If you are used to classical mythology, then you are used to goddesses or beauty and wisdom, marriage and childbirth, the moon and the hearth. However, the rest of the world was a bit more creative in their goddesses. Take for example the many goddesses of smallpox. That's right, you heard me, smallpox!
Sitala - a Hindu goddess that possesses people. During her possession, you'd better feed her cooling food and cool liquids or her heat could really do some damage. When she left you, you would be stronger than before . . . or dead.
T'ou-Shen Niang Niang - a Chinese goddess. Her whole family got into the act. each of her boys had a special part of smallpox that they looked after. She especially liked to give smallpox to young children - beautiful young children, that is. Some parents went as far to as to have their children wear paper masks at night while sleeping to keep her away from them.
These weren't the only ones. You have Hoso-No-Kami of Japan, Sakpata of West Africa or Obaluaiye of a different part of West Africa. It just amazes me that a disease gets its own goddesss. The male chauvinist part of me also thinks it is funny that all cultures (that I found anyway) thought of woman when they thought of this horrible disease. All joking aside, it just goes to show you how devastating this disease could be. Today we pretty much have the thing licked and can worry about something as mundane as swine flu, but back then must have been a nightmare.