It is a known fact that animals have always played an important part in the mythology of different cultures. And monkeys make no exception. Monkeys are regarded differently by the cultures of the world, but they exist in most mythologies. Believe it or not, monkeys had an important role in the mythology of some nations, such as India, Ancient Egypt, or Polynesia, where they are deified. The Buddhism religion is very well known for the symbol of the three senseless monkeys, who cannot hear, cannot speak, and cannot see. This legend is known worldwide.
Also known as the three wise monkeys or the three mystic apes, this legend is a pictorial maxim. One of the monkeys is Mizaru and he is portrayed with his hands covering his eyes. The second monkey is Kikazuru, the one covering his ears. The other one is Iwazuru, the one covering his mouth. It is said that these monkeys are the embodiment of the famous proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. In some versions of the story, a fourth monkey is present, named Shizaru, symbolizing the principle “do no evil”, by crossing his arms. The meaning of the three monkeys can differ from culture to culture, as there have been numerous variations and interpretations to this story. However, the Japanese culture is the most fond of the three monkeys story, since the Japanese people actually worship them.
Buddhism also regards the monkey as an early incarnation of Buddha. On the other side, the same Buddhist religion may depict monkeys as being tricky, ugly and deceiving. There is also a Chinese Buddhist metaphor, “mind monkey”, which applies to those people who are restless and unsettled. In the ancient Peru culture, the Moche people were very fond of animals, as they were true nature worshipers. This is why monkeys were often depicted in their artworks. In the Roman an ancient Greek mythology, monkeys were always accompanying the god of fire, Hephaestus (also known as Vulcanus). The Mayans from Guatemala and Mexico also worshiped a howler monkey god, depicted as patron of the arts.