Mythology Monday: Izanagi and Izanami

Welcome back to Mythology Monday! This week we’re heading to Japan to talk about a couple of figures that are pretty important to the mythology over there: Izanagi and Izanami.

So, the world is created, as well as a bunch of gods, with the last two being the aforementioned siblings Izanagi and Izanami, the names meaning “he who invites” and “she who invites” respectively. One day, the two of them are chilling on this bridge up in heaven, and decide to stir the primordial ooze below a little bit with a jeweled spear. The silt that gets kicked up ends up forming the islands of Japan.

A bit later, the two decide to get married. That’s something that’s not particularly uncommon, by the way, as a lot of pantheons kinda preferred to keep it in the family so to speak. The ancient Egyptians in particular were all about this, but I digress.

Anyway, as usually follows marriage, the two start pumping out children like nobody’s business. Their first child Hiruko (or “leech child”) was born deformed, but not because of the whole “they’re siblings” business. Rather, it’s because Izanami screwed up the marriage ceremony by speaking first. Because of course the woman is always to blame.

At any rate, the two send Hiruko away because, honestly, he’s kind of disturbing to look at. Which, you know, isn’t a great thing to do, but whatever. They continue pumping out gods, until Izanami finally gives birth to Kagutsuchi, aka the god of fire. This is kinda where things take a bit of a downtown. Because giving birth to the literal incarnation of flame is going to fuck up pretty much your everything, Izanami dies.

This, understandably, bums Izanagi out a bit, and he decides to head into the underworld, Yomi, to go get her back.

So, he gets into Yomi and finds Izanami, who he can’t really see clearly because it’s the underworld and it’s really, really dark. The two converse for a bit, and Izanami says that she can go back with him, but only on one condition: he can’t look at her until they’re back topside.

Those of you familiar with Greek mythology have probably noticed some rather familiar elements in this particular tale.

He agrees, and the two head on their way back to the world of the living. However, because Izanagi apparently can’t follow simple instructions, decides to fire up a torch so he can actually see his sister/wife’s face.

And it is not pretty. She is seriously fucked up, all decomposed and corpsey with maggots crawling all over her.

Izanami is pretty miffed by this, mostly because her brother/husband saw her in a sorry state, but I’d like to think it’s at least partially because he didn’t listen to her and did the one thing she told him not to do. She is so pissed, as a matter of fact, that she sends all manner of demons to chase after him.

Izanagi, partially freaked out by his wife’s corpse face but mostly because there are demons chasing him, decides to nope the fuck on out of there. Once reaching the surface, he seals the entrance with a gigantic boulder.

Then, because he’s all gross and stuff from his trip, he decides to go into a stream and wash himself off. This act ends up birthing both a rather important Shinto purification ritual as well as three new gods: the sun goddess Amaterasu (who is kind of a big deal), the moon god Tsukiyomi, and the storm god Susano-o.

And the moral of the story is that you should probably listen to your wife when she tells you not to do something.

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