creatures. She is also the goddess of eloquence, music, poetry and beauty, so it is no wonder that when she descended on her white cloud down to the dragon’s cave, he was more than willing to marry her. And once married, she was able to stop him from devouring the children of Koshigoe, hence, making her a protector goddess.
Prior to her descent she caused a great earthquake. It is not known whether it was the earthquake, or simply her act of descending that caused the island Enoshima to rise from the sea. Enoshima, located at the mouth of the Katase River which flows into the Sagami Bay in Japan, was home to Buddhist shrines for almost 1,000 years, and is currently the site of a beautiful botanical gardens and home to the goddess.
Benzaiten is also a sea goddess and a goddess of good fortune and learning. Her patron animal is the serpent, and it is said that she sometimes appears in the form of a serpent. To put a bit of cast off snake skin in your wallet is said to bring good luck and wealth.
Women who desire to become pregnant with a beautiful daughter will spend time in one of Benzaiten’s temples meditating and praying to her for the birth a lovely daughter.
Benzaiten is one of the seven Japanese deities of Good Fortune, Bliss, or Luck (though it should be noted that she is, indeed, the only female out of the seven dieties). It is said that she possesses a pearl which can grant any desire (thus the goddess of good fortune). Dragons are also said to possess a pearl which can grant all desires, wisdom and spiritual enlightenment.
So the next time someone offers you a “pearl of wisdom,” check to see if their eyes are bright; you may have just been imparted a gift from the dragons!
Originally published at the Folklore Site on BellaOnline.com