SUSANOWO – The Shinto storm god. He is appropriately depicted as an impetuous, ill-tempered god and was often at odds with his sister the sun goddess, Amaterasu. In the Nihongi he is the son of both Izanagi and Izanami but in the Kojiki he is born from Izanagi’s nose as a sneeze.
At one point he was seriously over-stepping his authority in a fit of anger. In some versions he was angry over his sister Amaterasu being the Chief Deity in the Shinto pantheon instead of him, in others he was angry because his mother the goddess Izanami could never return from Yomi, where she was now fated to rule over the dead forever. At any rate he was causing it to storm continuously day and night, prompting the sun goddess Amaterasu to withdraw to a cave.
When the other gods, mostly Omoigane the god of wisdom and Uzume the goddess of dancing, succeeded in using a mirror to lure Amaterasu out of hiding they stripped Susanowo of much of his godly power and exiled him to Earth, where he had various adventures, including slaying an eight-headed and eight-tailed dragon (pictured above left), leading a successful war against the Three Kingdoms of Korea, causing forests to grow from hairs plucked from his beard, curing a plague and fathering a whole extended family of deities in Izumo, a family which included Okuninushi, the god of medicine.
The sword that was used in coronation ceremonies for Japanese Emperors all the way up to the present day was, according to a very dubious tradition, the same sword that Susanowo found in one of the tails of the eight- headed dragon he slew. ( Think of it as a spurious story similar to the way various European churches used to claim they had pieces of the cross Jesus was crucified on) Slaying the dragon won him his wife, the demigoddess Kusanada, and the sword helped mend the storm god’s damaged relationship with his sister Amaterasu when he gave that sword to her as a gift.
Eventually, when Susanowo’s father, the god Izanagi, lifted his exile, Susanowo chose not to return to Takamagahara, “The High Plain of Heaven” (the Mt Olympus/ Asgard/ Hunamoku of Shinto myths) but instead went to join his mother in the land of the dead. From his palace in Yomi Susanowo’s moods continued to affect the weather patterns in the world above, causing periodic storms when the deity had his frequent bouts of anger. Izanami put Susanowo in charge of the subterranean earthquake gods, a fitting role for him since earthquakes were considered underground storms by the ancient Japanese.
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