God of the sea, storms, fields, the harvest, marriage, and love
|Japanese||須佐之男命, 素戔嗚尊, 素盞嗚尊, 須佐乃袁尊, 須佐能乎命|
|Major cult center|
Susanoo (スサノオ; historical orthography: スサノヲ, 'Susanowo') is a kami in Japanese mythology. The younger brother of Amaterasu, goddess of the sun and mythical ancestress of the Japanese imperial line, he is a multifaceted deity with contradictory characteristics (both good and bad), being portrayed in various stories either as a wild, impetuous god associated with the sea and storms, as a heroic figure who killed a monstrous serpent, or as a local deity linked with the harvest and agriculture. Syncretic beliefs that arose after the introduction of Buddhism to Japan also saw Susanoo becoming conflated with deities of pestilence and disease.
Susanoo, alongside Amaterasu and the earthly kami Ōkuninushi (also Ōnamuchi) – depicted as either Susanoo's son or scion depending on the source – is one of the central deities of the imperial Japanese mythological cycle recorded in the Kojiki (c. 712 CE) and the Nihon Shoki (720 CE). One of the gazetteer reports (Fudoki) commissioned by the imperial court during the same period these texts were written, that of Izumo Province (modern Shimane Prefecture) in western Japan, also contains a number of short legends concerning Susanoo or his children, suggesting a connection between the god and this region.
In addition, a few other myths also hint at a connection between Susanoo and the Korean Peninsula.
Susanoo's name is variously given in the Kojiki as 'Takehaya-Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (建速須佐之男命), 'Haya-Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (速須佐之男命), or simply as 'Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (須佐之男命). He is meanwhile named in the Nihon Shoki as 'Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (素戔嗚尊), 'Kamu-Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (神素戔嗚尊), 'Haya-Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (速素戔嗚尊), and 'Take-Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (武素戔嗚尊). The Fudoki of Izumo Province renders his name both as 'Kamu-Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (神須佐能袁命) and 'Susanoo-no-Mikoto' (須佐能乎命). In these texts the following honorific prefixes are attached to his name: take- (建/武, "brave"), haya- (速, "swift"), and kamu- (神, "divine").
The susa in Susanoo's name has been variously explained as being derived from either of the following words:
The Kojiki (c. 712 CE) and the Nihon Shoki (720 CE) both agree in their description of Susanoo as the son of the god Izanagi and the younger brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon. The circumstances surrounding the birth of these three deities, collectively known as the "Three Precious Children" (三貴子, Mihashira-no-Uzunomiko, Sankishi), however, vary between sources.
Before Susanoo leaves, he ascends to Takamagahara, wishing to say farewell to his sister Amaterasu. As he did so, the mountains and rivers shook and the land quaked. Amaterasu, suspicious of his motives, went out to meet him dressed in male clothing and clad in armor, but when Susanoo proposed a trial by pledge (ukehi) to prove his sincerity, she accepted. In the ritual, the two gods each chewed and spat out an object carried by the other (in some variants, an item they each possessed).
Amaterasu declares that the male deities were hers because they were born of her necklace, and that the three goddesses were Susanoo's. Susanoo, announcing that he had won the trial,[a] thus signifying the purity of his intentions, "raged with victory" and proceeded to wreak havoc by destroying his sister's rice fields, defecating in her palace and flaying the 'heavenly piebald horse' (天斑駒, ame-no-fuchikoma), which he then hurled at Amaterasu's loom, killing one of her weaving maidens. A furious Amaterasu in response hid inside the Ama-no-Iwato ("Heavenly Rock Cave"), plunging heaven and earth into total darkness. The gods, led by Omoikane-no-Kami (思金神), eventually persuade her to come out of the cave, restoring light to the world. As punishment for his misdeeds, Susanoo is thrown out of Takamagahara:
At this time the eight-hundred myriad deities deliberated together, imposed upon Haya-Susanoo-no-Mikoto a fine of a thousand tables of restitutive gifts, and also, cutting off his beard and the nails of his hands and feet, had him exorcised and expelled him with a divine expulsion.
