10 Deities Who Like to Party

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Gene (left) and Dean Ween performing in Chicago, Ill., in 2006.

Kevin Mazur Archive 2/WireImage/Getty Images

Introduction to 10 Deities That Like to Party

In 8th grade, two New Jersey kids became Gene and Dean Ween, the bandmates and fictitious siblings that make up the band Ween. They did so at the direction of The Boognish, the god that created Dean and Gene to make mischief on his behalf (and who the duo created). In return for their service, The Boognish gave Gene and Dean wealth and power and made rock gods out of them [sources: Musician Guide, Bruss].

Although The Boognish is a relatively recent creation as far as deities goes -- he appeared in the mid-1980s -- he isn't the only god to instruct his followers to party in his (or her) name. The combined pantheon of gods that figure in cultures across space and time include deities who commune with their followers through hallucinogens, sex and alcohol. In some cases, the gods themselves enjoy partaking.

What follows are 10 deities who encourage their followers to worship them under the influence -- or at least have followers who've managed to marry their god with their habits.

Maximon, a syncretized Mayan deity who accepts his followers vices at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Courtesy Javier Ucles

10: Maximon, Mayan God

Maximon is what scholars call a syncretized deity; he's an indigenous Mayan god merged with a Catholic saint. In the case of Maximon, or the Man at the Crossroads (often considered Satan in other traditions and the same being who allegedly gave blues guitarist Robert Johnson his talent) was reflected by the Catholic saint Simon.

Maximon spends his time in the home of a member of the Brotherhood of the Cross, who venerates the deity. He is passed from one home to another annually, and on March 21, he is revered with his own day during the Holy Week in Guatemala [source: Mendoza].

Maximon is considered a deity of vice; he alleviates his followers' vices by accepting them as his own. Pilgrims visiting the deity's icon -- a three-foot (0.91-meter) wooden image of a man dressed in bright scarves and clothing, a hat and a cigar -- bring him offerings of cigarettes, alcohol and symbols of other vices, which are given to him, poured into his mouth and smoked by him. As a result, the faithful's vices wither and are lost.

A statue of the Egyptian goddess Bast, with a lion's rather than a cat's head, as she was depicted early in Egyptian civilization.

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9: Egyptian Goddess Bast

Bast, the feline-headed cat goddess, is a major figure in the ancient Egyptian pantheon of gods. Like many other deities in other religions, she was dichotomous in nature. In one role, Bast served as a protector for her followers; in another, she destroyed souls that failed any test required to pass through the underworld after death.

The goddess was allegedly the recipient of the Morning Ritual, a ceremony that required the burning of marijuana or hashish, along with other herbs and incense like myrrh. With the incense burning, her followers, mostly women, engaged in sex, the premise being that female climax produced good health [source: This Side of Sanity]. While this legend persists, it remains controversial and disputed, and may actually be based on more recent lore [source: Cass].

That said, Bast's followers were known to party. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of pilgrims on their way to the annual celebration for the goddess held at her temple at Bubastis. Drunken followers assembled by the hundreds of thousands during the celebration, drinking wine and dancing [source: Seawright].

A waxing crescent moon; the vessel is being refilled with Soma for the gods.

©iStockphoto.com/Thinkstock

8: Soma, Hindu God of Poets

Soma, an ancient Hindu god, is many things. He is the afterworld, the moon, inspiration and the god of poets and a bull. Not only does he enjoy drugs, he is a particular drug: the soma plant, known more commonly as ephedra vulgaris. For millennia, Hindu warriors have drunk a concoction derived from the soma plant. This drink was said to give them a sense of euphoria and ecstasy and helped warriors get over the fear or anxiety of an upcoming battle. As a drug, the god Soma represented a link between the world of the gods and this world [source: Naylor].

It is the consumption and refilling of this concoction that accounts for the waxing and waning of the moon in ancient Hindu tradition. As the drink is drunk by other gods, the moon wanes; it is refilled once more and thus waxes.

