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The monster Yamata

There was long time ago: the many islands of Japan had just been engendered by the goddess Izanami. His daughter Amaterasu, the sun goddess, reigned, majestic and brilliant, in the infinite splendor of Takamagahara, that is to say the sky. She had a brother, younger than herself a few years, by the name of Susanoo-no-Mikoto. He was gigantic, strong like a bull, capricious like a goat, and mischievous like a monkey. His greatest pleasure was to make mischief and play pranks, sometimes to the goddess sister, sometimes the other deities of Takamagahara. But as he had no bad heart, these famous people forgive him many things and usually guarded him not grudge.

One day, however, he allowed himself a fantasy that exceeded all bounds. The sun goddess had just built a wonderful, weaving workshop. One could not say how many hassles and worries had caused this installation. Consequently, she clung with all his heart. She was proud, and showed with pride to other deities. So one day, Susanoo-no-Mikoto, yielding to a bad instinct, thought to set fire to the workshop in question, destroying it from the top to the bottom, and vanishing in the flames all workers employed by her sister.

 The son of the goddess was mischievous as a monkey

The son of the goddess was mischievous as a monkey.

Amaterasu, finding out about it, flew into a violent rage. So great was his disappointment that, in revenge and cry at ease, she locked herself in a deep cave and resolved never to leave. It was a disaster. Heaven and earth found themselves suddenly plunged into complete darkness. A thick darkness enveloped the universe. The terrified men believed in the end of the world and from every part of the world, rose to heaven immense distress cry.

Takamagahara itself was the scene of agitation and an unusual disorder. All the gods and goddesses came out of their palaces, informing each other of the cause of this sudden and complete darkness. The board of deities  meets…

It deliberates, discusses passionately in the assembly of gods. Opinions clash, speeches succeed. They need to find at all costs a wa to force Amaterasu to come out of his cave. But what means to use? How to approach? Asagao-no-Mikoto, the youngest of the gods, with the ready wit, a lively, open intelligence, advances in mid-august assembly:

– You all know, he told his colleagues that the goddess Amaterasu love madly music and dance. I propose to come together at the entrance of the cave and to organize a ball. We will make great noise until, yielding to curiosity or anger, she half opened the door.

The proposal of the young god is ingenious and his plan seems likely to succeed. He was unanimously adopted and the meeting was adjourned, after they determined the time of appointment.

At the appointed hour, all the gods of Takamagahara therefore gather together in front of the cave where, sulky and peevish, Amaterasu locked herself. Each carries with him the favorite tool in which he excels. The dance is organized. Drums and flutes, guitars and gongs mix their sounds and their agreements with shouts, songs. The pace is accelerating. The ball soon turns into a frantic round, an indescribable tumult, whose echoes descend onto the earth and sow terror …

Amaterasu heard from the depths of his cave:

– What’s happening today, she said; what is this fuss?

Curiosity becomes so strong that the goddess, as she is the goddess, no longer resists. She half opened the door, through which escapes instantly a flood of light. Suddenly she feels seized by the arm with an iron hand. It was the hand of Chikaravo-no-Mikoto, the strongest of all the gods. He stood at the entrance of the cave, ready to seize the goddess when she open the door. Amaterasu was dragged outside, and the pushed door closed on her. At the moment, the sky and the earth is coming back to life. Light floods the doers of its waves. The universe resounded of cries of joy of all beings. The sun reappeared, and things of this world all resume their normal course.

The gods rushed to the feet of Amaterasu. They beg her no longer close herself to the cave and not to deprive them of light. She promises, but she requires a condition. She asked his brother Susanoo-no-Mikoto to be punished for his crime. There will be banned from the assembly of gods, driven from Takamagahara and exiled to a distant land. This was done so, and Susanoo-no-Mikoto, expelled from heaven, was cast out into the earth. He fell in the country of Idzumo, at the place now called Hinokawakami. There he remained for some time, crying on his great misfortune.

One day when he was walking on the edge of the river, he saw a pair of sticks that the current carried adrift.

– Because of these sticks, there is no doubt, upstream, there are human beings, the god concludes by logical reasoning.

 Susanoo-no-Mikoto, expelled from heaven, was cast out into the earth.

Susanoo-no-Mikoto, expelled from heaven, was cast out into the earth.

He left immediately and runs up the course of the river. He soon finds himself in front of a hut, half dilapidated, located on the slope of a mountain. Susanoo-no-Mikoto approaches, stifling the sound of his steps, and, through the cracks of poorly attached door, looks inside. He sees a grizzled old man, an even more grizzled old woman, and a young girl of eighteen to twenty years. The old man and woman were crying, sitting near their small brazier. They seemed as burdened under the weight of a heartbreak. The girl did not cry, but on her face was easily seen a great melancholy and gentle resignation.

She was extraordinarily beautiful. The god had never thought that among mortals he could meet a so beautiful and charming creatures. He felt at the sight of an indescribable something intimate, he had never experienced. He who descended from the heights of Takamagahara undergoes the charm of an ardent love for this humble daughter of the earth.