After this, Sosa no wo no Mikoto said:—'All the Gods have banished me, and I am now about to depart for ever. Why should I not see my elder sister face to face; and why take it on me of my own accord to depart without more ado?' So he again ascended to Heaven, disturbing Heaven and disturbing Earth. Now Ame no Uzume, seeing this, reported it to the Sun-Goddess. The Sun-Goddess said:—'My younger brother has no good purpose in coming up. It is surely because he wishes to rob me of my kingdom. Though I am a woman, why should I shrink?' So she arrayed herself in martial garb, etc., etc.
Thereupon Sosa no wo no Mikoto swore to her, and said:—'If I have come up again cherishing evil feelings, the children which I shall now produce by chewing jewels will certainly be females, and in that case they must be sent down to the Central Land of Reed-Plains. But if my intentions are pure, then I shall produce male children, and in that case they must be made to rule the Heavens. The same oath will also hold good as to the children produced by my elder sister.'
The two then perform the ukehi ritual; Susanoo produces six male deities from the magatama beads on his hair knots. Declaring that his intentions were indeed pure, Susanoo gives the six gods to Amaterasu's care and departs.
|1. Okitsushimahime-no-Mikoto, a.k.a. Ichikishimahime-no-Mikoto
|Born when Amaterasu||Broke Susanoo's ten-span sword into three and chewed them||Broke Susanoo's ten-span sword into three and chewed them||1. Ate her ten-span sword
2. Ate her nine-span sword
3. Ate her eight-span sword
|1. Bit off the upper part of Susanoo's magatama beads
2. Bit off the middle part of the beads
3. Bit off the lower part of the beads
|1. Ate her ten-span sword
2. Ate her nine-span sword
4. Ate her eight-span sword
|Ate her ten-span sword|
6. Kumano-no-Oshihomi-no-Mikoto, a.k.a. Kumano-no-Oshikuma-no-Mikoto
|Born when Susanoo||1. Chewed the strings of magatama beads entwined in Amaterasu's left hair bunch
2. Chewed the beads entwined in Amaterasu's right hair bunch
3. Chewed the beads on the vine securing her hair
4. Chewed the beads wrapped around Amaterasu's left wrist
5. Chewed the beads wrapped around Amaterasu's right wrist
|Chewed the strings of magatama beads entwined in Amaterasu's hair and wrists||Chewed his necklace of magatama beads||Bit off the end of Amaterasu's sword||1. Chewed the magatama beads entwined in his left hair bunch and spat them on the palm of his left hand
2. Chewed the beads entwined in his right hair bunch and spat them on the palm of his right hand
3. Chewed the beads of his necklace and laid them on his left forearm
4. Laid the beads on his right forearm
5. Laid the beads on his left foot
6. Laid the beads on his right foot
|1. Chewed the magatama beads entwined in his right hair bunch and laid them on the palm of his left hand|
2. Chewed the beads entwined in his right hair bunch and laid them on the palm of his right hand
The Kojiki relates that during his banishment, Susanoo asked the goddess of food, Ōgetsuhime-no-Kami (大気都比売神), to give him something to eat. Upon finding out that the goddess produced foodstuffs from her mouth, nose, and rectum, a disgusted Susanoo killed her, at which various crops, plants and seeds spring from her dead body. This account is not found in the Nihon Shoki, where a similar story is told of Tsukuyomi and the goddess Ukemochi.
After his banishment, Susanoo came down from heaven to Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni (葦原中国, the 'Central Land of Reed Plains', i.e. the earthly land of Japan), to the land of Izumo, where he met an elderly couple named Ashinazuchi (足名椎 / 脚摩乳) and Tenazuchi (手名椎 / 手摩乳), who told him that seven of their eight daughters had been devoured by a monstrous serpent known as the Yamata no Orochi (八俣遠呂智 / 八岐大蛇, "eight-forked serpent") and it was nearing time for their eighth, Kushinadahime (櫛名田比売; also called Kushiinadahime, Inadahime, or Makami-Furu-Kushiinadahime in the Shoki).
