In the worship of Mother Goddesses, The Goddess of Water is the third protector of the water world On the altar of the shrine of the Three Holy Mothers, the Goddess of Water is in a white dress, she is sitting on the left side of The Goddess of Heaven (middle).
Three Holy Mothers. Source: Internet.
“Thoải” comes from the word “Thủy”; it has almost similar pronunciation and means “water”. The white color of her dress is also symbol for water element.
Goddess of Water in the white dress on the left. Source: Internet.
In an agricultural society like Việt Nam, Mẫu Thoải is a very important goddess. Whenever there is drought or flood, she performs miracles to help farmers with their crops. Moreover, she saves the spirits lost in lakes and rivers. Further, she teaches people how to build boats, make fishing nets and so on. So she is respected and admired. There are many legends about her origin.
In one legend it is said that she was the daughter of Long Vương (the god of water). One day, she met Kinh Dương Vương, whose ancestor was Thần Nông (Agriculture God) at the Động Đình lake. At that time, he was visiting the lake. Kinh Duong Vuong was the descendant of Thần Nông. He immediately fell in love and asked her to be his wife. Then, they had a son named Lạc Long Quân, who was Dragon father, ancestor of Viet people.
The image of Mother Goddess of Water along with her white costume representing the
Water Palace in the style of Hang Trong traditional worshipping painting.
Source: Artist Le Dinh Nghiem - the heir of Hang Trong traditional worshipping painting.
The scan created by Viet Theatre
There is a variation to this legend in which Long Vương’s daughter was visiting the human’s world for beautiful sceneries. She was late for coming home and Long Vương had closed the water world gate already. She had to stay in the human world and became The Goddess of Water and supported them. Also in another variation on the story, as ordered by her father, she married Kính Xuyên (the son of Earth God), but later tragedy befell on her. Her story was told in a chầu văn song.
There was another legend in which Mẫu Thoải was the wife of Dragon King. While he ruled seas and oceans, she took care of fresh water (springs, wells, ponds, lakes, rivers).
Also in another legend, she was the reincarnation of three daughters of Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ.
No matter what her origin was, to the people of Viet Nam where “ water comes first, second fertilization, third hard working and fourth seed”, honour the goddess of water. It is the way people put their feelings towards nature, to humanize nature to make it more close to them, not only in working life, but also in their struggles.
Even, like other Holy Mothers, Mẫu Thoải appeared in historical documents as a guardian supporting governments in their fight against enemies. Many temples were built to memorize her support, such as Xâm Thị temple and Dầm temple in Thường Tín (Hà Tây, Hà Nội present) after she helped Trần dynasty in Mongolian resistance, or Thác Hàn (Hàn Sơn) temple in Thanh Hóa province after Ming resistance.
There are also other temples around the country, especially along rivers. However, the most remarkable ones are the Hạ (Tam Cờ) Temple, the Ỷ La Temple and the Thượng (Dùm) Temple. All of them are in Tuyên Quang province, which is said to be one of her origin places.