The gods and goddesses of our Pagan ancestors differ from place to place — and from pantheon to pantheon. But some overarching themes can be found throughout the world: in every pantheon, there are gods and goddesses of war, wisdom, harvest and agriculture, death and rebirth. And in every pantheon, there are the gods and goddesses who preside over the most precious of human feelings: joy, happiness, and pleasure.
If you’re looking to deepen your practice and expand the deities you’re currently working with, the following gods and goddesses are great to invoke when you need a smile on your face and an extra spring in your step.
Let’s get to know them a bit better, shall we?
Charites (The Three Graces)
Aglaea, Euphrosyne, and Thalia (whose names translate to “Shining,” “Joy,” and “Blooming”) were the Three Charites (Graces) of the ancient Greek pantheon. Considered either the daughters of Zeus, Dionysus, or Helios, these three beautiful women were the goddesses of beauty, goodwill, charm, fertility, and creativity. They were often seen dancing and signing with Apollo, the sun god, as well as catering to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. A favorite subject of painters throughout the centuries, the Three Graces today can be seen in the Three of Cups Tarot Card — which signifies the coming of good times.
God of love, poetic inspiration, youth, and summer in the Irish pantheon, Aengus is also known as “The Young One.” Charming and delightful, Aengus inherited his skills from his father, Dagda, the leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann. He was one of the chief bards of his tribe, bestowing inspiration and joy to people — he could transform kisses into birds to send to loved ones.
The goddess of dawn in the Shinto Japanese pantheon, Ame-no-Uzume, was a spontaneous, creative, and happy young woman. She was the purveyor of arts and creativity and used singing and dancing as a way to bring back happiness to the world when the sun goddess Amaterasu had locked herself in a dark cave. Ame-no-Uzume is also the goddess of mirth and is still worshipped in Japan to this day.
The Ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, and desire lifts the hearts of people and helps them appreciate everything beautiful in life. She is the mother of Eros and is considered the matron deity of marriage. According to legend, she possessed a magic belt that would inspire lust and love for anyone who wore it — which is where the idea of “handfasting” and “binding together” stems from. To this day, Aphrodite is invoked in many Wiccan handfasting celebrations.
The ancient Greek (and later on, Roman) god of wine and revelry, Bacchus was also the patron god of theater and induced merriment and suffering to people in equal measure. The frenzied states of ecstasy he brought to people were very important for letting go of some steam and delving into artistic creation. Bacchus is not just the god of drunk people: he brings spontaneity, freedom (he’s also called Liberator), and rebirth through spiritual awakening.
Balder (or Baldur) is the younger son of Odin and the Old Norse god of light, joy, the summer sun, grace, and purity. He is the only one of the Æsir who died — it’s actually his death that brought forth the events of Ragnarök. But while he lived, Balder was a delight to everyone around him. It was said that his grace, joy, and beauty made even the flowers around him happier as he was so cheerful he was “giving off light.” No weapon or substance could touch him or harm him, apart from mistletoe.
One of the most important goddesses in the ancient Egyptian pantheon, Bastet, was the matron goddess of all cats (a sacred animal to the Egyptians). But she also presided upon matters of happiness, femininity, fertility, and childbirth. She was thought to protect one’s home from misfortune or evil energies. Associated with the light of the sun (she was the daughter of the sun god Ra), Bastet brought warmth to people’s hearts — no wonder our pagan ancestors loved her so much they all carried talismans with her symbol. Thanks to Bastet’s influence, killing a cat in ancient Egypt was considered a crime punishable by death.
Most gods and goddesses associated with joy and happiness are traditionally seen as young men and women — but not Baubo! This irreverent old lady, the goddess of mirth in the ancient Greek pantheon, was the only person able to make Demeter laugh when the Earth goddess was bereft from losing her daughter, Persephone. Baubo was very sexually liberated, and there were obscene songs sung in her honor during cult rituals such as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Baubo represents the healing powers of laughter in the face of tragedy.
A complicated but extremely popular god of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, Bes presided over matters of humor, sexuality, music, and dancing and matters of divine justice and war. He was the champion of everything good, fighting off evil. Depicted as a dwarf, Bes was one of these deities that didn’t have specific temples created for them. He was worshipped at home; people used to carve his likeness on household items, particularly mirrors.
One of the most important goddesses of the Celtic pantheon, Brigid, whom we celebrate during Imbolc, is known to bring joy, inspiration, invention, and creativity to the hearts of people. Goddess of spring, fire, healing, poetry, smithery, and prophecy, Brigid calls on us to light our inner fire, be bold and creative, and live our best life.
The ancient Greek god of love and lust was much different from the chubby angel baby that is his prevalent imagery today. Eros was considered either the son of the goddess Aphrodite or a primordial being that emerged at the beginning of time. He was a winged young man, carrying either a bow and arrow or flowers, a sash or a hare (an animal connected to fertility and intimacy) who could create love bonds between both humans and gods. Eros was also considered the god of friendship — the ancient Spartans sacrificed to him before they went to battle so that their friends and fellow warriors had their back during the fight.
Also known as Fu Hsing, Fuxing is thought to be a historical figure who then acquired deity status as the god of happiness in the ancient Chinese pantheon. Fuxing is now considered one of the three Fulushou, the stellar divinities Fuxing (fortune and happiness), Luxing (financial prosperity), and Shouxing (longevity) associated with Jupiter, the Ursa Major, and Canopus. Thought to bestow good luck and happiness on his worshippers, Fuxing is worshipped in China to this day. He is often depicted as a scholar, surrounded by children.
The eighth incarnation of Vishnu and one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon, Krishna is as worshipped and beloved today as much as he was thousands of years ago (if not more). Krishna is the god of tenderness, protection, and compassion. But more than that, one of his 108 names is “Mohan,” which translates to “a charmer” or “bewitching.” Indeed, as a young boy, Krishna was hidden in a remote village where he posed as a cowherd and enchanted all the local women with his charming personality and mastery of music and dance.
Celebrated in both the Yoruba pantheon in Africa and throughout the Haitian, American, and South American diaspora, Oshun is a beloved Orisha associated with beauty, love, pleasure, and sexuality. She is the goddess of the rivers, streams, and water in general — to this day, her many followers leave her offerings at river banks. Oshun is also thought to bring wealth and abundance to those who seek her. A good place to have an altar for Oshun is in the bedroom; she loves cinnamon and honey and orange and blue colors.
A unique deity from the ancient Sumerian pantheon, Ninkasi is the matron goddess of beer and alcohol — but her responsibilities go much further than that. Ninkasi’s brewing abilities were perceived both literally and figuratively: she was thought to brew desire in one’s heart or satisfy a person’s desires. Due to this association, the act of brewing beer was considered sacred in Sumer and thought to be an activity better suited to women.
The Queen Mother of the West, Wangmu Niangniang, is the most important goddess in the Chinese pantheon (sometimes associated with Taoism, other times thought to precede it). She is the goddess of happiness, eternal bliss, and longevity — and presides over all the other female gods as the wife of the Jade Emperor. According to legend, Wangmu Niangniang’s palace is considered to be Paradise. In her garden, there grow magic peaches that ripen every thousand years and can bestow immortality to those who eat them.