“Of gods and spirits” – Kogitsune Cheat Sheet

I have mentioned several gods from the Shinto pantheon in “Kogitsune” and I thought it would be good to cast some light on who they are and how important are they to the creation myth of Japan and Japanese folklore in general.

Izanagi and Izanami are the primordial gods of Japan, accredited with the creation of the big islands of Japan (Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and Honshu the largest island, on which the capital, Tokyo, is located) and all the other 6000 smaller islands. 

The Nihon Shoki (‘Chronicle of Japan’, a compilation of myths and legends published in 720 CE ) tells how standing on the bridge of heaven, the two gods Izanami and Izanagi used a jewel encrusted spear to stir the ocean. Withdrawing the spear, salt crystallized into drops on the tip and these fell back into the ocean as islands.

Details credited  to: ancient.eu 


A c. 1885 CE illustration of Izanami (left) and Izanagi (right) creating the islands of Japan with their spear.

Original image by Kobayashi Eitaku. Uploaded by Mark Cartwright, published on 19 May 2016 under the following license: Public Domain. This item is in the public domain, and can be used, copied, and modified without any restrictions.

Amaterasu

Amaterasu is the daughter of Izanami and Izanagi who made their daughter ruler of the sky.  She is called the ‘the great divinity illuminating heaven’, the 
most important deity of the Shinto religion and ruler of the High Celestial Plain, the domain of the kami or spirits. 

It is believed that the entire imperial family of Japan descends from Amaterasu. Hence, my use at the beginning of “Kogitsune” of ” I was born on the mountain where the first Inari shrine was built, in simpler times, when humans were scarce and Amaterasu-sama’s sixty-sixth descendant was crowned emperor among them.”

Details credited to: ancient.eu 

Beautiful landscape
Based on Wikipedia content that has been reviewed, edited, and republished. Original image by Utagawa Toyokuni III. Uploaded by Mark Cartwright, published on 20 May 2016 under the following license: Public Domain. This item is in the public domain, and can be used, copied, and modified without any restrictions.

The Inari God

Inari is the Shinto god of rice, the protector of food, and bringer of prosperity. He has over 40,000 shrines dedicated to him large and small across Japan, the oldest and most important of which is the Fushimi Inari Shrine near Kyoto.

The Inari god is regarded as the bringer of prosperity in general, the protector of food, protector of lovers and married couples, patron of swordsmiths, friend of merchants, traders, and artisans, and all round general problem solver. 

Details credited to: ancient.eu 

Image credited to James Blake Wiener and ancient.eu

Spirits 

Yōkai (ghostphantomstrange apparition) are a class of  supernatural  monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore that range diversely from the malevolent to the mischievous, or occasionally bring good fortune to those who encounter them. Sometimes they possess animal features, sometimes they look mostly human. They usually have spiritual or supernatural abilities, with shape shifting being the most common. 

Details credited to: Wikipedia

“The Heavy Basket” from the Shinkei Sanjurokkei Sen by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Meiji 25). Public Domain

Some of the yōkai presented in Kogitsune

Kitsune – is the Japanese word for the fox. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make sacrifices to them as to a deity.

Details credited to: Wikipedia

Inari Ōkami and its fox spirits help the blacksmith Munechika forge the blade kogitsune-maru (Little Fox) at the end of the 10th century. The legend is the subject of the Noh drama Sanjō Kokaji
This is the inspiration for Kogitsune you just read. 

Tengu -are a type of legendary creatures found in Japanese folk religion and are also considered a type of Shinto god or yōkai. They were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. The earliest tengu were pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is widely considered the tengu‘s defining characteristic in the popular imagination.

Details credited to: Wikipedia

An elephant catching a flying tengu, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Kodama -are spirits in Japanese folklore that inhabit trees, similar to the dryads of Greek mythology.

Details credited to: Wikipedia

“Kodama” from the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō by Toriyama Sekien.

Ayakashi – in western Japan, ayakashi are said to be the vengeful spirits of those who died at sea and are attempting to capture more people to join them. In “Kogitsune” I’ve used them as vengeful spirits eating humans. 

Details credited to: Wikipedia

Kappa are an amphibious yōkai demon found in traditional Japanese folklore. They are typically depicted as green, human-like beings with webbed hands and feet, with a turtle-like carapace on their backs.

Details credited to: Wikipedia

Defense against Kappa. Yoshitoshi.Repelling kappa with a fart.

Hope you have a better understanding of the Shinto pantheon and the
yōkai folklore used in “Kogitsune”.

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