Sympathizing with their plight, Susanoo hid Kushinadahime by transforming her into a comb (kushi), which he placed in his hair. He then made the serpent drunk on strong sake and then killed it as it lay in a drunken stupor. From within the serpent's tail Susanoo discovered the sword Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (天叢雲剣, "Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven"), also known as Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙剣, "Grass-Cutting Sword"), which he then presented to Amaterasu as a reconciliatory gift.
[Susanoo-no-Mikoto] said to Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi-no-Kami:
"Distill thick wine of eight-fold brewings; build a fence, and make eight doors in the fence. At each door, tie together eight platforms, and on each of these platforms place a wine barrel. Fill each barrel with the thick wine of eight-fold brewings, and wait."
They made the preparations as he had instructed, and as they waited, the eight-tailed dragon came indeed, as [the old man] had said.
Putting one head into each of the barrels, he drank the wine; then, becoming drunk, he lay down and slept.
Then Haya-Susanoo-no-Mikoto unsheathed the sword ten hands long which he was wearing at his side, and hacked the dragon to pieces, so that the Hi river ran with blood.
When he cut [the dragon's] middle tail, the blade of his sword broke. Thinking this strange, he thrust deeper with the stub of his sword, until a great sharp sword appeared.
He took this sword out and, thinking it an extraordinary thing, reported [the matter] and presented [the sword] to Amaterasu-Ōmikami.
This is the sword Kusa-nagi.
Amaterasu later bequeathed the sword to Ninigi, her grandson by Ame-no-Oshihomimi, along with the mirror Yata no Kagami and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama. This sacred sword, mirror, and jewel collectively became the three Imperial Regalia of Japan.
While most accounts place Susanoo's descent in the headwaters of the river Hi in Izumo (肥河 / 簸之川, Hi-no-Kawa, identified with the Hii River in modern Shimane Prefecture), with the Kojiki specifying the area to be a place called Torikami (鳥髮, identified with Mount Sentsū in eastern Shimane), one variant in the Shoki instead has Susanoo descend to the upper reaches of the river E (可愛之川, E-no-kawa) in the province of Aki (identified with the Gōnokawa River in modern Hiroshima Prefecture). Kushinadahime's parents are here given the names Ashinazu-Tenazu (脚摩手摩) and Inada-no-Miyanushi-Susa-no-Yatsumimi (稲田宮主簀狭之八箇耳); here, Kushinadahime is not yet born when Susanoo slew the Yamata no Orochi.
The ten-span sword Susanoo used to slay the Yamata no Orochi, unnamed in the Kojiki and the Shoki's main text, is variously named in the Shoki's variants as Orochi-no-Aramasa (蛇之麁正, 'Rough [and] True [Blade] of the Serpent'), Orochi-no-Karasabi-no-Tsurugi (蛇韓鋤之剣, 'Korean (Kara) Sword of the Serpent' or 'Flashing Sword of the Serpent'), and Ame-no-Haekiri-no-Tsurugi (天蝿斫剣, 'Heavenly Fly Cutter', also Ame-no-Hahakiri 'Heavenly Serpent (haha) Cutter'). In the Kogo Shūi it is dubbed Ame-no-Habakiri (天羽々斬, also Ame-no-Hahakiri). This sword is said to have been originally enshrined in Isonokami Futsumitama Shrine in Bizen Province (modern Okayama Prefecture) before it was transferred to Isonokami Shrine in Yamato Province (modern Nara Prefecture).
A variant account in the Shoki relates that after Susanoo was banished due to his bad behavior, he descended from heaven, accompanied by a son named Isotakeru-no-Mikoto (五十猛命), to a place called 'Soshimori' (曽尸茂梨) in the land of Shiragi (the Korean kingdom of Silla) before going to Izumo. Disliking the place, they crossed the sea in a boat made of clay until they arrived at Torikami Peak (鳥上之峯, Torikami no mine) by the upper waters of the river Hi in Izumo.