In 1887, a chemist named Sedalano became the first to isolate the active ingredient in the soma plant, amphetamine [sources: Freye and Levy].

A ruined plaza at Chichen Itza, the ancient Mayan city. Ritual human sacrifice took place here under the influence of hallucinogens and alcohol.

©iStockphoto.com/Thinkstock

7: Mok Chi, Mayan Death God

Mok Chi is an ancient Mayan god who accepts blood sacrifice from his living worshippers. He is generally depicted in the Mayan pose for death, reclining on his back, with his stomach grossly distended. Scholars of Mayan culture believe that this distended stomach represented the accumulation of gases that are generated within a dying person or a decomposing corpse. It is also -- contrary to the breath of life -- known as the "flowery exhalation" [source: Fitzsimmons].

During ritual sacrifice to Mok Chi, Mayan priests were very drunk. The concept behind drunkenness during these rites was that such a state opened a channel of perception between the gods and the priest. Such a channel allowed for the priest to better carry out the gods' murderous wishes. Balché, a type of mead made from honey and tree bark, served as the main alcoholic spirit used by the Maya.

Mayan priests were also under the influence of hallucinogens like peyote, wild tobacco, toad toxin, datura and a number of other psychedelic plants during these rituals. These drugs were ingested, smoked or in many cases, administered anally through an enema [source: Authentic Maya].

The opium poppy at harvest time. The sap from the plant is the preferred means for a bhopa to commune with the Rajasthani folk god Bheruji each day.

©iStockphoto.com/Thinkstock

6: Bheruji, Indian Folk Deity

Bheruji is what you might call a local god. He is a protector of remote villages located in the Indian state of Rajasthan, which shares a border with Pakistan. When a new year dawns, stone statues of Bheruji are carried around the villages he protects in night processions designed to maintain his watch over them for the next year.

In some villages where Bheruji serves as a protector god, a daily ritual is held in his honor. Villagers will make their way to the thanak (shrine) each afternoon to attend the ritual performed by the bhopa, a group that formerly served as royal court entertainment, but has been pushed toward the fringes of modern society and who serve as minstrel priests of sorts.

During the daily ritual to Bheruji, the bhopa enters the trancelike state of bhav, essentially possession by a spirit or force, by ingesting opium. The opium may either be eaten raw or drunk in a water solution called kasumba. The bhopa may also pass out opium for followers to ingest during the ceremony as well [source: Kumar]. Once the opium takes effect and bhav has been achieved, the bhopa distributes divine prophecies and assurances from Bheruji about the followers' future.

A mosaic of the party god Dionysus, known in Rome (where this was made) as Bacchus.

Hemera/Thinkstock

5: Dionysus, Greek God of Pleasure

 

The Greek god Dionysus, or Bacchus, was a son of Zeus and the god of the vine. He spent a good deal of time wandering around the Middle East and the Mediterranean battling with some mortals, teaching others to cultivate and worship the gods. In all cases, however, he traveled with a party entourage of women, satyrs (half man, half goat) and his friend Pan, the god of shepherds and flocks, as they held festivals of wine and revelry.

The parties that Dionysus threw wherever he traveled (and which his worshippers continued long after his death), never failed to attract women living nearby. Feasts and endless wine lead to orgies and unrestrained partying.

The idea was that Dionysus was capable of bringing humans into a state of ecstasy, and later his worship provided the same. While it appears odd, or at the very least fun, compared to worship of other gods across the pantheons, the revelers' drunken and orgiastic worship of Dionysus followed the same structure that other worship does. By partaking in the god's gifts to his followers, the Dionysian cults received a bit of his immortality by proxy [source: Willoughby].

A wall carving in nearby Assyria, another Mesopotamian state. Note the beer missing from the ruler's hand.

