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Unformatted text preview: y means of a heavenly bridge to the
island and there begot not only the remainder of the islands of Japan but
also a vast number of other deities. In the process of giving birth to the
fire deity, Izanami was badly burned and descended to the nether world.
The ostensibly gallant Izanagi, in a sequence of the myth startlingly
similar to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, went to fetch her but
was so repelled by the appearance of Izanami’s decaying and maggotinfested body that he hastily retreated. To purify himself (in the finest
Shinto tradition), Izanagi went to a stream and, as he disrobed and
cleansed his body, he produced a new flock of kami. Among these were
the Sun Goddess, who sprang into being as Izanagi washed his left eye,
and Susanoo, the god of storms, who appeared from his nose.
The Sun Goddess was appointed to rule over the plain of high heaven,
and thus became the preeminent figure in the Shinto pantheon. Her
brother Susanoo, on the other hand, was given dominion over the sea. A
fretful and ill-tempered creature, Susanoo insisted upon visiting the Sun
Goddess in heaven to say good-bye before taking up his post. Upon arriving in heaven, Susanoo committed a series of offenses against his sister,
such as breaking down her field-dividers, destroying her looms, and defecating in her palace. Outraged, the Sun Goddess, in a solar-eclipse type
of myth sequence, secluded herself in a cave and plunged the world into
darkness. To lure her out, the other deities of heaven prepared a program of riotous entertainment and placed a cock atop a perch, or torii,
before the cave to signal its commencement. When the Sun Goddess, her
curiosity aroused, peeped out, she was seized by a strong-armed deity
who pulled her into the open and thereby restored light to the world.
The torii, or bird perch, in this so-called “rock cave” story became, it
is believed, the entranceway to the Shinto shrine of historical times. The
torii is the most familiar symbol of Shinto and can be found at all shrines,
no matter how small (fig. 5). Many local shrines, indeed, appe...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13