The Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning
Origins of the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning
The Father of Thunder, the spirit in charge of thunder, is called Father for it is masculine, and can also be called the Master of Thunder or the Thunder Spirit. The Mother of Lightning, the spirit in charge of lightning, is called Mother for it is feminine, and can also be called the Sacred Mother of Golden Light or Lady Lightning. The worship of thunder and lightening originated in ancient times. Far-off Journey by Qu Yuan of the Warring States contains the following sentence: "the left is guarded by the Master of Rain and the right by the Father of Thunder." Also, his Encountering Sorrow says, "the phoenix warns me, and the Master of Thunder tells me what I don't possess. I order Fenglong to ride clouds in search of the imperial concubine Mi". According to the annotation of Wang Yi of the Han dynasty, Fenglong "is also called the Master of Thunder". Records about the Father of Thunder are numerous in the Book of Mountains and Seas, where the Father of Thunder is claimed to have "a dragon's body, a human's head, and a protruding belly", so it must be in the shape of a beast. But the Father of Thunder of the Han dynasty recounted by Wang Chong of the Han dynasty in his Judgements on Opinions "appears like a strong man, and is called the Father of Thunder. He is made to hold a string of drugs in his left hand and push a drumstick with his right hand as if beating drugs. It implies that the rumble of thunder is the sound of drugs knocking each other." The Father of Thunder had a human form. During the Wei, Jin and Southern and Northern dynasties, the Father of Thunder changed into the shape of a beast again. Investigations into the Divine says that the Father of Thunder "has red complexion and mirror-like eyes, his hair and horn are three-foot long, and he has a form like the six domestic animals and rhesus monkeys". The post of lightning was held by the Father of Thunder in ancient times, and the title of Father of Lightning did not appear until the Han dynasty. During the Tang and Song dynasties, the Spirit of Lightning turned into the Mother of Lightning. Cui Zhiyuan of the Tang dynasty says, "the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning are ordered to open the way facing the sky to foreign countries". Su Shi of the Song dynasty wrote a line, saying, "command the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning". After the Song and Yuan dynasties, the Mother of Lightning took a name. According to Remaining Stories about Cauldron-Casting, "the Envoy Mother of Lightning Xiu is named Wenying". The Records of Carriages and Dresses in the History of the Yuan Dynasty mentions that in the army, there was "the flag of the Mother of Lightning" on which the spirit was portrayed in the form of a woman who was "dressed in reddish garment, crimson skirt and white trousers, both of her hands giving off light". Both the novels Journey to the West and Journey to the North of the Ming dynasty mentioned the Mother of Lightning, calling her "the Sacred Mother of Golden Light" or "Lady Zhupei".
The functions of the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning were formerly to administer thunder and lightning. But since the pre-Qin days and the two Han dynasties, the populace has given thunder and lightning the meaning of "punishing evil-doers and advocating good-doers". Basic Annals of the Yin Dynasty in the Records of the Historian says, "Wuyi ruled with disregard for principles and was struck to death by thunder". The section "Fabrications about Thunder" in Wang Chong's Judgements on Opinions says, "In mid summer, the swift thunder and lightning break trees, destroy houses and kill people sometimes", and "they kill people who are claimed to have hidden misdeeds. Heaven strikes and kills those who give people something dirty to eat or drink. The rumbling sound is the voice of Heaven that flares up, just like human's resounding sighs". Thunder and lighting indicate righting wrongs in accordance with Heaven's decree, punishing hidden misdeeds, and striking the ruffians to death. In many of the rites for praying for rain or snow that are recorded in his Great Collection of Daoist Skills, Du Guangting, an eminent Daoist priest of the Tang and Five Dynasties, took the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning to be the major spirits to whom people offer sacrifices. The Daoist priests of the Divine Heaven sect and the Pristine Subtlety sect after the Northern Song dynasty applied Thunder Skills. A Collection of Daoist Skills says that the basis of Thunder Skills is the "Vital Breath", and "as for the skills of Dao, the motionless skill refers to the intercourse of dragon and tiger, while the moving skill refers to the rumbling of the thunderbolt". As a divinity subordinate to the Heavenly Lord of Universal Transformation Whose Voice of Thunder Resonates With the Origin of the Nine Heavens (i.e. the Thunder Patriarch), the Father of Thunder was ordered to be in charge of receiving and sending off, summoning, assigning and discharging thunder in the application of the skills.
The Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning are always enshrined in some large Daoist temples. The statue of the Father of Thunder looks like a strong man, who exposes chest and stomach, grows two wings on his back, has three eyes in the forehead, and whose complexion is as red as a monkey, jaw long and sharp, and feet like hawk's claws. He holds an iron sickle in the left hand and an iron beetle in the right, and looks as if he is going to strike. A string of five drugs hang from the top of his hand to the sides around his body. He crosses his legs with a drug under his left foot. He is called the Father of Thunder and the Heavenly Sovereign Jiang. The statue of the Mother of Lightning appears like a woman, and looks elegant with mirrors in both her hands, and is called the Mother of Lightning and the Heavenly Sovereign Xiu. The divine birthday of the Father of Thunder is the 24th day of the sixth lunar month. Generally speaking, Daoist believers worship the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning only when they pray for rain and snow and few worship them specially. But the spirit tablets for the Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning are still set up in large-scale Daoist rituals of fasts and offerings.