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Meet the Deities of Travel

Landscape with the Legend of St Christopher, a painting by Jan Mandijn from the early 16th century.

Landscape with the Legend of St Christopher, a painting by Jan Mandijn from the early 16th century.

Have you ever been on the road, alone and helpless, wishing a specific friend would magically appear and assist you when you need it most? For instance, if I am in need of a good laugh to calm some travel-related anxiety, I would wish Jason, Bob, Allie, or Joseph to be there; if I have some kind of sour stomach, brought on by some street fare of dubious origin, Miriam or Michael would have known exactly how to deal with it; and if my rental car breaks down…. well, I haven’t made any mechanically-competent friends yet, but you get the point.

Hundreds and thousands of years ago, people still traveled. However, when they faced an obstacle or emergency, they would often ask the help of different deities, gods, goddesses, mythological figures, and patron saints, whoever fit the bill. Some people and religions, such as Catholicism, still have various patrons for specific problems. As a traveler, here are some of the deities that you can cry out to while on the road:

  • Abeona, in Roman mythology, is the Goddess of Outward Journeys. Not only does she protect travelers, but also watches over the steps of young children. Her partner is Adiona.
  • Adiona is Abeona’s partner in Roman mythology, referred to as the Goddess of Safe Return. Together, these two watch over travelers, Abeona on the departure, and Adiona on the return.
  • Apollo, the famous Greek god, was a deity of many things, but travelers would often seek his favor as he drove the chariot of the sun.
  • Artemis was a Greek goddess, known as the Mistress of the Animals as well as the Goddess of the Hunt, Forests, Hills, and the Moon. In Greek mythology, she is Apollo’s twin brother. Travelers would look to Artemis hoping for fair weather.
  • Baal Shamin was the “Lord of the Heavens.” This Semitic god had some control over the weather, and ancient Middle Easterners would pray to him to grant them a journey without poor weather.
  • Barsamin was a god in Armenian mythology of the sky and weather, probably derived from the Semitic god Baal Shamin.
  • Chimata-no-kami, in Japanese Shinto lore, was also known as the “road-folk spirits” or “goddesses of innumerable roads.” Chimata-no-kami is actually two guardians combined into one: Yachimata-hime and her consort, Yachiamata-hiko. Travelers would petition their protection against ghosts, haunted buildings, demons, and other such spectors.
  • Dōsojin are deities in Shinto that protect borders and upon whom travelers would seek protection. They also were looked upon to keep the villages free of diseases and evil spirits.
  • Fortuna Redux, one aspect of the goddess Fortuna in Roman mythology was similar to Adiona, being another goddess for the Romans to call on for a safe return journey.
  • Hasamelis was a Mesopotamian god of travelers; some say he would even offer travelers a cloak of invisibility as protection on their expeditions.
  • Hecate (Greek) is the Goddess of Crossroads, protects travelers from evil on the road.
  • Hermes was a Greek god of transitions and boundaries, and thus travelers sought his protection as they made plans to venture about.
  • Hina is a goddess with many different stories throughout the Polynesian islands. One story suggests that she is a guardian of travelers, and one can earn her favor and honor her with any 2 sided object, such as a coin.
  • Janus was a Roman God depicted famously with two faces, one facing forward and one facing back. As the god of new beginnings and transitions, Janus protected those about to undertake a new adventure. He is also the namesake of the month of January.
  • Jizo, in some Buddhist and Japanese lore, is a Bodhisattva (archetypal being dedicated to helping others) who vowed to protect women, children, and travelers.
  • K’uei-Hsing, also known as Chung-Kuei, was the Chinese god of travel and offered the ancient Chinese protection on their journeys.
  • Khonsu, the Egyptian god of the moon, not only assisted the ancient Egyptians in their voyages, but his name actually means “traveler.”
  • Lam Lha was a Tibetan goddess of travelers.
  • Luna – Roman charioteers would often seek the favor of this goddess, who was their dedicated protectress.
  • Meili – In old Norse paganism, Meili was a god who is thought to be their god of travel. He is often portrayed as wearing a traveler’s coat and carrying a walking stick, just like his father Odin.
  • Mercury was yet another Roman god who aided travelers, and perhaps the patron deity of travel. As the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Hermes, he was distinguishable by the shoes with winged heels that he wore.
  • Neptune was the god of sea travel in ancient Roman mythology, and seafaring Romans sought his favor before undertaking voyages on the seas.
  • Portunes, in ancient Roman mythology, was the god of doors and keys. With these responsibilities, he later was promoted into being the de facto protector of the ports and seas, leading seafaring men to seek his favor before departing.
  • Rhiannon was a goddess in Welsh mythology of horses and the sea whom ancient Celtic riders would seek for protection.
  • St. Christopher, in Catholicism, is the patron saint of travelers, especially for those undertaking longer journeys.
  • Tir, in Armenian mythology, was the all-inclusive god of wisdom, culture, science and studies, as well as an interpreter of dreams. Displaying traits similar to the Greek’s Apollo, Armenians often looked to Tir for safe travels.
  • Xaman Ek was an ancient Mayan god of travelers, particularly merchants, who would give offerings to him while traveling.
Christian "Krzysiek" Eilers is a twenty-something who constantly likes to look up the next flight out of JFK. His life goal is to visit every country in the world; as a young adult working full-time, he often settles on visiting the near countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean, knocking these off the list as it is less of a financial strain than Europe or Asia. Caffeine is his vice, and if he doesn't have a coffee in his hands, then it's probably a green tea. A native of New York City, when he is not traveling, he can find an abundance of cultural influences right in his own city, enough to keep him satisfied until the next country's beckon cannot be ignored any longer.

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