One problem I have encountered again and again in my relationship with my patroness is the question of her exact identity, and the deeper I dig down into the wonderland of devotional polytheism, the clearer it becomes that the answer is tied up with the debate over just how distinct the identities of the gods actually are.
My relationship with my patroness began when I approached her under the name “Benten” – the common abbreviation found more often in the West than in Japan. However, She soon made it clear that she would rather I call her Sarasvati. Benzaiten was the transliteration of Sarasvati’s Chinese name Biancaitian, which was in turn the title given to Sarasvati in the Sutra of Golden Light by the translator Yijing.
Yet sometimes my goddess is Benzaiten-sama, and refuses to answer to Sarasvati. More importantly, the lore of each paints them quite distinctly. Benzaiten is not only a water goddess, she is a bringer of good luck and a special patroness of women. Sarasvati long ago lost her role as a water deity, and today is a patroness of learning and wisdom, who cares little for vain finery and less for domesticity and the spheres traditionally assigned to women.
So are they separate goddesses? Sometimes it seems so. Yet other times it feels so clear that they are one entity. Historically, they are related, and certainly the personalities ascribed to them are not contradictory…
The more I think, the more confused I am. That’s good, I think. If anyone tells you they have the gods and the Universe all figured out and they can prove it 100%, you should just listen to them…RUN.