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, when in need of a good laugh to calm some 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 know 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 also traveled.
However, when faced with an obstacle or emergency, they’d call on the help of travel deities, gods, goddesses, spirits, mythological figures, and patron saints – whoever fit the bill. Many peoples and religions today still have patrons for specific problems.
As a traveler, here are descriptions of the deities to 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 travel deities 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. As the son of Zeus, he was the thought to be the Greekest of Greek gods. Apollo was the great patron saint of seafaring people, as well as the god of foreigners and a protector of refugees and fugitives.
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 East inhabitants 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, were 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 specters.
Diana, the Roman goddess, was a complex figure whose story changed a lot. One of her earliest epithets, Trivia, comes from Latin trivium, meaning “triple way”, referring to her protection of streets, roads, and avenues, particularly “Y” junctions. However, she sometimes pointed the way to the Underworld, so don’t piss her off!
Dōsojin are travel 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.
Ganesha, also known as Ganapati, can be considered a Hindu god of travel. Really, as one of the most worshipped deities in Hinduism, he is considered a “remover of obstacles.” Many believers hang his replica within their cars and trucks for a safe 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 is the Greek Goddess of Crossroads, and she protects travelers from evil on the road.
Hermes was the Greek God of Transitions, Travel, Trade, and Boundaries. Thus, travelers sought his protection as they made plans to venture about. Hermes was the son of Zeus, and he even wore a traveler’s cap! His equivalent in the Roman pantheon was Mercury.
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.” Definitely one of the travel deities to know.
Lam Lha was a Tibetan goddess of travelers. She rode on the back of a golden bee as a protector of the world.
Luna – Roman charioteers would often seek the favor of this mythological 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.
Sirsir, the patron deity of mariners and boatmen, is a good one to call out to the next time you decide to take a cruise or river ferry; he is a Babylonian and Akkadian god.
St. Christopher, in Catholicism, is the patron saint of travelers, especially for those undertaking journeys of longer distance and time.
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.
Did you know? In the book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, he says: “By tradition, planets are named for Roman gods, and their moons for personalities from Greek mythology… the lone exception for this rule applies to the moons of Uranus, which are named for assorted heroes from British plays and poems” (think Shakespeare).
So, what do you think? Did we miss any gods or goddesses of adventure or travel or deities of protection? Let us know below in the comments!
For more cultural articles like this, check out these similar posts: Ethnicity, Race, and Nationality, How to be an Ambassador as You Travel, and Differences between Arab, Middle Eastern, and Persian.