I always wanted to celebrate Halloween when I was young.
Halloween’s not a Romanian celebration, but the younger generations started embracing it in recent years and enjoy playing spooky dress up at the end of October. But there’s no “trick or treating”.
Our sort of “trick-or-treat” event takes place during Christmas, on the 23rd of December (on my birthday). Children knock at your door, they ask, “Will you receive our carol?”, you say “Yes!” because (you’re not a monster) it’s tradition, and then they sing. When they finish, you offer them treats (apples, oranges, Romanian pretzels, optional anything else sweet). One of my favorite celebrations.
Coming back to this Halloween, thank you for allowing me to celebrate with you with a gift, the first part of the prologue of Fields of Higanbana (Shinigami’s sequel).
The gods of Takamagahara crumpled to their knees, and the ground shook as they fell.
Some could not speak, and clawed at the golden seams of their robes, gasping for air. Others lay paralyzed from the waist down, screaming in pain. More than half went blind.
The golden thread that connected the gods to their mother, Goddess Izanami, burned like wildfire.
Four gods remained untouched by the devastation. Izanagi, the Father God. Hiruko, the leech child, first born to Izanagi and Izanami. Ukemochi, the fox shifter. And a baby made of fire.
Dark clouds gathered above, and the wind dragons roared. Their master, Fujin, the Wind God, lay twitching in the tall grass, the bag of winds he carried wide open.
Hiruko and Ukemochi found each other in the chaos and held on tight. “Mother’s unwell,” Ukemochi uttered. Then she passed her words to Hiruko as a thought, for he had been both deaf and mute since birth.
A two-headed crow, one head white as snow, the other black as night, flew over the tumultuous sky. The Yogen no tori, a rare, terrible yōkai, had arrived, and she carried the word of prophecy.
She circled a spot on the heavenly plain, bloodstained with godblood. Her cries pierced through the valley as her two heads spoke in tandem about the end of the world.
“At the end of Creation, Death will be born.
And the Mother God will sit on thy deathly throne.”
Izanagi held his sister-wife in his arms, rocking her body back and forth. Izanami’s godblood soaked his robes as it flowed down her legs, forming a pool around them.
Izanami raised a trembling hand and cupped Izanagi’s tear stained cheek. “I’m dying,” she gasped.
“No!” Izanagi shook his head. “No!”
Gods were not animals that aged at the turning of the years. They were not plants to whittle at the coming of autumn. They were eternal.
“We will bathe in the Tachibana River. It will heal you.”
Her fleeting smile met his words. “It’s too late,” she said, then the radiance dimmed in her golden eyes and her long dark hair turned white. She passed gazing at the wind dragons roaring in the sky.
A wave of silence rippled across the sacred lands. The burning pain torturing the gods vanished. The thread to Izanami was no more.
When they could move, talk, and see again, the gods gathered in masses to stand behind Ukemochi and Hiruko. They were as old as the mountains and the seas, yet at that moment they looked like frightened children.
Ukemochi timidly stepped away from them and moved toward Izanagi, Izanami and the flaming baby. Kagutsuchi, the name the world would know him by.
Suddenly, Izanagi pulled the Ame-no-Ohabari sword from its sheath, and with a ragged cry cut the baby’s head.
“No!” Ukemochi cried. She pulled the voluminous folds of her dress to run for the baby, but Hiruko grabbed her and held on tight.
Don’t! He’ll kill you.
But he’s killing our brother! Ukemochi sobbed
Hiruko’s embrace tightened around his younger sister. Kagutsuchi was already dead.
Izanagi stood trembling, the Ame-no-Ohabari wet in his right hand, and his robes stained with his youngest child’s blood. It dripped from his hand, to the sword, onto the ground.
The gods were horrified. Izanagi had lost his mind and killed his youngest son. An unwritten code had been broken. We do not kill our own.
Izanagi gazed upward. There was madness in his eyes.
“Where are you, Kuni-no-Tokotachi?” Izanagi roared. “Where have you taken her?”
No answer came from above. The God of the Universe had no interest in the land Izanagi and Izanami had built in his name. They were just two of the many gods of Creation living in this world. And the world was vast, and the universe vaster.
It was the bird of prophecy who answered. “The Wheel of Life and Death is in motion,” the Yogen no tori said. “And a new land emerges from its depths. Yomi, Realm of the Dead.”
Copyright © 2022 Xia Xia Lake
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Ame no Ohabari [a-me-no-o-ha-ba-ri ]: The sword used by Izanagi to kill his offspring Kagutsuchi. The literal translation in English is ‘sword of Takamagahara with blades on both sides of the tip.’
Fujin [fu-jin]: The Japanese god of the wind. He is portrayed carrying a large bag of winds on his shoulders.
Hiruko [hiru-ko]: Izanagi and Izanami’s first born child. He was born deformed, without arms and legs and deaf, and was called the “Leech Child”. In later Shintō mythology he is known as the god Ebisu.
Izanagi [i-za-na-gi]: Male deity responsible for the creation of Japan, represents creation and life
Izanami [i-za-na-mi]: Female deity responsible for the creation of Japan, represents creation and death
Kagutsuchi [ka-gu-tsu-chi]: The last child of goddess Izanami. She died in childbirth, wounded by Kagutsuchi’s flames. Izanagi killed the baby with his sword out of grief for losing his wife.
Kuni-no-Tokotachi [ku-ni-no-to-ko-ta-chi]: The first of the first three divinities born after Heaven and Earth were born out of chaos. This divinity is described as genderless in ‘Kojiki‘.
Takamagahara [ta-ka-ma-ga-ha-ra]: Heaven, translated as the High Plain of Heaven, dwelling place of the Heavenly Gods
Yōkai [yo-o-kai]: A class of supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore. Yōkai range diversely from the malevolent to the mischievous, and occasionally bring good fortune to those who encounter them.
Ukemochi [u-ke-mo-chi]: the daughter of Izanagi and Izanami, the goddess of food. When shown in other forms, Ukemochi takes the shape of a fox.
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