Today we will discover how dragons, fire demons, divine swords and demon sex contributed to the Shinto story of the creation of the world, and reveal the tragic fate of the sibling lovers Izanagi no Mikoto (Exalted Male) and Izanami no Mikoto (Exalted Female).
So Izanagi and Izanami had created the world, and saw that it was good, but unsurprisingly, being young lovers, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Before Izanami knew it, she had birthed 27 deities and 14 islands through her (presumably gaping) birth canal.
All of this rampant sex seemed like great fun, until one day, Izanami began giving birth to yet another deity, Kagutsuchi (Shining force*) – the God of fire, and unsurprisingly ran into some trouble. Kagutsuchi was fearsome. He fought viciously and uncompromisingly against his own birth, and in the process of squeezing him out, Izanami was mortally burnt.
*The name Kagutsuchi uses difficult, old, obsolete Japanese forms, which I’m not qualified to translate, so I borrowed that translation from Wikipedia, therefore it may not be completely accurate.
Izanagi, despite desperate attempts, was unable to rescue his wife, and so in a blaze of fire and singed pubes (followed by vomiting, pooping and urinating 7 more Gods, taking her grand total to 35) Izanami died, and departed to the underworld. In boundless grief at the loss of his beloved wife, Izanagi completely lost his shit. He took up his heavenly sword 天之尾羽張 Ame no Ohabari (Heavenly Wing Slash) and beheaded Kagutsuchi, murdering his own newborn son,
Fire, the all-consuming force of nature, had been introduced to the realm of the Gods, but it had brought with it the even more potent force of death. Izanagi was inconsolable. Unable to control the fiery rage that now burned in his heart, he took the headless corpse of his son, and further mutilated him, chopping him into eight pieces. He spread those eight pieces across Japan, where they became eight giant volcanoes, thereby bringing the mindlessly destructive force of fire from the realm of the Gods into the human world. As a convenient countermeasure to any similar events in the future, the blood that then dripped from Izanagi’s sword created two great dragons, the sea god Watatsumi, and the rain god Kuraokami, who could both be used to control Kagutsuchi if he ever got out of hand again (spoilers: he does).
Unfortunately for her, Izanami’s story doesn’t end with her death. We pick up her story in the underworld, which from the vivid descriptions in the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters), is definitely not somewhere you’d usually choose for a first date (unless you were dating Miley Cyrus). She woke up, her last memory being her extremely painful death, looked around, appraised the decor, and with a cry of terror, realised where she was. Unsurprisingly, there’s no confetti at the welcoming party, and before long, Izanami was set upon by all manner of sleazy, depraved demons, like an unchaperoned schoolgirl during happy hour in downtown Tokyo.
So, after being thoroughly ravaged by the most foul, deranged beings in existence, Izanami decided that if she can’t beat them, she’d better join them, and became a hideous snake-haired Amy Winehouse demon-hag herself.
Still pining for his lost love, Izanagi revisited the sex-pillar that he and Izanami built together and wept that his once mighty, hard, throbbing pillar was now useless (carefully avoiding allusion to the fact that the pillars in the underworld holding up the whole world must be pretty girthy). Eventually, he steadied his nerves, and visited his ex-wife.
Partly due to Izanami’s trickery in masking the rot of her decaying corpse (the key is good foundation), and partly due to Izanagi’s irrepressible desire to see beauty in his sweetheart, Izanagi was still passionately in love with her. He begged her to come back with him and complete their unfinished sex-spree. Unfortunately it was already too late. She lamented that had he come sooner, she would have been able to go with him, but she had already “eaten of the furnace of Hades”. (I can only assume that eating from the furnace of Hades is a sex act involving the insertion of burning coals into various unmentionable places, thereby re-enacting the birth of Kagutsuchi). Nevertheless she decided to ask her new demonic masters if she could go back with her lover, said she would return with an answer shortly, and disappeared into a cave. Being a woman, she took her sweet time, so Izanagi ran out of patience and decided to follow her inside. While in there, he caught a glimpse of the maggots swarming inside her head, and realised what she had truly become. He was horrified.
After a brief conversation in which both the state of Izanami’s rotting womb, and the pleasure she derives from having violent doggy-style sex with hellhounds were thoroughly addressed, Izanagi did what he does best: he lost his temper. While distracting her by throwing food on the floor, he decided to roll an incredibly heavy rock in front of the entrance to the underworld, forever separating the living and the dead, also conveniently preventing him from having to pay any child support. As Izanagi left the underworld, Izanami bitterly promised him:
“My lovely elder brother…I will in one day strangle to death a thousand of the folk of thy land”
To which Izanagi dryly retorted:
“My lovely younger sister…I will in one day set up a thousand and five hundred parturition houses. In this manner each day a thousand people would surely be born” (basically “Oh yeah? Well I’m going to have sex with 1500 women in one day, and have 1000 kids.” Ouch.)
Izanagi left the underworld, struggling to hold back an azure tear from one eye, while determinedly looking ahead to his uncertain future with the other.
And so ends the ill-fated tale of the lovers Izanagi and Izanami.
There is a brief post-text about what became of Izanagi after this, but I feel it apt the the lovers’ tale ends here. We’ll conclude Izanagi’s tale in a future post, most likely when we introduce Izanagi’s most famous offspring: the sun, the moon, and the storm.
Interestingly, if you substitute Izanagi’s righteous blade for a divorce lawyer, and the lustful hellhounds with Takeshi from down the street, it pretty much mirrors the tale of my parents’ marriage; thus proving that this story has had a profound influence on the subconscious of historical Japan, which resonates until today.
Next week: We’ll be addressing the germination of Japan’s complex relationship with China, and the rest of Asia through the tale of the first recorded earthly leader of Japan, the Shaman Queen Himiko, and trust me, the title of badass definitely applies.
See you then.