HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a Lady of Refinement

Mazu Patron Deity of Seafarers

The History of Worshipping!K..

A sculpture of Matsu

Mazu, Goddess of the Sea and Empress of Heaven, is Taiwan!|s most popular deity. Though now over a thousand years old she wears her years with poise and grace, and folks are drawn to her in the millions !X the tens of millions. The birthday of this doer of countless good deeds is on the twenty-third day of the third lunar month. In the days leading up to that day, the day itself, and the days after, celebrations are held island-wide at almost 500 temples. Tens of thousands take the Mazu and other godly icons from their local temples and head off on busy, uplifting pilgrimages to a couple of Taiwan!|s oldest and most important Mazu temples in the south, in the towns of Beigang and Singang not far north of the city of Tainan, also visiting other temples along the way to and fro to extend blessings to and ask for blessings from their resident gods.

Taiwan is surrounded by salt waters and was long dependent on these waters for off-island travel as well as for a healthy dose of its food bounty. In her mortal days Mazu was named Lin Mo-niang, a silent and precocious girl born in 960 A.D. to a fisherman whose home was on an island off the coast of Fujian Province, mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait. She lived just 28 years, but long before she !X it is said !X was summoned to the heavens and disappeared into the clouds embracing the hills near her home she was renowned for her compassion and purity, as well as for a long list of supernatural powers and miracles. The stories are many, with the best-known !X coming in different variations !X relating that once while sleeping she saw her father!|s boat sinking in a fierce storm, and that as she grabbed a brother in each arm and lifted her father by the shirt in her clenched teeth her mother woke her up and she dropped poor father with a mortified gasp. Soon, she learned her father had indeed been lost at sea while her brothers miraculously survived.