Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Kojiki of ancient Japan

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The Kojiki (is the oldest surviving chronicle of ancient Japan. 

It contains three sections or books, the first of which recounts the age of spirit-deities (more properly known by the name, Kami) of ancient Japan, including a creation account and the adventures of the first and succeeding generations of gods and goddesses (such as Izanagi and Izanami, shown in the background of the center panel above, and Amaterasu shown at the top of the right panel above). 

The second volume recounts adventures in a heroic age in which legendary warriors, as well as warrior-kings and warrior-queens, battled one another as well as spirits and deities (beginning with the exploits of the first emperor Jinmu, the son of the goddess Amaterasu, who is depicted on the far right of the right-hand panel above, holding a tall bow with an eagle on top). The third book describes successive rulers, lineages, wars and feuds.

The ancient myths of Japan contained in the Kojiki can be conclusively demonstrated to share the same foundation of celestial metaphor which can also be seen at the foundation of all the world's other ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories, on every populated continent on our planet (as well as the islands scattered across the vast Pacific). 

For example, there is an episode in which a baby is cast adrift by his parents (who are the creator god and goddess Izanagi and Izanami), a story which most closely parallels the story of baby Maui in the myths and sacred stories of Aotearoa and the other Polynesian cultures across the Pacific islands. This story of the baby being cast adrift also of course parallels the story of baby Moses in the book of Genesis in the ancient Hebrew scriptures, as well as ancient legends surrounding the birth of the ancient king Sargon of Akkad, and the story of the birth of Karna (or Karnataka) in the Sanskrit texts of ancient India. All of these stories can be shown to be related to celestial figures, and set adrift in the band of the Milky Way in the sky.

There is also an episode in the Kojiki in which the Kami known as Great Deity has his hair tied to the rafters while he is asleep, by the Kami known as Great-Name-Possessor (see Kojiki volume one, section 23). When Great Deity's heavenly musical stringed-instrument is being carried away by Great-Name-Possessor, the instrument brushes against a tree and lets out a sound so resonant that the entire earth vibrates, awakening Great Deity, who shakes himself with his great strength and brings down the entire house, rafters and all. 

As the authors of Hamlet's Mill point out, there is a direct parallel here to the Old Testament story of Samson, during the contending with Delilah in chapter 16 of Judges, when she is trying to coax Samson into telling her the secret of his great strength. Samson at first tells Delilah various false methods of robbing him of his power (which she immediately tries upon him: if this were actually a literal and historical story, you would think that after two or three examples of her treachery, Samson would learn not to tell Delilah the real secret to robbing him of his strength). 

One of the false methods Samson tells Delilah involves weaving his hair into the web of her loom, which she promptly proceeds to do as soon as he is asleep -- and when he awakens, the ancient text tells us that Samson "went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web" (Judges 16: 14), in a direct parallel to the ancient myth recorded in the Kojiki from half a world away. The authors of Hamlet's Mill point out these parallels regarding pulling down buildings with one's hair on page 172, in the chapter entitled "Samson Under Many Skies."

All of these parallels are very unlikely to have simply popped-up independently of one another in the myths around the world -- the more so because they can all be shown to be connected to very specific constellations in very specific regions of the sky, constellations with features which manifest themselves in the Star Myths of the world by taking on the same familiar patterns over and over again. 

And yet, these constellational features are by no means obvious -- in many cases they are very obscure -- and therefore it is very difficult to argue that very different cultures around the world all decided to settle on the same way of incorporating these constellational features into their myths. It is far more likely that they all belong to some extremely ancient system which lies back of the different cultures of the world, some ancient system belonging to a culture or civilization in extreme antiquity, predating even the earliest Pyramid Texts of ancient Egypt and the earliest cuneiform tablets of ancient Mesopotamia (which can also be shown to be using the same system right from the outset) -- some forgotten ancient origin situated so far back in time that today we have no record of its existence.

Another ancient myth of Japan which is recorded in the Kojiki is an example of the "failed rescue from the land of the dead," which is also a familiar myth-pattern which shows up in many other cultures in lands very far removed around the globe and separated by vast oceans from the islands of Japan. The great goddess Izanami is burned to death while giving birth to the Swift-Burning-Flame-Child, and Izanagi buries her atop a mountain (he also grasps his awesome sword and cuts off the head of the Burning-Flame-Child). 

Later, Izanagi cannot bear to be without her, so he goes down to the underworld to ask her to come again and help him in the unfinished work of the lands of the world that they were creating together, but she laments and tells him that he is too late -- she has eaten of the food of the underworld and can no longer return (this is a clear parallel to the story of Persephone in the myths of ancient Greece: its celestial import is addressed in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two, which is all about the myths of ancient Greece).  

Then, Izanami tells Izanagi that she still desires to go with him, but that she must go discuss the matter with the deities of the underworld -- and warns him sternly that he must not look back at her if she is allowed to follow him. As in so many other manifestations of this pattern around the world, of course, Izanagi fails to heed her warning, and he breaks off one of the end-teeth of his comb which he carries in in his piled-up topknot of hair and lights this broken-off tooth as a torch. He is horrified to find that Izanagi is rotting and swarming with maggots -- and he flees in fear, as she sends out beings of the underworld to pursue him (the episode is described in the Kojiki, volume 1 and section 9).

This pattern, of the failed underworld rescue, repeats itself around the world, such as in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice in ancient Greece and in the story of Balder in the Norse myths of ancient Scandinavia. There is also a Lakota myth about an encounter with a powerful spirit-being named White Buffalo Woman which contains some parallels to the episode in the Kojiki. 

