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Miraculous birth: Wikis


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The motif of a hero’s miraculous birth is quite common in world folklore, and especially fairy-tales. Additionally, it can be found in many religions – from the most basic beliefs to modern religions like Christianity and Buddhism.

The kinds of miraculous birth are categorized into the following groups:


Virgin Birth

Birth from a virginal woman. This does not inherently require a 'miraculous' explanation - parthenogenesis can be explained scientifically, although it has never been observed in humans. There have been several cases throughout history of claims for a miraculous 'virgin birth':

Conception from a fruit

This theme is seen quite often in Russian and Ukrainian fairy tales in the form of eating a pea, while in the rest of the world, the most popular fruits for such beliefs are apples and nuts. It is considered that conception by eating (or, in some cases, merely touching) the fruit is an attempt to transfer the seemingly amazing fertility of the plants to humans. Then, some suggest that the seeds in a fruit (and especially a nut) may be seen as a symbol of a baby inside the womb.

Birth by an incantation or a spell

An especially bright example of such a birth is the beginning of the Snow White fairytale. When the blood from the Queen’s pricked finger falls on the snow, she makes a wish to have a daughter with snow-white skin and blood-red lips. However, the queen’s words may as well be considered a sort of a magic incantation. It’s quite possible that in the earlier versions of the tale, the wording of the wish (or spell) was not “I wish I had a child…”, but “Let me have a child…” However, conception by a spell is comparatively rare, because it is usually combined with a touch, a hit, or a look.

Birth by drinking water

This motif has its roots in the belief in the power of water to bring life. In a Northern Russian fairytale, a queen drinks water from a spring and thereby conceives a son, whom she calls Ivan Vodovich (the similar in English would be something like Waterson). There was also a strong belief in the conceiving power of the rain, which was especially strong among agricultural tribes.

These beliefs in a way form a single group, because all of the forces that apparently cause miraculous pregnancy have a natural origin. In this way, the ancient humans attempted to transfer the power of the nature to reproduce itself onto themselves. However, some of these beliefs are not purely naturalistic. Some of them may be combined with animalistic concepts.

Birth as the return of the dead

This is most likely related to a belief that a born person used to live before, or, shortly, reincarnation. Therefore, in folklore we can see the return of a hero, an ancestor, etc., through rebirth. The origin of this belief is seen by some in the resemblance of the children and parents, and the ignorance of the supposed origin of the new human souls. Reincarnation might have been the easiest way to explain where souls go after death and where they come from at the birth. The motive of a hero’s fast growth may also be related to this category, implying that the child used to live before as an adult, but since a woman is physically incapable of giving birth to an adult, the hero has to undergo a short phase of growth and development. Such heroes are present in Egyptian, Greek, and African myths, where the heroes are usually born in the times of trouble, and right after maturing they start undertaking heroic deeds.


There are also normal births that are marked by wonders, like astrological events, earthquakes or healings.


  • Huitzilopochtli: The Aztec god of war and the sun, he was conceived when a ball of feathers fell on his mother Coatlicue while she was cleaning a temple. The ball of feathers was actually Mixcoatl, the god of the hunt.
  • Hunahpu and Xbalanque: The Mayan Hero Twins, in their holy book the Popol Vuh, were conceived after twin sons of the Creators were summoned by the lords of Xibalba and beheaded for playing a noisy ball game. The head of one twin, Huh Hunahpu, magically impregnated Ixquic (also known as Blood Moon).
  • Laozi: Laozi, or LaoTzu, lived in the 6th century BC and authored the Tao Te Ching, according to Chinese tradition. " In legends, he was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star" [1]
  • Augustus: His mother Atia fell asleep in the temple of Apollo and a snake glided up to her and she became pregnant by Apollo (Suetonius - De Vita Caesarum).

See also



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