To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Saturday, July 17, 2010

From KOJIKI: The Male Deity Izanaki and the Female Deity Izanami (Part Two)

Translated from Japanese by Yoko Danno

Izanami Dies

When Izanami was delivered of the fire deity Kagu-tsuchi, her genitals were severely burnt and she was seriously ill in bed. She vomited and in her vomit a pair of ore deities came into being. In her excrement arose a pair of clay deities, and in her urine the female deity who controls irrigation water and the young deity full of procreative force whose daughter is the food goddess Toyo-uke.

Then, at last, Izanami, who had given birth to the fire deity Kagu-tsuchi, passed away.

“I have exchanged the life of my beloved wife for just one child!” Izanaki greatly lamented. Crawling around the head and feet of his wife, he wailed. From his tears arose the female weeping deity Naki-sawame, who dwells at the foot of the trees on the hill of the holy Kagu Mountain. Izanaki buried his wife on Mount Hiba at the border between the land of Izumo and the land of Hahaki.

Izanaki Kills the Fire Child

Then, Izanaki, with his ten-fist-long sword wearing at his waist, cut off the head of the fire child Kagu-tsuchi. The blood gushed out and flowed over the surrounding rocks. From the blood at the tip of the sword arose three rock-splitting thunder deities, from the blood at the guard on the sword, a pair of lightning deities, and then, the bold thunderbolt deity Take-mikazuchi. The blood collected at the hilt of the sword, dripping through Izanaki’s fingers, became a pair of water deities who preside over deep valleys and control the water. (The eight deities above were born of the sword.)

From the head, chest, belly, genitals, left hand, right hand, left foot and right foot of the slain fire deity were born eight mountain deities. The sword with which Izanaki slew the fire deity is called the Sharp-Edged Sword.

Izanaki Visits the Land of the Dead

After slaying the fire deity, Izanaki strongly wished to see again his wife, and went after her to the Land of Yomi(2) where the dead reside. Arriving at the Hall of Yomi, he stood at the closed gate, from which Izanami came out to greet him.

“Oh, my beloved wife,” Izanaki talked to her pleadingly, “the land that you and I were making has not yet been completed. You must come back to our land of the living.”

“How deeply I regret that you have not come sooner!” replied Izanami. “I cannot return to the land of the living because I have already eaten food cooked with the fire of Yomi. But, my beloved husband, I am grateful and filled with awe that you have come all the way to the Land of Yomi and visited this place. So I will tell the Master Deity of Yomi about my wish to return and discuss the matter with him. Wait till I come back, and please do not try to look in on me!”

After speaking thus, Izanami went into the Hall and did not come out. Izanaki was kept waiting so long that he could not bear it any more. He tore off one of the end teeth of his bamboo comb which he was wearing in the left bun of his hair, lit it and entered the Hall.

There he saw maggots squirming and rolling in the corpse of Izanami. In her head was Grand Thunder, in her breast Fire Thunder, in her belly Black Thunder, in her genitals Splitting Thunder, in her left hand Young Thunder, in her right hand Earth Thunder, in her left foot Roaring Thunder, and in her right foot Lying Thunder. There were eight kinds of thunder deities in all.

Frightened by the horrible sight and filled with awe, Izanaki turned back and fled, while Izanami cried out, “You have shamed me!” She sent at once an army of defiled women of Yomi to capture her husband.

Izanaki, removing his hair ornament woven with black vine, hurled it back. Immediately it took root and bore grapes. While the women of Yomi were picking and eating the grapes, he fled farther. When they started to pursue him again, he drew out the bamboo comb he was wearing in his right hair-bun and threw it back. Immediately bamboo shoots sprouted. While the women of Yomi were pulling out and eating the bamboo shoots, he fled further.

Then Izanami sent out her eight thunder deities with an army of one thousand five hundred evil spirits of Yomi to capture her husband. Izanaki drew his ten-fist-long sword and waved it behind his back to put them under a spell. But they continued the pursuit. When Izanaki arrived at the bottom of the Hill of Yomi on the boundary between the land of the dead and the land of the living, he picked three peaches from the peach trees there. He lay in ambush for the thunder deities and the army of evil spirits and then attacked, throwing the peaches at them. Because peaches have power to dispel evil, the pursuers all turned and fled back into the Land of Yomi.

In gratitude, Izanaki said to the peaches: “Just in the way you have saved me, save all humans growing like green grass in my land, the Central Land of Reed Plains, when any one of them is in distress or in pain.”

He honored the peaches by giving them the name, the Great Fruit Spirit.

Finally, Izanami herself came out in pursuit of her husband. Then Izanaki hauled a huge rock to the Hill of Yomi and blocked the pass. They stood at each side of the huge rock between them. Izanaki announced the end of their marriage. Izanami retorted: “My beloved husband, if you do such a thing, every day I will strangle to death one thousand grass-like humans in your land.”

“My beloved wife,” Izanaki replied, “if you do so, I will put up every day a thousand and five hundred huts for childbirth in my land.”

This is why a thousand humans inevitably die every day and a thousand and five hundred humans are inevitably born every day.

Izanami is called the Grand Deity of Yomi. She is also called the Grand Deity of Pursuit because she overtook her husband. The huge rock with which Izanaki blocked the pass is called the Grand Deity of Repelling who drove back the evil. The Hill of Yomi is now called the Hill of Ifuya in the land of Izumo.

Izanaki Purifies Himself

After Izanaki parted from his wife, he said: “Since I have been to a most detestable, ugly and defiled land, I have to purify myself.”

When he came to the evergreen plain of Awaki by the river mouth of Tachibana where oranges were growing, in the land of Tsukushi, at a place called Himuka, he purified himself. Facing the morning sun, he removed everything he was wearing and washed his body in the water.

Wishing to drive evil away, Izanaki cast off his cane, his sash, his bag, his cloak, his trousers, his headdress, the bracelets on his left hand, the bracelets on his right hand, and there arose twelve deities who protect roads and sea routes.

Then Izanaki said, “The current of the upper stream is too swift, while the current of the lower stream is too weak.”

Therefore he went first to the middle stream, dived and bathed there. When he washed his body, the pollution cringing to him from the defiled land of Yomi came off and there arose two evil-causing deities. In order to bring good out of the evil of Yomi, there arose three rectifying deities. Next he dived to the sea bottom and bathed, and there arose a pair of bottom-sea deities. When he bathed halfway in the water, there arose another pair of halfway-sea deities. When he bathed on the surface of the water, there arose yet another pair of surface-sea deities.

When Izanaki washed his left eye, there came into being Amaterasu the Sun Goddess illuminating the heavens. When he washed his right eye, there arose Tsukuyomi the moon deity, and when he washed his nose, Susanowo the turbulent storm deity came forth.

Izanaki Is Blessed with Three Noble Deities

Greatly rejoicing, Izanaki said: “I have brought forth child after child, and in the end of my childbearing, I am blessed with three noble children!”

Then removing his necklace of stringed jade beads from his neck, he bestowed it, shaking and jingling, on Amaterasu, saying, “My noble child, you shall govern the Heavenly High Plains.”

Next he said to Tsukuyomi, “You shall govern the Night World, my noble child.”

Then he entrusted Susanowo with his mission, saying, “My noble child, you shall govern the Ocean.”

N.B. Yoko Danno’s Songs and Stories of the Kojiki (Ahadada Books, 2008) is the first English translation to capture the full sweep & ferocity of the Japanese original. The earlier part of this section of the Kojiki appeared in a previous posting on Poems & Poetics.

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