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4: Ninkasi, Sumerian Goddess of Beer

Anthropologists believe that humans stumbled upon alcoholic beverages by accident; perhaps a piece of fruit had fermented when it was eaten or a bit of grain had grown soggy and begun producing alcoholic sugars. By some incredible stroke, we stumbled upon liquor and even more amazing, we figured out how to make our own.

As far as the Sumerian civilization was concerned, they had help in the form of inspiration from Ninkasi, the goddess of beer. The Sumerians weren't necessarily the first to make beer -- 9,000-year-old shards of pottery from China show traces of it -- but the Sumerians were among the Mesopotamian groups to devise a system of writing and one of the things they wrote was a hymn to Ninkasi. This 3,800-year-old hymn, an ode to the goddess' gift, includes a recipe for making beer woven in its prose [source: Civil].

Ninkasi also used her talents for the other gods, serving as head brewer to the Sumerian pantheon.

Shiva and his consort Parvati atop a sacred bull.

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3: Shiva, the Many-armed Hindu Destroyer God

Although having blue skin, more than one pair of arms and a bent for dancing on corpses while surrounded by fire, Shiva as a concept isn't necessarily all that fearsome. In much of Hindu tradition, he figures as the supreme being in the pantheon of gods, the destroyer who takes us from this life to the next -- and all the ones that follow.

Shiva is also associated with the marijuana plant. In fact, he is considered to be a fan of the intoxicant. As a result, his devotees like to smoke a lot of pot and hashish on Shiva's holiest days. In Nepal, Shiva is honored in such a way on Mahashivaratri, Shiva's big festival. At the large temple in the capital city of Kathmandu, pilgrims assemble to honor Shiva that night and there's plenty of people selling marijuana and hashish on hand to accommodate the followers. Although Westerners consider it a drug, the Nepalese consider pot a sacrament, or Prasad (holy food). On that one day, one can possess and comsume the drug legally [source: Karki]. Pot sales are prohibited outside of the temple, although its use enjoys protection by law within the temple [source: Asia News].

Emperor Haile Selassie, I in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in an undated photo.

AP Images

2: Haile Selassie I, African Savior

While his rule is approached with ambivalence by millions of Ethiopians, Emperor Haile Selassie I, who ruled the country from 1930 to 1974, is considered by some followers as the second coming of the Messiah. His given name, Ras Tafari, may ring a bell.

Selassie's rule was focused on a policy of educating his people, bringing Ethiopia in line with the powerful nations of Europe, and distributing land and wealth to his poverty-stricken population. He is also credited with creating Zion in Ethiopia, a paradise on Earth that served as a fabled homeland for the "Back to Africa" movement established by Marcus Garvey in the early 20th century. Indeed, when Garvey told his followers to look for a redeemer crowned as a black king, a number of black observers concluded Garvey's prophecy had been fulfilled and established Rastafarianism, a black nationalistic religion.

The religion was more pronounced in Jamaica, which followers considered their captivating temporary land. Although his spirit was frequently channeled by his followers through their use of marijuana, it's not clear that Selassie ever used the drug and he was known to abstain from drinking throughout his life [source: Cardillo].

The peyote cactus, heart, soul and memory of the Deer-Person.

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1: The Deer-Person, Huichol Creator God

The Huichol people of Northern Mexico may have given rise to the use of the hallucinogenic peyote cactus as a sacrament. Caves where the people lived as long ago as 5000 B.C. have been found to contain peyote buttons from that era.

The Huichol believe that their creator god, the Deer-Person, sacrificed himself and became earthbound in the form of peyote. By ingesting the cactus, which is thought to be the heart, soul and memory of the creator, they can come to know his wisdom. The tradition of eating the heart of the Deer-Person creator comes after a hunting expedition is mounted and the peyote is shot with arrows and considered felled.

After the Spanish came to the Americas and encountered peyote use, the practice was outlawed and practitioners were tortured and killed. It wasn't until 1918 that peyotists descended from the Huichol and other tribes formed the officially recognized Native American Church and came to enjoy protection of their religious beliefs [source: Fikes].

Lots More Information

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