Xiwangmu

In Chinese mythology, Xiwangmu, or Queen Mother of the West, is the most senior goddess in the Taoist pantheon. She was originally a wild tiger woman but was tamed over time and became associated with the peaches of immortality that grew in her magical garden in the mythical Kunlun Mountains. Here she was attended by the Jade Maidens and accompanied by a collection of magical creatures.

In some traditional art she was still shown with a tiger's tail and teeth. The art below by Dan Barker shows Xiwangmu with her tiger's teeth. She is also associated with shamanism and magic. At one stage a husband was created for her but it seems she wouldn't be tamed to meet expectations and he soon disappeared.

Dan Barker

Most gods and goddesses are associated with a particular animal and sometimes two. However Xiwangmu has a whole collection of animal companions. The tablet below shows an early depiction of the goddess and her familiars.

Xiwangmu was primarily associated with tigers and wildcats which are connected to her wild origins. Even though over time her image was tamed, she initially retained tigers teeth and a leopard's tail. She was also believed to keep tigers as companions and is often depicted with them in art.
 


Xiwangmu is also associated with the moon and is often shown in art alongside the moon rabbit pounding the elixir of immortality in a mortar and pestle, and also a dancing frog or toad, which alludes to the myth of Chang-e, the moon goddess.
  
Hokugen                               Shoson O'Hara

Two of the most well-known animals in Xiwangmu's collection of supernatural creatures are the magical nine-tailed fox and a three-legged crow. These creatures appear extensively in the folklore of China, Korea and Japan. The nine-tailed fox features heavily in Japanese folklore as both a trickster yokai, and a servant of the deity Inari. The three-legged crow is known in Japan as Yatagarasu and is a messenger of Amaterasu, the sun goddess.

Larry Vienneau Jr.
 
Xiwangmu is also associated with magpies because they are linked to her own role as a weaver of fate, and the myth of the cowherd and weaver girl (her daughter). In this tale, the lovers are reunited only once a year by walking across a bridge of magpies.

'Magpie Bridge' - Erika Craig.
Three magical blue or green birds are believed to be servants and messengers of Xiwangmu and they are a frequent motif in Chinese art. At times, she is also believed to ride in a chariot drawn by a phoenix or to simply ride the phoenix itself (see top left of image below).

In some images of the ancient goddess Xiwangmu, she is a accompanied by deer, or at times her chariot is drawn by a deer, which in China is a symbol of longevity. There are even accounts of her chariot being drawn by a chilin, or Chinese unicorn and sometimes by a purple cloud.

Xiwangmu is a Chinese goddess associated with immortality. Her magical peaches allegedly take thousands of years to ripen.  In China, peaches are a symbol of femininity or yin, and a connected to immortality. Xiwangmu is said to be particularly protective of women, and especially women who have turned fifty.
 
'The Queen Mother of the West & an Attendant with Peaches' - Komatsuken, 1765.
In Japan, Xiwangmu is known as Seiobo. She features in many ukiyo-e prints including this one by an unknown artist titled 'Seiobo Having a Swing' (circa 1818-1829)


Although a lot of traditional art depicts Xiwangmu as a beautiful young maiden, early texts describe her as ancient and older than the oldest things with snow white hair. This modern depiction of Xiwangmu by Dan Barker is closer to this description and is how I imagine her.

Dan Barker

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