FUNADAMA – Shinto goddess of ships and boats. Like Toyota she was a daughter of the sea god Watatsumi. (Remember, I mostly go by the Kojiki and the Nihongi, the earliest written accounts of Shinto myths. Those two books refer to the humanoid Watatsumi as the god of the sea. Ryujin the dragon god of the sea came from later traditions. )
Sailors, fishermen and all travelers by sea, river or lake would pray to her Funadama for protection and there is still a Continue reading
IZANAGI AND IZANAMI – These two parents of most of the rest of the deities in Shinto myths always need to be mentioned in one entry. Before life on Earth existed the two of them stood on Ukihashi, the floating bridge between Earth and Takamagahara, the High Plain of Heaven where the gods lived. From there they stirred the primordial juices here on Earth with a jeweled spear and created the Japanese islands and a shrine still stands on Onokoro, the tiny island that legend held was the first landmass created by the duo.
Their first coupling spawned either one slug-like creature or all of the demons and monsters in Shinto mythology (accounts vary). Beginning with their second mating the woman, Izanami, began giving birth to Continue reading
HACHIMAN – The Shinto god of war. As Emperor Ojin he was born to the Empress Jingo, who was said to be carrying the child within her womb for three years while she finished successfully conducting her late husband’s war against the three kingdoms of Korea. (This is an interesting parallel to the birth of the Vietnamese god Thach Sanh, who was also said to be gestating for three years) The Korean invasion referred to when Jingo’s husband the Emperor Chuai died would be the one of approximately 200 C.E.
Hachiman was seen not just as a god of proactive, offensive war but also as the protector of children and as the deity of the general prosperity that was thought to come from military strength. He might also be said to embody the concept known as “peace through strength”. Oddly to us in the West, white doves are a symbol of this god of war and are often his messengers in Shinto myths. Hachiman was also Continue reading
KONOHANA – Also called Sengen-Sama, Konohana was the goddess of flowers and cherry blossoms and is the wife of the god Ninigi.That god had come to Earth from Takamagahara, the High Heavenly Plain, at the command of his grandmother, the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Konohana’s father, the mountain god Ohoyama, offered Ninigi a choice between Konohana and his other daughter, Ihanaga, the goddess of stone which endures for ages.
If Ninigi had Continue reading
SARUTAHIKO – The god who guards the floating bridge between the Earth and the heavenly realm of the gods, Takamagahara (“High Plain of Heaven”). He is depicted as a giant wielding the jeweled spear that once belonged to his father Izanagi and which Izanagi used to stir the primordial broth on Earth as he and his wife Izanami were preparing to begin creation.
Sarutahiko is considered the god of pathways and crossroads, both real and symbolic. He took his sentry duties so seriously that he once even tried to bar the way of the god Ninigi and his retinue when he was Continue reading
KAGATSUCHI – The Shinto god of fire, also called Omasubi (“starter of fire”). He was the last-born child of the Continue reading
UZUME – This daughter of the gods Izanagi and Izanami was the goddess of dancing, a skill that served her in good stead in two major Shinto myths. When the sun goddess Amaterasu had hidden herself away in a cave, Uzume danced naked as part of the plot concocted by the god of wisdom Omoigane to lure Amaterasu back out into the world.
In the other major myth Uzume is part of the retinue of the god Ninigi when Amaterasu sends him down to rule over ancient Japan. Their descent was blocked by Sarutahiko, the god who guards Ukihashi, the floating bridge between Continue reading
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 Continue reading
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 Continue reading
This sun goddess was the chief deity of the Shinto pantheon. In the Nihongi she is the daughter of both Izanagi and Izanami but in the Kojiki she springs from Izanagi’s left eye. During one of the conflicts with her brother Susanowo the storm god she withdrew to a cave in protest of the storm god’s incessant belligerence. Susanowo had been overstepping his bounds by Continue reading