After slaying the Yamata no Orochi, Susanoo looked for a suitable place in Izumo to live in. Upon arriving at a place called Suga (須賀 / 清), he declared, "Coming to this place, my heart is refreshed (sugasugashi)." He then erected a palace there and made a song:
Man'yogana (Kojiki): 夜久毛多都 伊豆毛夜幣賀岐 都麻碁微爾 夜幣賀岐都久流 曾能夜幣賀岐袁
Old Japanese: yakumo1 tatu / idumo1 yape1gaki1 / tumago2mi2 ni / yape1gaki1 tukuru / so2no2 yape1gaki1 wo
Modern Japanese: yakumo tatsu / izumo yaegaki / tsumagomi ni / yaegaki tsukuru / sono yaegaki o
Donald L. Philippi (1968) translates the song into English thus:
The many-fenced palace of IDUMO
Of the many clouds rising—
To dwell there with my spouse
Do I build a many-fenced palace:
Ah, that many-fenced palace!
The Kojiki adds that Susanoo appointed Kushinadahime's father Ashinazuchi to be the headman of his new dwelling, bestowing upon him the name Inada-no-Miyanushi-Suga-no-Yatsumimi-no-Kami (稲田宮主須賀之八耳神, 'Master of the Palace of Inada, the Eight-Eared Deity of Suga'). With his new wife Kushinadahime, Susanoo had a child named Yashimajinumi-no-Kami (八島士奴美神). He then took another wife named Kamu-Ōichihime (神大市比売), the daughter of Ōyamatsumi, the god of mountains, and had two children by her: Ōtoshi-no-Kami (大年神), the god of the harvest, and Ukanomitama-no-Kami (宇迦之御魂神), the god of agriculture.
The Shoki's main narrative is roughly similar: Susanoo appoints Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi to be the keepers of his palace and gives them the title Inada-no-Miyanushi. The child born to Susanoo and Kushiinadahime in this version is identified as Ōnamuchi-no-Kami (大己貴神, the Kojiki's Ōkuninushi).
After having thus lived for a time in Izumo, Susanoo at length finally found his way to Ne-no-Kuni.
One variant in the Shoki has Susanoo pulling out hairs from different parts of his body and turning them into different kinds of trees. Determining the use of each, he then gives them to his three children – Isotakeru-no-Mikoto, Ōyatsuhime-no-Mikoto (大屋津姫命), and Tsumatsuhime-no-Mikoto (枛津姫命) – to spread in Japan. Susanoo then settled down in a place called Kumanari-no-Take (熊成峯) before going to Ne-no-Kuni.
The myth of Susanoo's descent in Soshimori has Isotakeru bringing seeds with him from Takamagahara which he did not choose to plant in Korea but rather spread throughout Japan, beginning with Tsukushi Province. The narrative adds that it is, for this reason, why Isotakeru is styled Isaoshi-no-Kami (有功之神, 'Meritorious Deity').
In the Kojiki, a sixth-generation descendant of Susanoo, Ōnamuji-no-Kami (大穴牟遅神), ends up in Ne-no-Kuni to escape his wicked elder brothers who make repeated attempts on his life. There he meets and falls in love with Susanoo's daughter Suseribime (須勢理毘売). Upon learning of their affair, Susanoo imposes four trials on Ōnamuji:
After Susanoo was lulled to sleep, Ōnamuji tied Susanoo's hair to the hall's rafters and blocked the door with an enormous boulder. Taking his new wife Suseribime as well as Susanoo's sword, koto, and bow and arrows with him, Ōnamuji thus fled the palace. The koto brushed against a tree as the two were fleeing; the sound awakens Susanoo, who, rising with a start, knocks his palace down around him. Susanoo then pursued them as far as the slopes of Yomotsu Hirasaka (黄泉比良坂, the 'Flat Slope of Yomi'). As the two departed, Susanoo grudgingly gave his blessing to Ōnamuji, advising him to change his name to Ōkuninushi-no-Kami (大国主神, "Master of the Great Land"). Using the weapons he obtained from Susanoo, Ōkuninushi defeats his brothers and becomes the undisputed ruler of Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni.
