Out of the Seven Gods of Luck, it is only Ebisu who is wholly and entirely Japanese. He is the only one of the seven to originate purely from Japan. In addition to being a deity of fishing, wealth and fortune, Ebisu is also associated with objects–and even people–that drift ashore from the sea.
In terms of patronage, he is the Japanese God of fishermen, tradesmen and luck. In fishing communities, it is a common practise to see fishermen praying to Ebisu before they head out for the day. The community’s relationship with Ebisu is indicative of their relationship with nature as a whole.
Fishermen tell stories of how Ebisu keeps the ocean abundant, safe and pristine. Even though Ebisu is sometimes said to have no arms or legs, he is a benevolent and generous deity. However, for those who pollute the ocean, Ebisu is known to return the unwanted debris to the shore.
Ebisu is said to carry both trash and treasure as he crawls his way along the ocean floor. This process, however, isn’t instantaneous. It takes 7 years for things like screws, bolts and plum seeds to turn up on the shore. It is for this reason that Ebisu becomes enraged whenever people pollute the ocean.
In terms of his animal companions, Ebisu is associated with apex predators of the sea such as whales and whale sharks as they bring in masses of fish and protect fishermen. In some shrines, Ebisu is identified with Hiru-ko, the misconceived firstborn son of the creator couple Izanami and Izanagi who considered him inadequate and set him adrift in a reed boat.
Ebisu is also sometimes associated with Koto-shiro-nushi (“Sign-Master”), a son of the mythological hero Ōkuninushi. He is associated with happiness because of the role he once played as a pacifier in a conflict between earthly and heavenly deities.
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