Shichi-fukujin: The Seven Lucky Deities

七福神

これらの七体の神の像、人形、絵などを日本で目にしたことがありますか。室町時代(1392-1573)より多くの人々が信仰してきた七福神と呼ばれる七柱の神様です。これらの神々は仏教、神道、道教の中の、インド、中国、日本の神々を合わせたものです。7人の神々の名前は、恵比須、大黒天、布袋、弁財天、毘沙門天、福禄寿、そして寿老人です。それぞれは様々な徳を表わします。(詳細は後述しています。)

Have you ever seen these seven deities or one of them in various representations such as statues, dolls or pictures in Japan? They are Shichi-fukujin; the Seven Lucky Deities or the Seven Deities of Fortune, which many people have worshiped since the Muromachi period (1392-1573). These deities are a combination of Indian, Chinese and Japanese deities originating from Buddhist, Shinto and Taoist religions. They are named Ebisu, Daikokuten, Hotei, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fukurokuju and Jurojin. Each deity represents a different virtue. (Details are described below.)

福禄寿と寿老人はともに長寿の神なので、同じ神とみなす人もいるので、福禄寿の代わりに美の女神の吉祥天が加えられます。または弁天の代わりに加えられることもあります。またはお多福や達磨を加えて八福神とすることもあります。

Since Fukurokuju and Jurojin are both considered to be deities of longevity, some think of them as one and the same deity. Otafuku or Daruma is sometimes added to the Seven Lucky Deities and in this case, they are called Hachi-fukujin (the Eight Lucky Deities).

日本各地に、七福神巡りの名所があります。七福神巡りとはそれぞれの神様を祀る合計7カ所(まれに8~10カ所)の神社や寺を半日から2、3日で巡り、福を求めてお参りをして御朱印を授かります。七福神巡りはところによっては通年行われますが、元旦から1月15日までに行うともっとも御利益があるとされています。

There are various famous Shichi-fukujin-meguri routes all around Japan. The Shichi-fukujin-meguri is a pilgrimage of half a day or a few days to visit seven (occasionally from 8 to 10) shrines or temples, where each deity is worshiped, praying for good luck and collecting Goshuin (a sacred vermilion temple or shrine seal). Generally, it is said that prayers of the Shichi-fukujin-meguri from January 1st to 15th are the most likely to be answered, though the Shichi-fukujin-meguri is held all year round in some shrines and temples.

七福神は宝船と呼ばれる縁起の良い船に乗っていることがよくあります。民間伝承によると正月に枕の下にこの宝船の絵をひいて寝ると、縁起のよい初夢を見ると言われています。

Shichi-fukujin are often represented aboard a ship, called Takara-bune (the treasure ship). According to folklore, this ship will make your first dream of the year auspicious, if you sleep with its picture under your pillow on New Year’s Day.

<恵比須 Ebisu>

恵比寿は七福神の中で唯一日本由来の神様で、商売に幸運をもたらすと信じられています。右手に大きな鯛、左手に釣り竿を持っているので、漁業の神様としても信仰されています。隠しだてしないで正直に話す力、率直の徳の象徴でもあります。恵比須の幸せそうな笑顔は「えびす顔」として有名で、人々に愛されています。

Among Shichi-fukujin, Ebisu is the only deity who has his origin in Japan, and he is believed to bring good fortune to business. He is represented holding a fishing rod in his right hand and a big sea bream in his left; therefore, he is also worshiped as the patron of fishermen. In addition, he represents candor; the ability to speak openly and honestly. His happy smiling face is widely recognized and loved as “Ebisu-gao” (Ebisu’s smiling face).

<大黒天 Daikokuten>

大黒天は家庭に幸せや富をもたらすと信じられているので、大変人気のある神の一つです。打出の小槌と宝物の入った大きな袋を背負っています。インドのヒンズー教のシヴァの神が密教に取り入れられ、最澄(18世紀の日本の僧で天台宗の開祖)が日本に伝えました。

Daikokuten is one of the most popular gods because he is believed to bring fortune or wealth to a household. He has an uchide-no-kozuchi (a magic mallet) and carries a big bag full of treasure on his back. His origin was as Shiva in Hinduism, and later he was incorporated into esoteric Buddhism and was introduced into Japan by Saicho (a Japanese Buddhist monk in the 18th century, a founder of the Tendai sect).

<布袋 Hotei>

布袋は中国の唐(688-907)で実存したとされる禅僧です。お腹がまん丸に出て、名前の由来となった大きな袋を持った陽気な神様です。彼は寛大の神様で、人の運命や天気を予知します。

Hotei is supposed to have existed as a Zen priest in Tang China (688-907). He is a jolly deity with a very rotund stomach and carries a big cloth sack after which he was named. He is the deity of generosity and can predict one’s fortune and the weather.

<弁財天 Benzaiten>

弁財天の発祥はインドのヒンズー教の河神(かしん)です。琵琶を持つ、音楽の女神です。雄弁、優美、優しさを擬人化したものでもあります。

Benzaiten originated from the Hindu goddess of rivers in India. She carries a lute (a small harp); she is the goddess of music. She also personifies eloquence, grace and kindness.

<毘沙門天 Bishamonten>

毘沙門天は鎧甲を身に付けた武神ですが、その起源はインド神話の財宝の神でした。インドから中央アジアを経て中国に伝来する過程で闘いの神になりました。四天王の一人で多聞天とも呼ばれ、北方の守護神です。荒々しい姿をしていますが、特に貧しい人々を助け、品位にあふれています。

Bishamonten is a warrior deity, wearing armor and a helmet, however, he originated from a deity of fortune in Indian mythology. Brought from India to China by way of Central Asia, some characteristics were added to him and he became a patron of battles and wars. He is one of Shi-tenno (the Four Heavenly Kings), he is also called Tamonten, and is a guardian of the northern direction. Despite his rough appearance, he is full of dignity, and is especially kind to the poor.

<福禄寿 Fukurokuju>

禄寿は福禄人とも呼ばれ、長寿と人望の神様です。中国の道教で理想とされる幸福、俸禄、長寿の三星を神格化した神です。頭が長く、杖をつき、白鶴を従えています。

Fukurokuju, also called Fukurokujin, is a deity of longevity and popularity. He is enshrined as a deity of three stars of Taoist beliefs in China; happiness, remuneration and longevity. He has an elongated head, walks with a cane and is accompanied by a white crane.

<寿老人 Jurojin>

寿老人は福禄寿と共通点が多く、たとえば長寿の象徴の道教の神で、頭が長く、杖をついています。それ故に、二人は混同されたり、同一の神様と考えられることもあります。彼は酒を好み、鹿を連れています。

Jurojin and Fukurokuju have a lot in common such as being deities of Taoism in China, the symbol of longevity, a tall head and a cane. Therefore, the two are sometimes confused or are identified to be the same deity. He likes alcohol and is represented leading a deer.

<吉祥天 Kichijoten>

毘沙門天の妻である吉祥天は容姿端麗の女神で、宝冠をかぶり天衣を着て、手には如意玉を持っています。多くの人々に福徳を与えます。元々はヒンドゥー教の女神で、仏教に取り入れられた後に日本に伝わりました。

Kichijoten, Bishamonten’s wife, is an attractive deity in a jeweled crown and a heavenly garment and with a nyoi-dama (a magic wish-fulfilling gem). She brings happiness and virtue to a lot of people. Kichijoten, who was originally a goddess of Hinduism, was imported into Japan after she was introduced into Buddhism.