When you think of the sea, what comes to mind? Maybe it is the calm and peaceful lapping waves during a beach vacation. Maybe it’s the eternity of blues, greens and grays that stretch from one horizon to another. Or maybe you think of the endless rocking of a ship during a violent storm. Just as the ocean’s temperament varies widely, so does the temperament of the gods or goddesses that are associated with it.
Many of the greatest ancient societies lived in coastal areas or near lakes and rivers. These geographic regions provided a means of travel as well as water, salt and a plethora of living creatures for food. Yet living near large bodies of water could also engender sorrow and death when a hurricane, tsunami, or flood occurred. For those reasons, societies respected and revered their tenuous relationship with the water.
Perhaps the most recognizable water god is the Greek god Poseidon known as Neptune in Rome. He was brother to both Zeus (Jupiter) and Hades (Pluto). In the earliest of times, the three cast lots to determine where they would rule. Zeus received the sky; Hades, the underworld; and Poseidon became the protector and guardian of the seas. Many of Poseidon’s children shared their father’s love of water and served as gods or demi-gods representing different aspects or sources of that life-sustaining liquid. One of his most famous offspring was Triton, the part fish/part man demi-god who inspired tales of merfolk. Using his three-pronged weapon which was named after him, Triton would enrage or calm the seas to his liking. Poseidon also shared that ability and was the cause of all shipwrecks and many an earthquake.
Not all water gods lorded over the oceans. In Egypt, many water deities oversaw the Nile river. Hapi, god of the annual flood, was held in respect for without flood waters, Egypt’s limited agricultural area would be claimed by the desert. Sebek, the crocodile headed god, was worshiped for many reasons, one of which was protection against dangers lurking in the Nile.
The gods were not the only mythical figures connected with violent waters. In Norse mythology, Aegir—a jötunn (giant)— was associated with the oceans. If waves were too high during Viking quests, slaves were sometimes sacrificed to appease him. His nine daughters were the spirits of the waves.
In the Theriomorph pantheon, Ucrin rules over the seas. Like his Greco-Roman kin, he is very powerful and of the older generation of gods. His personality, like the waters he rules over, easily vacillates from calm and mild to vengeful and brutal. For this reason, forcing Frij to marry Ucrin was a harsh though questionably fitting punishment (see prior post).
Although his dual form is the blue whale, this creature is very different from the gentle giants you see on nature shows. Its blubbery flesh is hued a piercing blue. Extremely large and omnivorous, it feeds on all things that live in its watery home.
Ucrin is one of the least trustworthy gods due to his volatile bipolar personality. Like him or hate him, he should never be disrespected.