The Fudoki of Izumo Province (completed 733 CE) records the following etiological legends which feature Susanoo and his children:
Township of Susa. It is 6.3 miles west of the district office. The god Susanowo said, "Though this land is small, it is good land for me to own. I would rather have my name [associated with this land than] with rocks or trees." After saying this, he left his spirit to stay quiet at this place and established the Great Rice Field of Susa and the Small Rice Field of Susa. That is why it is called Susa. There are tax granaries in this township.
The syncretic deity Gozu Tennō (牛頭天王, "Ox-Headed Heavenly King"), originally worshiped at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto and at other shrines such as Tsushima Shrine in Aichi Prefecture, was historically conflated with Susanoo. Originally a deity of foreign import (India and Korea have all been suggested as possible origins), Gozu Tennō was widely revered since the Heian period as a god of pestilence, who both caused disease and cured them.
Gozu Tennō became associated with another deity called Mutō-no-Kami (武塔神) or Mutō Tenjin (武塔天神), who appears in the legend of Somin Shōrai (蘇民将来). This legend relates that Mutō, a god from the northern sea, embarked on a long journey to court the daughter of the god of the southern seas. On his way he sought lodging from a wealthy man, but was turned down. He then went to the home of a poor man (sometimes identified as the rich man's brother) named Somin Shōrai, who gave him food and shelter. Years later, Mutō returned and slew the rich man and his family but spared Somin Shōrai's house. Some versions of the story have Mutō repaying Somin Shōrai for his hospitality by giving the poor man's daughter a wreath of susuki (Miscanthus sinensis) reeds that she is to wear while declaring, "[I am] the descendant of Somin Shōrai" (蘇民将来之子孫也, Somin Shōrai no shison nari). By doing so, she and her descendants would be spared from pestilence. The deity in this story, Mutō, is often conflated with Gozu Tennō (who, as his name implies, was born with the head of an ox) in later retellings, though one version identifies Gozu Tennō as Mutō Tenjin's son.
The earliest known version of this legend, found in the Fudoki of Bingo Province (modern eastern Hiroshima Prefecture) compiled during the Nara period (preserved in an extract quoted by scholar and Shinto priest Urabe Kanekata in the Shaku Nihongi), has Mutō explicitly identify himself as Susanoo. This suggests that Susanoo and Mutō Tenjin were already conflated in the Nara period, if not earlier. Sources that equate Gozu Tennō with Susanoo only first appear during the Kamakura period (1185–1333), although one theory supposes that these three gods and various other disease-related deities were already loosely coalesced around the 9th century, probably around the year 877 when a major epidemic swept through Japan.
The image of Susanoo that can be gleaned from various texts is rather complex and contradictory. In the Kojiki and the Shoki he is portrayed first as a petulant young man, then as an unpredictable, violent boor who causes chaos and destruction before turning into a monster-slaying culture hero after descending into the world of men, while in the Izumo Fudoki, he is simply a local god apparently connected with rice fields, with almost none of the traits associated with him in the imperial mythologies being mentioned. Due to his multifaceted nature, various authors have had differing opinions regarding Susanoo's origins and original character.
