Monday, February 20, 2012

Kojiki (part two)

Academic post #8
Kojiki (part two): This is basically why you should always keep peaches on hand

Previously on the Kojiki, Izanami died after giving birth to the fire kami.

Izanagi decided to follow his wife to the land of the dead, which was called Yomi.  Izanami came out to greet him, whereupon he said to her, and I quote, "O, my beloved spouse, the lands which you and I were making have not yet been completed; you must come back!"
...well, so much for love.
Unfortunately, Izanami had already eaten food from Yomi so she could not return to the land of the living.*  However, moved by her husband's bravery, she decided to go plead with the gods of Yomi,** but before she left she told her husband not to look at her.
You know how this is going to end.
Anyway, Izanagi waited and waited and waited and eventually he couldn't wait any more so he broke off the tooth of the comb in his hair bunch and lit it on fire and turned around to look at Izanami.  What did he see?  Well, the maggot-infested corpse*** of his beloved, of course.  Izanagi, being somewhat understandably super grossed out, turned and fled.
Unfortunately, fleeing from your spouse's grossness after she explicitly told you NOT to look at her is not the greatest idea, and Izanami was royally ticked.  She sent the hags of Yomi after her husband, beginning perhaps the greatest chase scene ever written.
(You might want to put on some exciting music at this point.)
Izanagi ran from the hags!  He undid his hair tie and threw it on the ground and it turned into grapes!  The hags stopped to eat the grapes!  He fled!  But the hags finished eating the grapes and started chasing him again!  So Izanagi grabbed a comb from his hair and threw it on the ground!  It turned into bamboo!  The hags stopped to eat the bamboo!  Izanagi got away!
But he wasn't safe yet!  Izanami sent the hordes of Yomi after him!  (She was really, really ticked.)  Izanagi unsheathed his sword and fled while waving it behind him!  It...did absolutely nothing, actually, as far as I can tell.
Suddenly, Izanagi arrived at the pass back to the world of the living!  He grabbed three peaches and lay in wait for his pursuers!  THEN
(dramatic pause)
Have I mentioned that I love reading this book?
To be fair, the peach thing isn't as totally random as it seems, because peaches were believed to ward off demons and evil spirits in China, so presumably the idea was imported and integrated into the story.
Still, it gives you a new appreciation for peaches--they can save you from the hordes of Yomi AND make a tasty snack!

So anyway, then Izanagi grabbed a giant boulder and rolled it in front of the entrance to Yomi.
Izanami was ticked and said, "If you don't move this boulder I will strangle a thousand people to death every day."
And Izanagi said, "Fine, then every day I will build one thousand FIVE HUNDRED birthing huts."
(This scene was used to explain the rapid population growth which occurred with the beginning of agricultural practices in Japan)
And then Izanami became the main kami of Yomi.

Izanagi decided that because he had visited Yomi, which was full of decay and death and roaring maggots, he had to purify himself.  So he went to the river and stripped off his clothes (thereby creating a whole slew of kami) and waded into the water to purify himself.  As he bathed, a whole bunch more kami were born, but the important ones were born when he washed his face.  When he washed his left eye, Amaterasu (the sun kami) was born; when he washed his right eye, Tsukiyomi (the moon kami) was born; and when he washed his nose, Susanoo (most commonly identified as the kami of storms or wind) was born.
Izanagi rejoiced to see these three children, because apparently the other eleven he had just given birth to weren't as interesting.  He proceeded to command Amaterasu to rule the high heavens, Tsukiyomi to rule the realms of night, and Susanoo to rule the ocean.
Amaterasu and Tsukiyomi, being fairly obedient children, went to rule their realms, but Susanoo wept and cried and howled.  Susanoo's tantrum was so bad that it caused all the rivers and seas to dry up and the plants to wither and natural disasters to occur all over the place.
Finally, Izanagi asked his son, "What is your deal?"****
Susanoo said that he missed his mom and wanted to go visit her in Yomi.
Izanagi was so disgusted that he said, "Fine, go visit her!  You're not allowed to live here any more!" and threw him out.

Before Susanoo left, he decided to say goodbye to his sister...but that is a story for next time.

*YES, the same as the Persephone myth.  NO, there is no connection between them.  The same sort of myth also exists among the Maori, Chinese, and Ryukyu Islanders, among others.

**Who are they?  Dunno.  And neither did whoever was writing the Kojiki apparently, because later Izanami is referred to as the head kami of Yomi.

***From page 62:

At this time, maggots were squirming and roaring [in the corpse of Izanami-no-mikoto].

I'm trying to figure out what a roaring maggot would sound like.  Ideas?

****Okay, so he actually said, "Why is it you do not rule the land entrusted to you, but [instead] weep and howl?"  But he was probably thinking, What is your deal?

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