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May 26, 2017

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Gods of Wind

Gods of thunder in China's Taoist pantheon had to work together with Feng Shi (風師) or Feng Shen (風神), Gods or Goddesses of Wind. Here is a story about one of the goddesses of wind.

Once upon a time, there was a scholar who didn't want to take civil service examinations to become a government official. His name was Cui Xuanwei (崔玄微). A Taoist enthusiast, Cui used to take herbs and fungi that were considered an elixir of life.

On a fine spring day, Cui led a small expedition of boys to Mount Song (嵩山) in search of elixir herbs and fungi. They would return home in a year so that they would be able to collect a lasting stock. When they came home, he found his house was dilapidated and the yard was full of weeds as well as some wild flowers. It was very late in the evening when he arrived back. He saw the moon come out when he fell asleep in his ruined house. A pretty girl in blue came out of nowhere and stood before a surprised Cui at midnight. "We came to visit Auntie Eighteen, and we are tired after a long trip," she said. "May we have a rest at your house?" she asked.

As he nodded his consent, ten girls filed in after the one in blue. One of the ten girls, who wore a red dress, called herself A-cuo (阿措). Before they all sat down, Auntie Eighteen or Shi-ba Yi (十八姨) had come into the house. She was an old lady. A scented breeze swept the house, when she entered.

A party was held, then. Aunt Eighteen was an arrogant woman. She ordered A-cuo to pour her wine time after time. The old lady wanted her cup filled over the brim, drops of wine staining A-cuo's beautiful red dress.

"Don't think everybody is afraid of you," an angry A-cuo lipped. "I'm not afraid of you; you've got to be careful," she warned. Thereupon the old lady stormed out of the house. All 11 girls left for the yard of the house and disappeared into the thin air.

They appeared before Cui again on the following night. The girl in blue proposed to invite Auntie Eighteen again, but A-cuo said they had better ask the house owner to help them. So A-cuo told Cui that they all lived in the yard and suffered from gales. "It's Auntie Eighteen we turn to for help to calm the winds, but we've so offended her that we wouldn't dare ask her for help," she went on. "This time around," she added, "you must help us."

Cui was willing to help, but didn't know how.

"It's easy," A-cuo said. "You just prepare a red flag, on which the sun, the moon and the five stars are sketched. Raise it up in the east corner of the yard and all of us are saved." He told her he would do as told, whereupon all the girls disappeared into the yard.

On the following morning, Cui did what he was asked to do. Then, strong gales hit the house and the yard. All the plant life nearby was destroyed, but the wild flowers were unscathed. It finally dawned upon him.

"All the girls are the flower spirits," Cui told himself. He came to the conclusion that A-cuo was the spirit of pomegranate and Auntie Eighteen the goddess of wind.

A grateful A-cuo came to Cui the day after the flower spirits survived the gales, giving him fruits that helped him keep in youthful health in old age.

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