The Edo period kokugaku scholar Motoori Norinaga, in his Kojiki-den (Commentary on the Kojiki), characterized Susanoo as an evil god in contrast to his elder siblings Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, as the unclean air of the land of the dead still adhered to Izanagi's nose from which he was born and was not purified completely during Izanagi's ritual ablutions. The early 20th century historian Tsuda Sōkichi, who put forward the then-controversial theory that the Kojiki's accounts were not based on history (as Edo period kokugaku and State Shinto ideology believed them to be) but rather propagandistic myths concocted to explain and legitimize the rule of the imperial (Yamato) dynasty, also saw Susanoo as a negative figure, arguing that he was created to serve as the rebellious opposite of the imperial ancestress Amaterasu. Ethnologist Ōbayashi Taryō, speaking from the standpoint of comparative mythology, opined that the stories concerning the three deities were ultimately derived from a continental (Southeast Asian) myth in which the Sun, the Moon and the Dark Star are siblings and the Dark Star plays an antagonistic role (cf. Rahu and Ketu from Hindu mythology); Ōbayashi thus also interprets Susanoo as a bad hero.
Other scholars, however, take the position that Susanoo was not originally conceived of as a negative deity. Mythologist Matsumura Takeo for instance believed the Izumo Fudoki to more accurately reflect Susanoo's original character: a peaceful, simple kami of the rice fields. In Matsumura's view, Susanoo's character was deliberately reversed when he was grafted into the imperial mythology by the compilers of the Kojiki. Matsumoto Nobuhiro, in a similar vein, interpreted Susanoo as a harvest deity. While the Izumo Fudoki claims that the township of Susa in Izumo is named after its deity Susanoo, it has been proposed that the opposite might have actually been the case and Susanoo was named after the place, with his name being understood in this case as meaning "Man (o) of Susa."
While both Matsumura and Matsumoto preferred to connect Susanoo with rice fields and the harvest, Matsumae Takeshi put forward the theory that Susanoo was originally worshiped as a patron deity of sailors. Unlike other scholars who connect Susanoo with Izumo, Matsumae instead saw Kii Province (the modern prefectures of Wakayama and Mie) as the birthplace of Susanoo worship, pointing out that there was also a settlement in Kii named Susa (須佐). (In the Kojiki, Ōnamuji enters Susanoo's realm, Ne-no-Kuni, through the fork of a tree in Kii.) Matsumae proposed that the worship of Susanoo was brought to other places in Japan by seafaring peoples from Kii, a land rich in timber (the province's name is itself derived from the word ki meaning 'tree').
A few myths, such as that of Susanoo's descent in Soshimori in Silla, seem to suggest a connection between the god and the Korean Peninsula. Indeed, some scholars have hypothesized that the deities who were eventually conflated with Susanoo, Mutō Tenjin, and Gozu Tennō, may have had Korean origins as well, with the name 'Mutō' (武塔, historical orthography: mutau) being linked with the Korean word mudang "shamaness," and 'Gozu' being explained as a calque of 'Soshimori', here interpreted as being derived from a Korean toponym meaning 'Bull's (so) Head (mari)'. The name 'Susanoo' itself has been interpreted as being related to the Middle Korean title susung (transliterated as 次次雄 or 慈充), meaning 'master' or 'shaman', notably applied to Namhae, the second king of Silla, in the Samguk Sagi. Susanoo is thus supposed in this view to have originally been a foreign god (蕃神, banshin), perhaps a deified shaman, whose origins may be traced back to Korea.
Emilia Gadeleva (2000) sees Susanoo's original character as being that of a rain god – more precisely, a god associated with rainmaking – with his association with the harvest and a number of other elements from his myths ultimately springing from his connection with rainwater. He thus serves as a contrast and a parallel to Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. Gadeleva also acknowledges the foreign elements in the god's character by supposing that rainmaking rituals and concepts were brought to Japan in ancient times from the continent, with the figure of the Korean shaman (susung) who magically controlled the abundance of rain eventually morphing into the Japanese Susanoo, but at the same time stresses that Susanoo is not completely a foreign import but must have had Japanese roots at his core. In Gadeleva's view, while the god certainly underwent drastic changes upon his introduction in the imperial myth cycle, Susanoo's character already bore positive and negative features since the beginning, with both elements stemming from his association with rain. As the right quantity of rainwater was vital for ensuring a rich harvest, calamities caused by too much or too little rainfall (i.e. floods, drought, or epidemics) would have been blamed on the rain god for not doing his job properly. This, according to Gadeleva, underlies the occasional portrayal of Susanoo in a negative light.
