The Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神 Shichi Fukujin), commonly referred to in English as the Seven Lucky Gods, are the seven gods of good fortune in Japanese mythology and folklore.
They are some of the most widely worshiped, prayed to, and wished upon Japanese gods in modern times, with figurines or masks of them being especially commonplace in small businesses.
As can be understood from the name, the group consists of seven gods, with each one being associated with some special abilities, attributes and/or guarding sphere(s) of people's everyday life:
- Benzaiten (弁財天), Goddess of Knowledge, Art and Beauty, especially Music.
- Bishamonten (毘沙門天), God (see trivia) of Warriors.
- Daikokuten (大黒天), God of Wealth, Commerce and Trade.
- Ebisu (恵比須), God of Fishers and Merchants.
- Fukurokuju (福禄寿), God of Happiness, Wealth and Longevity.
- Hotei (布袋), God of Abundance and Good Health.
- Jurojin (寿老人), God of Long Life.
Excluding Ebisu, six of the Seven Lucky Gods have originated in Indian and Chinese myths and folklore, and have later entered Japanese lore through Chinese influence starting from the 6th century AD.
- Benzaiten is based on the Hindu goddess Saraswati (goddess of knowledge, music, and art). She has come to be worshipped in Japan through the Lotus Sutra and the Sutra of Golden Light - two Buddhist texts is which she is mentioned that appeared in Japan in their Chinese translations as Buddhism began spreading.
- Fukurokuju is the single embodiment of the Taoist Sanxing (三星) or "Three Star Deities" - Fu (福; "Prosperity"), Lu (禄; "status") and Shō (寿; "longevity") - that has come to be considered a single being as the Sanxing concept assimilated into Japanese lore. Similarly, Jurōjin is the Japanese embodiment of Shō alone.
- Hotei is a folkloric Chinese folkloric deity known in China as Budai. Depicted as a poor, yet a smiling man, he is a representation of contentment in Chinese culture and his idols can be seen in temples, restaurants, and other businesses. He is also considered an incarnation of the Buddha Maitreya.
- Bishamonten is based on Vaiśravaṇa, one of the Four Heavenly Kings - Buddhist deities entrusted with protecting the Buddha, his teachings, and his followers. While the original Vaiśravaṇa has a more peaceful depiction to him, Bishamonten is considered a warrior god, punisher of evildoers, and protector of all places where the Buddha preaches.
- Daikokuten is based on the Buddhist Mahākāla, which is in turn based on the Hindu Shiva - the god said to destroy the current world before the creation of a new one according to Hinduism. While Mahākāla is relatively similar to Shiva in his characteristics, Daikokuten is much less fierce and fearsome, being a household deity among other things. He has come to be considered a facet of the significant, native Shinto god Ōkuninushi - presumably since the first two characters in both of the names (大黒, 大国) can be read as daikoku - and so some of the latter's attributes have been associated with him.
The Seven Gods of Fortune are often depicted all together on a ship called Takarabune (宝船; lit. "Treasure Ship"), which, according to tradition, they ride to arrive in every town on New Year's Eve to distribute gifts to those who are worthy.
Kichijōten (吉祥天), goddess of happiness, fertility, and beauty based on the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, is sometimes found depicted among the Seven Lucky Gods. When she does appear as part of the group she replaces Jurōjin, whose attributes can be seen as included in those of Fukurokuju. She is mostly not included, however.
Being widely worshipped gods, the Seven Gods of Fortune are of a high standing in Takamagahara, with considerable influence, grand domains in the heavens, and presumably, many shinki.
When the gods are summoned for a meeting to discuss the threat of the mysterious "Sorcerer" who has the ability to control phantoms as if they were shinki - a process which is deduced to only be feasibly by a god as well as inflict him with much blight in the process - the Seven Gods of Fortune are labeled the main suspects under the claim that their massive following makes them capable of sustaining the immense blight that the process of naming a phantom causes. This claim is proven true as Ebisu indeed "named" a phantom and survived the process (although with deterioration in his health later).
- While in the series Bishamon is a female deity, her real-world depictions are always as a male deity.
- The representations of Ebisu and Daikokuten are often displayed as a pair in small businesses. This is either because of how they are both gods associated with commercial success and monetary wealth or because according to one of the less popular versions of the story of Ebisu's origin he is a son of Ōkuninushi (first mentioned under a different name).
- Seven Lucky Gods "Seven Lucky Gods" on Wikipedia