- Egyptian Mythology
- Anubis in more modern times. He wasn't that central to the original canon, but he's so much more interesting than the chief gods like Ra or Osiris. Also, it's hard to find a death god who's an okay guy. Also, he appeals more to Furries.
- Bastet was a relatively minor goddess back in the day, but she's one of the most popular now. Why? She's the cat goddess and the internet can't get enough of cats.
- Medjed, an even more obscure, minor deity mentioned in the Book of the Dead, has spawned a huge popularity in Japan after an illustration of him was placed on display at a museum on Tokyo. Medjed appears to be a cartoonish figure covered in a sheet with only the eyes and feet showing, resembling a type of mascot character. Cue many illustrations of a bed sheet with a pair of legs and comical eyes firing laser beams appearing on the internet.
- Heqet and Kek were even more minor, but they, or rather their animal motifs (frogs) became immensely popular when 4chan hijacked and made a meme out of Pepe the Frog.
- Classical Mythology
- Hades is very much in the same boat as Anubis (minus the furry part), who is another example of a god associated with death who was actually an okay guy. Apart from kidnapping his wife and tricking her into marrying him, with all the implications that carries. Most fans rewrite this story as consensual to secure his Draco in Leather Pants status, or follow an interpretation that Persephone conveniently follows in love post Attempted Rape. Plus there are some versions of the myth where he simply captures Persephone and only politely asks her to marry him, eventually with her developing a sincere love after seeing how gentle Hades is ala "Beauty and the Beast". This popularity is mainly because he is a classic case of Dark Is Not Evil mixed with The Woobie, and/or because he was one of the only gods in the Pantheon who wasn't a complete jerk (at least, compared to the rest). The Ancient Greeks were rather wary of him, naturally, but in modern times he gets a lot more appreciation. The only real exception tends to be Disney and Hollywood, but to be fair they are probably taking inspiration from his Roman equivalent Pluto who was a lot less friendly.
- Due to association with Hades, his wife, Persephone has become quite the darling among people interested in myths. It helps that she is a complete contrast to her husband, being often portrayed as the innocent and sweet goddess of spring, falling for the dark and mysterious God of the Underworld. The fact that she was reported to be a quite cruel and competent ruler of the Underworld inspite of this gives her a major Memetic Badass status.
- Hephaestus has become this nowadays. His main flaw (his hideous looks) makes him seem to be more of a Woobie than back in Ancient Greece, when he would have been viewed as repulsive, plus, as with Hades, he's downright saintly next to his uncles, aunts, and cousins.
- It doesn't hurt that his purview includes 'technology', and that, combined with his callous mistreatment by his arranged wife, makes him basically a nerd.
- Hestia doesn't have much of a presence in the myths beyond being Hera's and Zeus' sister, but she has quite a following, since all the gods are deeply flawed if not outright heinous by today's standards, with the exception of Hestia. Many works based on Greek Mythology turn her into somewhat of an Only Sane Woman because of this.
- Ares was a very unpopular god for the Greeks, representing War Is Hell to its fullest and being a completely cruel sadist who loved violence, but rarely ever took part due to being a total coward. When Homer referred to Ares he did so in almost the exact same terms as he did Scylla (of "and Charybdis" fame): Kukleion Athanaton. Evil Undying. His Roman equivalent Mars though was viewed in a much more positive light, the Romans even claimed to be his descendants. It is worth noting that despite widespread modern misinterpretations, the Roman gods were not total exact analogues of the Greek gods. Mars is a particularly notable case, as the Greeks saw Ares as the god of brutal warfare, while the Romans saw Mars as the god of warfare for the defense and spread of civilization. He even had an agricultural aspect leftover from an earlier Etruscan god and the fact that early Roman soldiers were basically drafted farmers. Some modern adaptations of Greek mythology also feature Ares in a much more positive light, giving him many of Mars' attributes.
- To the ancient Greeks, Prometheus was a minor character (albeit one with a major impact) who got a couple of myths and few recorded cults to him. Modern readers see him as one of the kindest of the Greek gods, an advocate for humanity, and a symbol of progress, science and human resourcefulness.
- Both Sun Wukong and Hanuman got a disproportionate amount of attention, so much so that the former is now considered the main character of his story. The relationship between the two is interesting, but it's no surprise that they fill this role as they both get their fair share of badass moments. And of course, Everything's Better with Monkeys.
- Budai, a figure in Chinese folklore, often revered as a deity in Buddhism, is probably THE most popular Buddhist deity in western countries. While he is sometimes considered a bodhisattva, people with little to no knowledge of Buddhism often mistake him for THE Buddha. Chances are if you see a statue or other representation of a Buddha in fiction, it will be this plump bald man with a big smile.
- The Bible:
- Satan is known throughout the world as God's nemesis and who's name is synonymous with evil, even though he's only mentioned offhandedly in most verses, his origin is not explained until the final book of the Bible, and even that origin has been debated.
- Leviathan and Behemoth are two colossal beasts who are described being the strongest animals in existence, the Leviathan in particular is mentioned as being so powerful and terrible only God can control him. There are no known animals even in prehistory who totally match their descriptions, so who these beasts are and if indeed they existed has earned them a huge amount of fans and researchers trying to figure them out to this day. It is no wonder they became the go-to terms for something giant.
- An In-Universe example, so to speak: Melchizedek is a Priest King who appears once in the Book of Genesis to bless Abraham (then called Abram) and give him food. He gets only one other Old Testament mention, a quick Shout-Out in Psalms, and that's pretty much it (as far as scriptural references go) for a few hundred years. However, the writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews apparently saw a lot of potential in the character, as he dedicated an extensive section of his own book to discussing the ways in which Melchizedek served as a forerunner and model for another important Priest King, Jesus Christ.
- Speaking of which, the entire religion of Christianity started out as a minor cult coming from a small ornery region out to the east, appealing mostly to the poor and disenfranchised with its themes of equality and the lowliest becoming important in heaven. This turned out to be a really great pitch, because Rome had a lot of poor and disenfranchised folk.
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