The Age of Gods

By Joe Maurantonio

In the Beginning...

The god Izanagi and goddess Izanami, entrusted by the Heavenly Dieties with the task of creating the land and fixing it in place, stood on the Floating Bridge of Heaven and thrust down the Heavenly Jeweled Spear into the vast sea below. After churning and churning, they raise the spear. The salt water brine that dripped from the tip of the spear's point became the island of Onogorojima.

The two dieties descend to this land where they performed a marriage rite. Izanami gave birth to the islands of Japan and their deities. But in giving birth to the fire god, Inazumi is horribly burned and dies. At the moment of her death, the gods of metal, earth, water, and youthful production are born from her excretia.

Izanagi traveled to the Land of the Dead, in an attempt to urge Izanami to return with him. Though she agreed to consult with the gods of Yomi (the dead), she asks Izanagi not to look at her. Impatient for her return, he enters the palace of Yomi, only to see her corpse horribly disfigured. He flees as Izanami leads the minions of Yomi to pursue him. As he escapes, he blocks the entrance to Yomi with a huge boulder. Izanami declares that in each passing day she will take a thousand lives from the land of the living and Izanagi declares he will erect huts so that a thousand five hundred will be born.

Defilied by his journey to Yomi, Izanagi travels to purtify himself by bathing. From each piece of clothing, from each drop of cleasing water, a new diety is born. Among these are: Amaterasu Omikami (goddess of the sun), Tsukuyomi no Mikito (god of the moon), and Susanoo no Mikito (god of storms). Izanagi charges Ameterasu with the rule of the High Plain of Heaven.

This legend is extravagant in detail and immediately illuminates us to the historical significance of the Yari (So), or spear, to the Japanese martial traditions.