In Japanese mythology the two deities Izanagi (The Male Who Invites) and Izanami (The Female Who Invites) are the creators of Japan and its gods. In one important myth, they descend to Yomitsu Kuni, the underworld and land of darkness.
Janus was the Roman god of beginnings, gates, and doorways. He was associated with the start of day and the first month of the year, called January after him.
The mythology of Japan has a long history dating back more than 2,000 years. It became part of two major religious traditions: Shinto, an indigenous religion, and Buddhism, which developed in India and came to Japan from China and Korea.
In Greek mythology, Jason was the leader of a band of adventurers who set out on a long journey to find the Golden Fleece*. Although he succeeded in this quest, he never achieved his true goal—to become king of the land of Iolcus.
St. Jerome, an early Christian scholar who lived around A.D.
In the Book of Kings I and II of the Bible, Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, king of Israel. She favored the worship of the god Baal* and ordered the deaths of many Hebrew prophets.
Job is the name of a book in the Hebrew Bible and the name of the book's main character. Many scholars consider the Book of Job to be one of the finest works of literature ever written.
In Greek mythology, Jocasta was the wife of King Laius of Thebes*. An oracle warned that their child would kill his father and sleep with his mother.
John Henry, a mighty laborer who outperformed a mechanical drill, is a character who first appeared in African American songs and ballads. He can be seen as a symbol of black strength and of African Americans' refusal to be crushed.
Johnny Appleseed was the name given to John Chapman, an eccentric wanderer who planted apple trees on the American frontier. Like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, Chapman was a real person from the early history of the United States whose deeds were romanticized and embroidered by later writers until the man became a folk legend.
The book of Jonah in the Bible tells the story of a prophet who was commanded by the Hebrew god Yahweh to go to the city of Nineveh and preach so that the people there might be saved. Jonah, however, did not feel they deserved salvation and boarded a ship going in the other direction.
Juggernaut (Jagannatha), a form of the Hindu god Vishnu's incarnation Krishna, is worshiped at the religious city of Puri in India. A temple to Juggernaut there dates from the A.D.
St. Julian Hospitaller is the patron saint of innkeepers, travelers, and boatmen.
Spirits known as kachinas are central to the religion and mythology of the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest, in particular the Hopi who live in Arizona. These groups believe that kachinas are divine spirits present in features of the natural world such as clouds, winds, thunder, and rain.
Katonda, the creator god worshiped by the Buganda people of East Africa, is considered the father of the gods as well as the king and judge of the universe. He has many different titles, including Kagingo (master of life), Gguluddene (the gigantic one), Namuginga (the shaper), and Ssewannaku (the eternal one).
Kibuka is the war god of the Buganda tribe of East Africa. According to legend, the king of the Buganda asked Kibuka's brother, the great god Mukasa, for assistance in a war.
Together with the Nihongi, the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) is the earliest and most important chronicle of early Japan. Compiled in A.D.
Kokopelli is a kachina, or spirit, found in the mythology of the Hopi, Zuni, and other Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest. A complex character, he plays various roles, including those of fertility spirit, trickster, and hunter.
Krishna, one of the most popular Hindu gods, is revered as a supreme deity and the eighth incarnation of the god Vishnu. Worshiped as a restorer of order to the world, he appears in a number of myths and legends.
The Lady of the Lake, an enchantress also known as Viviane or Nimuë, appears in many of the tales of King Arthur. According to legend, she lived in a castle beneath a lake surrounding the mystical island of Avalon.
In the medieval legends about King Arthur of Britain and his knights, Lancelot is the greatest knight of all. In time, however, Lancelot's love for Guinevere, the king's wife, leads him to betray his king and sets in motion the fatal events that end Arthur's rule.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Laocoön was a seer and priest of the god Apollo* in the ancient city of Troy*. He played a notable role in the last days of the Trojan Warf and met a violent death with his twin sons, Antiphas and Thymbraeus.
In Roman mythology, Lares and Penates were groups of deities who protected the family and the Roman state. Although different, the Lares and Penates were often worshiped together at household shrines.
King Lear, a legendary ruler of ancient Britain, is a tragic figure who loses his authority through his own foolishness. The aging king decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters and asks each of them to declare their love for him.
In the mythology of the Dogon people of West Africa, the god Amma, the supreme deity, created eight ancestors and eight families and organized human existence on earth. Lebe was the eighth ancestor and the first one to die.
A leprechaun is a tiny elf or fairy from Irish folklore who is supposed to know the whereabouts of hidden treasure—usually a pot of gold. A leprechaun is typically pictured as an old man wearing a bright red vest, an old-fashioned cocked hat, a leather apron, and heavy leather shoes with silver buckles.