In the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, Susanoo is repeatedly associated with Ne-no-Kuni (Japanese: 根の国; the "Land of Roots"). While sometimes seemingly considered to be more or less identical to Yomi, the Land of the Dead (the Kojiki speaks of Ne-no-Kuni as the land of Susanoo's deceased mother Izanami, who is stated earlier in the narrative to have become the ruler of Yomi, and calls the slope serving at its exit the Yomotsu Hirasaka, the 'Flat Slope of Yomi'), it would seem that the two were originally considered to be different locations.
While Matsumura Takeo suggested that Ne-no-Kuni originally referred to the dimly remembered original homeland of the Japanese people, Emilia Gadeleva instead proposes that the two locales, while similar in that both were subterranean realms associated with darkness, differed from each other in that Yomi was associated with death, while Ne-no-Kuni, as implied by the myth about Ōnamuji, was seemingly associated with rebirth. Ne-no-Kuni being a land of revival, as per Gadeleva's theory, is why Susanoo was connected to it: Susanoo, as the god that brought rain and with it, the harvest, was needed in Ne-no-Kuni to secure the rebirth of crops. In time, however, the two locations were confused with each other, so that by the time the Kojiki and the Shoki were written Ne-no-Kuni came to be seen like Yomi as an unclean realm of the dead. Gadeleva argues that this new image of Ne-no-Kuni as a place of evil and impurity contributed to Susanoo becoming more and more associated with calamity and violence.
Susanoo's acts of violence after proving his sincerity in the ukehi ritual has been a source of puzzlement to many scholars. While Edo period authors such as Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane believed that the order of the events had become confused and suggested altering the narrative sequence so that Susanoo's ravages would come before, and not after, his victory in the ukehi, Donald Philippi criticized such solutions as "untenable from a textual standpoint." (Note that as mentioned above, one of the variants in the Shoki does place Susanoo's ravages and banishment before the performance of the ukehi ritual.)
Tsuda Sōkichi saw a political significance in this story: he interpreted Amaterasu as an emperor-symbol, while Susanoo in his view symbolized the various rebels who (unsuccessfully) rose up against the Yamato court.
Emilia Gadeleva observes that Susanoo, at this point in the narrative, is portrayed similarly to the hero Yamato Takeru (Ousu-no-Mikoto), in that both were rough young men possessed with "valor and ferocity" (takeku-araki kokoro); their lack of control over their fierce temperament leads them to commit violent acts. It was therefore imperative to direct their energies elsewhere: Ousu-no-Mikoto was sent by his father, the Emperor Keikō, to lead conquering expeditions, while Susanoo was expelled by the heavenly gods. This ultimately resulted in the two becoming famed as heroic figures.
A prayer or norito originally recited by the priestly Nakatomi clan in the presence of the court during the Great Exorcism (大祓, Ōharae) ritual of the last day of the sixth month, more commonly known today as the Ōharae no Kotoba (大祓詞, 'Words of the Great Exorcism'), lists eight "heavenly sins" (Japanese: 天つ罪, amatsu-tsumi), most of which are agricultural in nature:
1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 are committed by Susanoo in the Kojiki, while 3, 4, 5 are attributed to him in the Shoki. In ancient Japanese society, offenses related to agriculture were regarded as abhorrent as those that caused ritual impurity.
One of the offensive acts Susanoo committed during his rampage was 'skinning backward' (逆剥, sakahagi) the Ame-no-Fuchikoma (Japanese: 天の斑駒, "Heavenly-Piebald Horse"). Regarding this, William George Aston observed, "Indian myth has a piebald or spotted deer or cow among celestial objects. The idea is probably suggested by the appearance of the stars." Nelly Naumann (1982) meanwhile interpreted the spotted horse as a lunar symbol, with Susanoo's action being equivalent to the devouring or killing of the moon. To Naumann, the act of flaying itself, because it is performed in reverse, is intended to be a magical act that caused death. Indeed, in the Kojiki when Susanoo throws the flayed horse (or its hide) to Amaterasu's weaving hall, one of the weaving maidens injures herself and dies. (In the Shoki, it is Amaterasu herself who is alarmed and injured.) Emilia Gadeleva meanwhile connects Susanoo's act of skinning and flinging the horse with ancient Korean rainmaking rituals, which involved animal sacrifice.