He slowly opened the door and quietly entered the interior of the hut. The girl, in her view, uttered a cry of horror and rushed to his mother. The old man and his wife looked up and their eyes stared amazed with fear the unknown traveler. Susanoo-no-Mikoto was beautiful, too beautiful of a divine beauty. His face exuded strength and health. His gigantic height commanded respect.

The god, approaching the three people, asked them in a gentle and friendly voice what was the cause of their tears and grief in which they appeared plunged. It was the old man who answers:

– Noble traveler, he said, we do not know who you are, but your sympathy moves us and touches us. My name is Ashinazuchi; my wife is called Katazuchi, and name our daughter that you see there is Inadahime; we had eight children since our marriage and all these children were girls. The one you see here is the last we have.

You will judge our unhappiness and know the cause of our tears. Near here inhabits the Yamata monster, the eight-headed serpent, who is thirty feet long. This snake comes every year in these parts, and carries us every time one of our children devouring him. Our seven first girls have disappeared one after the other, it only remains for us now the one before you.

Today the monster will come. He will come at nightfall and he will take our last child to devour. Here it is, noble traveler, the story of our misfortune, and the reason for our sorrow.

– Good people, responds Susanoo-no-Mikoto, moved to tears, thank heaven for having sent me today near you. I’ll stay until nightfall. I will wait for the snake. I will kill him with my hand, and save your girl.

The old man looked at him and smiled sadly:

– I admire, he said, your bravery and kindness. But, alas! you don’t know who you have to do. No, no; do not expose yourself; you would lose your precious life there unnecessarily.

– And you, noble old man, then answers the god himself up to the height of its height, you know who is the one that speaks to you and promises salvation of your daughter. Learn it so. I am not a man. My name is Susanoo-no-Mikoto, I am the brother of the goddess Amaterasu.

At these words the old man, his wife and daughter, all trembling with fear and happiness, bow down and worship; then, clasping her hands and advancing to his feet, thank you for coming close to them to rescue them …

The god goes alone to the mountain. It takes eight huge blocks of stone and transports them to the cabin. Then he chant on them some mysterious words, and the stones turn into troughs. It then fills with water from the river, knocks three times on each with the tip of his sword, and this water is transformed instantly into delicious sake.

He then put the young and beautiful Inadahime on a small mound, so that his face is reflected in each of the troughs. He hides himself behind a rock and waits, quiet and calm, the arrival of the snake.

The sun had disappeared behind the mountain. The moon had just risen. Suddenly, in the distance, he could see something like sixteen diamond stars shining brightly in the depth of night. These stars approached. They were eyes sparkling with lust of eight heads of the monster. He came close to the cabin and it was heard eight sharp hisses. The old man and his wife trembled. This cry reminded them their seven dead girls and the danger to their beloved Inadahime.

The snake, attracted by the smell of sake, approaches slowly, and eight heads rise of the same movement. He sees in each of the troughs the face that he seeks. His huge tail swings a few time the space, a sign of his immense joy. The eight heads immediately plunge, and the monster, all at once, swallows the precious liquid, to the last drop. But as soon as his eyes are troubled, vertigo of drunkenness seized him, he covers the ground, then folds on itself and falls asleep.

Susanoo-no-Mikoto out at this time of hiding. He drew his sword from the scabbard, and, with a skilled hand, cut one after another the eight heads of the monster, whose body sprang in frightening contortions.

The god wants to terminate his victim. He cut into pieces. But just as he was about separating the tail from the trunk, his sword is stopped by a resistant body, which heard a metallic sound. The god, surprised, stopped and delicately half opens the flesh. What is not surprise to see in the tail of monster another glittering sword encrusted with diamonds and precious stones, a sword so beautiful that the gods of Takamagahara never saw in like that!

Susanoo-no-Mikoto cuts, one after another, the eight-headed serpent. 

Susanoo-no-Mikoto cuts, one after another, the eight-headed serpent.

Susanoo-no-Mikoto pulled it and said to himself that he will take it in heaven, making a gift to his sister Amaterasu; this way then he will be reconciled with her, and be able to resume his place in the assembly of the gods …

We can imagine the joy of the poor old man and his wife, learning that the monster is dead and their child saved. They did not know how to thank god. He asked and obtained the hand of the beautiful Inadahime, he greatly loved her. They married, built at the foot of the mountain an elegant residential, and long lived together in perfect harmony. Then, when the time of exile had reached its term, the god returned to Takamagahara, took with him the beautiful Inadahime, and presented it to other gods, who named goddess.

We still see today in the country of Idzumo, the house inhabited by  Susanoo-no-Mikoto and his happy wife. This house became a temple, the most famous temple of Japan after that of Ise. The priests who serve are direct descendants of these two deities. The people of the country have always been the most venerated temple. Same people come on pilgrimage from all parts of Japan.

The precious sword that Susanoo-no-Mikoto found in the tail of the monster Yamata was offered in response to the Emperor of Japan, by the goddess Amaterasu. It is called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. This sword, the sacred mirror, and the seal of precious stone, are the three talismans of the Empire.

It is preserved, they say, to Atsuta, Owari province.

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