Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kojiki (part three)

Academic post #9
Kojiki (part three): No matter how bad your brother is, he could actually be worse

So where we left off last time, Izanagi got sick of Susanoo's temper tantrums and told him to get lost.  Susanoo was going to visit his sister, Amaterasu, to say bye.

Susanoo, however, couldn't just go visit his sister normally, so instead, when he ascended to heaven, he made a huge amount of noise and shook the entire Earth.
Amaterasu heard him coming and said, "Oh, great, now my brother is coming to usurp my lands!"  She then tied her hair up and put on her gear to get ready to go to war with her brother the usurper.
When Susanoo finally showed up, he swore that he had only come to say goodbye to his sister, but Amaterasu didn't believe him.  Finally, Susanoo said he would show his pure intentions...by bearing children.
So they stood on opposite sides of a river,* and Amaterasu took Susanoo's sword, broke it into pieces, washed the pieces in the heavenly well,** and then chewed them up and spat them out.  They turned into a bunch of female kami.  Then Susanoo took the beads wrapping up Amaterasu's hair and arms and did the same. They turned into a bunch of male kami.  Then Amaterasu said, "The kami born from my possessions are my children and the kami born from your possessions are your children," and then there's a long section no one cares about where they talk about where each of the kami is now enshrined.
Then Susanoo said, "Clearly I had girls because my intentions were pure so HA."  And then he "raged with victory," beginning the section I like to call "Oh Geez, And You Thought Your Little Brother Was a Pain."
First Susanoo destroyed Amaterasu's rice paddies.
Amaterasu, apparently afraid to misjudge her brother again, made all kinds of excuses for him.  "He probably doesn't understand agriculture!" she said.  "He probably thought we were using the land wastefully and was trying to help!"
Then Susanoo pooped in her festival hall and threw the poop around.
"He's probably drunk!" Amaterasu argued.  "We probably just think he's flinging around poop.  He's probably actually projectile vomiting everywhere."***
But then Susanoo skinned the heavenly dappled pony backward**** and dropped it through Amaterasu's weaving hall roof.  The weaving maiden inside was so surprised that she struck her shuttle against her genitals and died.
Amaterasu suddenly realized that Susanoo actually was being a horrible brother and ran away and hid in a cave, which was a problem, because she was the sun goddess.

Suddenly, it was night all the time!  Calamities were happening all over the place!  All the kami had a meeting to figure out what they should do.  Then there's a long section where they talk about all the preparations they went through, which include divination with the shoulder bone of a male deer, gathering a bunch of roosters, and making a mirror and some beads.
Then Ame-no-uzume did a dance, stamped on a bucket, and then "became divinely possessed, exposed her breasts, and pushed her skirt-band down to her genitals" (page 84).
And all the kami laughed.

Just to break some of the weirdness of this whole scene, there is a good pretty explanation for everything going on!  Ame-no-uzume's dance is a kind of spirit possession, and in spirit possession, exposing the genitals is a way to ward off evil spirits.  It's also a way to show that you're actually possessed, since you wouldn't normally flash everyone if you weren't.*****  Also, laughter was used in ceremonies to increase the power of the kami.  So it's not just Ame-no-uzume flashing everyone!  It's Ame-no-uzume flashing everyone FOR A REASON.

Anyway, Amaterasu was (understandably) very confused.  She thought that everyone would be miserable with her gone, but instead Ame-no-uzume was dancing around and everyone was having fun!  Geez, the nerve of them!  So she said, "Geez, I thought you guys would be miserable!  What is your deal?"
Ame-no-uzume replied, "We're having a party because we found someone better than you!"
Amaterasu peeked out of the cave and saw herself reflected in the mirror.  She edged out of the cave to get a better look at her reflection (which she believed to be the other sun-deity) and one of the kami, who was hidden just outside of the cave, grabbed her and dragged her away from the door while the other kami put a rope over the cave door so she couldn't go back inside.
And thus light was restored to the world!
Susanoo was then fined for being a jerk and his beard was cut off and his fingernails and toenails were cut off****** and he was thrown out because nobody liked him any more.
In the Nihon Shoki, and in the children's version of the Kojiki that I've been reading, the story then continues that because it was pouring rain, Susanoo made himself a straw hat and straw coat and went around begging shelter from the various kami, who refused to let him in because he had been thrown out for being a jerk.
Anyway, the chapter ends there!  There's a lot more of Susanoo's story, but we'll get to that next time!

*When Confucianists were horrified by this story and said that Amaterasu and Susanoo were committing incest, the Shintoists pointed out that they were on opposite sides of the river and so obviously they weren't committing incest.  Obviously.

**What well?  Weren't they at a river???

***From page 78:

"That which appears to be faeces must be what my brother has vomited and strewn about while drunk."

How is this preferable???

****Skinning animals alive and skinning them backward are both super taboo, so Susanoo is being ULTRA TABOO.

*****If you think that seems crazy and dangerous, some forms of Taiwanese spirit possession involve self-mutilation.  For an interesting book on the subject, I recommend David Jordan's Gods, Ghosts, & Ancestors: Folk Religion in a Taiwanese Village, which is available for free (and legally!) online in its entirety.

******Some manuscripts say his fingernails and toenails were actually yanked out.  Yay.

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