Ma Gu

Ma Gu

The Hemp Princess




Magu; Mago; Mako; Ma Ku; Madame Hemp

Ma Gu looks like a teenager, but she’s an Immortal. Legend says this fifth-century Taoist shaman and alchemist was so adept she could walk on water in her shoes. Her husband murdered her, dumping her body in a lake. Her primary temple stands where her body washed ashore. Ma Gu still walks over the surface of the lake; many claim to see her, especially at the beginning and end of each lunar month.

After she died, Ma Gu ascended to the celestial zone where she attained Fairy status and became Hsi Wang Mu’s handmaiden. As divine waitress, she serves the peaches of immortality to the Jade Emperor and the Heavenly Court. Ma Gu is venerated throughout China. Her devotees and shrines suffered terrible persecution during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976).

Her own life cut short by murder, Ma Gu abhors violence. Bloodshed is strictly tabooed in her sacred temple precinct: fishing and hunting are banned by order of Ma Gu, who personally enforces the prohibition. Allegedly, violatorsdrown in her lake or become hopelessly lost.

• Ma Gu is a goddess of good health and longevity.

• She presides over spiritually powerful, intoxicating substances.

• She protects women, who may call on her if they feel endangered.

The iconic image of Ma Gu bearing her dish of peaches (or alternatively the elixir of immortality) remains a standard image for birthday greetings in China.


Women, shamans, alchemists, mystic seekers


Ma Gu resembles a beautiful eighteen-year-old dressed in a shimmery, iridescent gown. She wears her hair in a bun, but several strands inevitably loosen and fall to her waist. Her fingernails resemble long bird talons.


The standard image of Ma Gu portrays her bestowing peaches of immortality and/or a mystic elixir, which may be wine or an alchemical potion brewed from mushrooms or cannabis. This image is considered an auspicious birthday gift symbolic of good health, longevity, and immortality.



Number: 6


Hemp (Cannabis spp.), mulberry

Creature: Snake


Ma Gu rides a deer and flies on a crane

Date: Her birthday, on the sixth day of the sixth Chinese month

Sacred site:

Initially venerated in caves, she eventually had several large shrines:

• The Yue Gu Temple complex in Yantai, Shandong Province, contains her tomb.

• Ma Gu Temple on Mount Heng in Hunan, one of China’s five sacred Taoist peaks, is now part of Magu Fairyland, a major tourist attraction.


Bao Gu; Eight Immortals; Fairy; Ho Hsien-Ko; Hsi Wang Mu; Jade Emperor; Ma Zu


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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