Mythology Monday: Susano-o vs.Orochi


Today, I’ve decided to return to Japan, and talk a bit about what happened to Susano-o after he got banished from heaven.

If you recall from the last time I discussed this, Susano-o lost a contest against his sister Amaterasu, which resulted in him throwing a flayed horse at her altar and killing one of her priestesses. Well, this story is about how he managed to get back into her good graces.

So our boy Susano-o has been wandering the earth for a while when he encounters a couple of old kunitsukami, or “earthly deities” weeping near a river. He goes over to try and see what’s wrong, and they tell him their tale.

So, the couple at one point had eight daughters, but now they only have one, named Kushinada-hime. The reason why they only have one left is because there’s this big-ass eight-tailed, eight-headed serpent named Yamata no Orochi who demands sacrifice, or he’ll just kill all of them. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s Kushinada-hime’s turn.

Susano-o decides that he’s not down with this, and decides that he wants to help the unfortunate family. To this end, he comes up with a cunning plan. This plan involves turning Kushinada-hime into a comb, sticking her in his hair, getting Orochi drunk as balls, then killing the shit out of him.

I’m not really sure why he had to go through the trouble of turning her into a comb to take her with him, since it probably would have made more sense to just leave her behind, but you do you, Susano-o. Fun fact, though: the word kushi in Japanese literally means “comb.” So there’s that.

So Susano-o has the old couple set up eight buckets of booze, one for each of Orochi’s heads. Orochi, grateful for the extra offering, drinks up and then falls asleep. At which point Susano-o comes in swinging and cuts the serpent to ribbons. I mean, he just goes to town on him with his sword.

Which is pretty interesting, because as he’s cutting into one of Orochi’s tails he finds himself another sword. And this sword is pretty damn spiffy. So Susano-o decides that this would be a great apology gift for Amaterasu, and gives it to her when he gets back up to heaven.

Because I know that when I was fighting with my sisters, giving any of us weaponry would’ve been a great idea.

Another fun fact: the sword in question, Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (“Heavenly Sword of Gathering Clouds) would later be called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (“Grass-Cutting Sword). This, the Yata no Kagami, and Yasakini no Magatama, make up the Three Sacred Treasures, which are Japan’s imperial regalia.

Not bad for a sword pulled out of a snake’s butt.

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