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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Izanagi and Izanami #atozchallenge

I - The myth of Izanagi and Izanami, like so many others found throughout the world, does triple duty as a love story, a creation myth, and a cautionary tale. In Japanese and Shinto mythology, Izanagi and Izanami were born when heaven and earth separated from Chaos. Together, they stood on the floating bridge of heaven and stirred the primordial ocean with a jeweled spear. As they did so, the first land formed. 

Stirring the primordial sea
Because Izanami spoke during their first coupling, they birthed a deformed child (Ebisu). Like so many have done when deformed children were concerned, the couple abandoned him. They placed him in a boat and set him adrift.

Izanagi and Izanami then went on to birth the islands of Japan, as well as various other gods and goddesses. One of these gods, Kagutsuchi (the fire god), burned Izanami during child birth. When she died, she went to the land of darkness (Yomi). Izanagi, unwilling to let her go, killed Kagutsuchi and then followed his wife to the underworld. When he learned she could not return with him because she had eaten of the land of darkness, he despaired.

Desperate to see his wife, he lit a fire to look upon her even though she had told him not to do so. 

Izanami was not the goddess he remembered. She had become a hideous, rotting creature.

Horrified that Izanagi had seen her like this, she was deeply shamed and swore vengeance on him. She sent a hag to kill him, but Izanagi escaped. Undeterred, Izanami promised she would kill one thousand of his people every day. Naturally, Izanagi didn't much care for this plan. He vowed that for every thousand she killed, he would birth one thousand and five hundred.

Their union thus destroyed, Izanagi returned to the land of the living.

To cleanse himself of all that had occurred in the land of darkness with Izanami, Izanagi bathed in the sea. As he did so, three gods and goddesses were born. In honor of that cleansing bath, the Shinto participate in purification ceremonies, called harai, similar to Izanagi's so that they may approach kami.

In the story of Izanami and Izanagi sounds familiar... it is. Similar tales can be found in Greek mythology. In the myth of Persephone, for instance, Hades fell in love with the goddess, and abducted her to his dominion. When the people began to starve, Zeus demanded Hades return her. But Hades wasn't willing to let her go that easily, so he convinced her to eat pomegranate grown in the underworld. As a result, each winter, Persephone had to return to the underworld to live with Hades. 

And, of course, when Eurydice was killed by a viper, her husband, Orpheus, traveled to the underworld to retrieve her. He played such lovely music, Hades agreed to let him return Eurydice to the earth, but only if he walked ahead of her and did not look back until they had reached Earth. At the threshold, Orpheus was unable to wait any longer to see his wife. He turned back just before she took the final step, and she promptly vanished back into the underworld.


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon Barnes and Noble | KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, what a myth. It says so much about marriage.

    And you are right to point out the parallel with Orpheus and Euridyce,

    Best of luck with the challenge! I'm following you on Twitter, and I'll tweet a link to this so you can find me if you wish :-)

    I'm doing the challenge with my personal blog, but I also edit a blog with contributors, and one of them writes about Doctor Who as a myth, comparing it primarily to Paradise Lost.


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