The gods punish Susanoo for his rampages by cutting off his beard, fingernails, and toenails. One textual tradition in which the relevant passage is read as "cutting off his beard and causing the nails of his hands and feet to be extracted" (亦切鬚及手足爪令拔而) suggests that this was something along the lines of corporal punishment. Another tradition which reads the passage as "cutting off his beard and the nails of his hands and feet, had him exorcised" (亦切鬚及手足爪令祓而) meanwhile suggests that this was an act of purification, in which the sins and pollution that adhered to Susanoo are removed, thus turning him from a destroyer of life into a giver of life.
Main article: Family Tree of Japanese deities
|Susanoo's family tree (based on the Kojiki)|
Susanoo's consorts are:
Susanoo's child by Kushinadahime is variously identified as Yashimajinumi-no-Kami (八島士奴美神) in the Kojiki and as Ōnamuchi-no-Kami (大己貴神) in the Nihon Shoki's main narrative. (In the Kojiki and in variant accounts contained in the Shoki, Ōnamuchi / Ōnamuji (Ōkuninushi) is instead Susanoo's descendant.)
Susanoo's children by Kamu-Ōichihime meanwhile are:
Susanoo's children who are either born without a female partner or whose mother is unidentified are:
Deities identified as Susanoo's children found only in the Izumo Fudoki are:
An Edo period text, the Wakan Sansai Zue (和漢三才図会, lit. "Illustrated Sino-Japanese Encyclopedia"), identifies a monstrous goddess known as Ama-no-Zako (天逆毎) as an offspring of Susanoo.
In addition to his connections with the sea and tempests, due to his mythical role as the slayer of the Yamata no Orochi and his historical association with pestilence deities such as Gozu Tennō, Susanoo is also venerated as a god who wards off misfortune and calamity, being invoked especially against illness and disease. As his heroic act helped him win the hand of Kushinadahime, he is also considered to be a patron of love and marriage, such as in Hikawa Shrine in Saitama Prefecture (see below).
Susanoo is worshiped in a number of shrines throughout Japan, especially in Shimane Prefecture (the eastern part of which is the historical Izumo Province). A few notable examples are:
The following shrines were originally associated with Gozu Tennō:
The Hikawa Shrine network concentrated in Saitama and Tokyo (historical Musashi Province) also has Susanoo as its focus of worship, often alongside Kushinadahime.
See also: Shinto in popular culture
Main article: Nissen dōsoron
In the 20th century, Susanoo was depicted as the common ancestor of the modern Koreans while the Japanese were considered to be descendants of Amaterasu during the Japanese occupation of Korea by historians such as Shiratori Kurakichi, founder of the discipline of Oriental History (Tōyōshi 東洋史) in Tokyo Imperial University.
The theory linked the Koreans to Susanoo and in turn the Japanese which ultimately legitimized the colonization of the Korean peninsula by the Japanese.
Yamata Amasung Keibu Keioiba (English: Yamata-no-Orochi and Keibu Keioiba) is a Meitei language play that interweaves the stories of the two legendary creatures, Yamata-no-Orochi slain by Susanoo of Japanese folklore and Keibu Keioiba of Meitei folklore (Manipuri folklore). In the play, the role of Susanoo was played by Romario Thoudam Paona.
Along with Yamato Takeru, he was portrayed by Toshiro Mifune in The Birth of Japan. The film suggests Susanoo's grief over Izanami and resentment towards Izanagi caused his violent rampage.
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