Just like all these other patterns found in the myths of ancient Japan which appear in the myths of other cultures around the globe, this one too can be shown to be based on the stars. In this particular version of the "failed underworld rescue," Izanagi is almost certainly associated with the figure of Hercules in the heavens. The details of the comb, and the torch which he makes from one of the teeth of his comb, are clues to that (as is the fact that the constellations Hercules and Virgo are sometimes paired in ancient myth, and probably represent Izanagi and Izanami, the first two Kami, while Izanami is still alive and before her descent to the underworld):

Another major clue regarding the celestial identity of Izanagi, of course, is his irresistible "ten-grasp sword," which is a weapon that strongly suggests a correspondence with the constellation Hercules in the sky. We have seen in our examination of numerous other Star Myths that Hercules-figures in the world's myths often carry a powerful club, mace, sword, or even thunderbolt. 

In this episode from the Kojiki, Izanagi draws his ten-grasp sword to cut off the head of the final child he has with Izanami, Swift-Burning-Flame-Child (who is so fiery that Izanami dies after giving birth to him). In the star-chart above, we see that Bootes is almost certainly the Burning Boy to whom Izanami gives birth, and we see the menacing figure of Hercules just behind Bootes, preparing to cut off his head with his massive sword. This detail from the story pretty much confirms beyond doubt that Izanagi is associated with the powerful constellation Hercules.

After Izanami goes down to the underworld, however, she rots and becomes covered with maggots. There are many Star Myths from around the world in which the multi-headed, serpentine form of the constellation Scorpio is described as a worm or a mass of worms (including in the Popol Vuh of the Maya of Central America, as discussed in Star Myths of the World, Volume One). In this particular version of the "failed rescue from the land of the dead" as it appears in the Kojiki, Scorpio almost certainly plays the form of Izanami, after she has descended to the underworld.

The detail about "not looking back" which is found in virtually all of the "failed rescue from the underworld" myths around the world is also connected to a specific constellation -- the constellation Sagittarius. As can be seen from the outline in the star-chart above (the outline suggested by H. A. Rey in his indispensable system of outlining the constellations), Sagittarius very clearly appears to be "looking back" over its shoulder (towards the right, as we face the diagram above) while walking the other way (towards the left, as we face the diagram above).

This is why, in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, Orpheus is said to look back, and Eurydice disappears back into the realm of Hades when Orpheus looks. Note that Orpheus is renowned for his divine skill in playing the lyre and singing -- and the constellation Lyra the Lyre is located just beside the form of Hercules. Orpheus is almost certainly associated with the constellation Hercules (and with the Lyre), except when he descends to the underworld in order to try to rescue his beloved Eurydice, at which point he takes on the role of Sagittarius, looking back when he should not.

It should be abundantly evident that these myths did not pop up independently of one another all over the world -- they are part of a shared ancient system, based on the stars.

One of the most important of the sacred stories in the Kojiki, the account of the sun goddess Amaterasu retreating into a mountain after being offended by her impetuous brother Susanowo (or Susa-no-o), and having to be coaxed back out by the assembled gods and spirits, is also treated at some length in Star Myths of the World, Volume One

That story, too, can be shown to be based upon the constellations in the heavens -- and it too has its parallels around the world. Not only does the story of Amaterasu have parallels in the solar figure who withdraws for a time and has to be coaxed back (see Achilles in the Iliad, for example), but also in the "obscene dance that makes a female figure smile," which is again found in the myths of ancient Greece (in one of the stories surrounding the myth of Demeter and Persephone, when Baubo causes Demeter to laugh with an obscene dance) and in the Norse myths (in the story of Skade or Skadi, when Loki causes her to laugh with an obscene performance). Some discussion of the celestial elements of that story can be found in a previous blog post here.

There are actually many other episodes in the Kojiki which can be shown to be based upon the same world-wide system of celestial metaphor -- and to have parallels to other Star Myths around the world (including episodes described in the Bible). 

In fact, I would argue that it would be very difficult to properly interpret the Kojiki at all, without some understanding of its foundation in the system of celestial metaphor. There are episodes and events in the Kojiki which are extremely confusing and even nonsensical without the understanding that they are actually allegorizing specific constellational features. Some of the episodes in the Kojiki are so obscure or unusual that I myself have no idea of their celestial interpretation, even though I have now become very familiar with these patterns and have looked at a great many myths from around the world. 

Nevertheless, there is obviously plenty of evidence that the myths of ancient Japan related in the Kojiki and other sources share the same ancient system of celestial metaphor which underlies the other myths and sacred stories found around the world.

It is very unlikely that the myths related in the Kojiki were influenced by the stories in the Bible, or in the Greek myths, or in the Norse myths. As we have seen, the parallels are not just with one culture but with many cultures, all of them very remote and separated from Japan by great distances (we've just witnessed evidence that some of the Kojiki episodes discussed above include parallels to the Bible, to the myths of ancient Greece, to the myths of ancient India, to the myths found among the Polynesian cultures stretched across the vast Pacific, to specific episodes in the Popol Vuh of the Maya, to events in the Norse myths, and to a sacred story from the Lakota of North America). I believe it is far more likely that the ancient myths of Japan, as with all the other world's ancient myths, have very deep roots, stretching back to some now-forgotten source of incredible antiquity.

As such, they are part of the precious inheritance of ancient wisdom which was given to mankind by some now-unknown benefactor to whom we should be extremely grateful -- and they form another very important body of evidence that should be seen as uniting us all.