…IZANAMI and IZANAGI…

It’s pretty clear that the first few chapters of the Kojiki are material that dates from a time of matriarchy and fertility religion, being set in order by a male scholar for a court milieu where customs and traditions of matriarchy and patriarchy are still somewhat in play. The Kojiki compiled, let it be remembered, for the Empress Gemmei.

The story of Izanami and Izanagi dates back to the Jomon era: some of its key passages are highly alliterative and assonant when translated into even modern Ainu 1). izanagiandizanamiwspearTraditional iconography of Izanami and Izanagi on the Floating Rainbow Bridge of Heaven, coagulating the first land using a jewelled spear, either features identical, gorgeously beautiful and handsome kami, holding the spear with four hands, or Izanagi holding the spear and Izanami standing, watching – most often standing slightly above him in pose that the proverbial cultural-anthropologist-from-Mars would recognize as supervisory!

After that, the “supremely-attractive-male” and the “supremely-attractive-female” make love for line after line of text: creating the eight-plus-six islands of Japan, and a whole list of deities.

Then they go on to embody a Japanese version of the Orpheus and Euridice story: except that here, when Orpheus disobeys, and looks at Euridice in Hades, she pursues him angrily   w i t h   a n   a r m y  …  (…compiled, let it be remembered, for the Empress Gemmei…) And when he blocks the Pass of Hades with a huge rock, it is very definitely Euridice who speaks first, and threatens: “My lovely [Izanagi], if thou do this, I will in one day strangle to death a thousand of the folks of thy land.” Then Izanagi replied: “My lovely [Izanami], if   t h o u   do this, I will in one day set up a thousand and five hundred parturition-houses, and in this manner each day a thousand people will surely be born…”

“…a thousand and five hundred parturition-houses…” No clearer manifestation of male usurpation of a traditionally female role could be imagined…

And finally we are told that Izanagi performs traditional river-purification (misogi) – just as most members of the Empress Gemmei’s court probably did regularly – and  – in a reboot/reset, a fresh creation story – a more familiar pantheon of archetypal kami is born: the sun, the moon, the stars…

1) see inter al:  A Modern Theory of Language Evolution, by Carl J. Becker, p. 324izanagiandizanamiainualliteration

 

 

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