INARI – The Shinto rice god. His wife was the goddess Ukemochi and when she was slain by the moon god he married Mitama, the goddess of agriculture. His son was the scarecrow and divination deity Kuyebiko. There are even versions of Shinto myths in which Saki is said to be Inari’s daughter and the goddess of the intoxicating drink Saki like Dionysus is the god of wine in Greek myths.
Inari often roamed the rice fields of Earth, sometimes in the form of a fox, his familiar animal. This connection between the rice god and foxes came from the way foxes often prey on birds and vermin who try feeding on the rice crops being raised for human consumption. Inari is usually depicted in the company of a fox or two and is carrying a sack which contains an inexhaustible supply of rice. Every home contained a shrine to Inari.
In some ancient sources Inari is depicted as both male and female or just as a female. This is similar to the way in which the sun goddess Amaterasu is depicted as instead being a male deity in some sources, most notably the Hotsuma Tsutae. Behind the blurring of the gender of these deities seems to be the manner in which the oldest written sources of Shinto myths, the Kojiki and the Nihongi, portray male and female couples as co-deities in the early stages of creation. Think of the concept like Gnostic syzygies, but without the built-in opposition.
Another myth features Inari wandering ancient Japan in human form as a decrepit old man. The only people in their village who treat the disguised god kindly are an elderly childless couple. To reward the couple for their benevolent nature Inari reveals his true self to them and gives them a small bag of rice which will replenish itself so that they will never go hungry. He also grants their wish to finally have a child, with their adopted offspring being the tiny Issun Boshi, the famous Inch- High Samurai from Shinto mythology. Issun Boshi would have many adventures and slay various monsters before earning full human size and a bride from a wealthy family.
In some versions of the Inari story he is the real father of the semi-divine Kusanada, the rice paddy goddess who married the Shinto storm god Susanowo during his exile on Earth.
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