Susano (スサノオ)

Susano (also known as Susano no Mikoto) was a deity (Shinto religion) that appeared in Japanese mythology. His name was written in kanji as 素戔男尊 and 素戔嗚尊 in "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan), 建速須佐之男命 (Takehayasusa no Onomikoto or Tatehayasusa no Onomikoto) and 須佐乃袁尊 (Susano no Mikoto) in "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters), and 神須佐能袁命 (Kamususa no Onomikoto) and 神須佐能袁命 in "Izumo no kuni fudoki" (Fudoki of Izumo no kuni). He was sometimes seen identical to Gozu Tenno (a deity said to be the Indian god Gavagriva). He was the youngest son of Mihashira no uzuno miko (three deities). His given role was little different from that of Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess), who deified the sun, and Tsukuyomi, who deified the moon, so it has been the topic of debate.

Description in mythology

According to "Kojiki," when Izanagi came back from the world after death for the creation of deities and performed ablutions in Himukano Tachibanano Odono Awakihara, he was born when Izanagi rinsed his nose. It was described in "Nihon Shoki" that he was born between Izanagi and Izanami (The Female Who Invites).

His governing region varied throughout the literature, but among the Sankishi (three deities) Amaterasu Omikami was told to govern Takamanohara, Tsukiyomi no mikoto to govern the blue-green sea plain or the night, and Susano to govern the land of night or the ocean. According to "Kojiki," Susano refused it but instead wanted to go to Nenokuni (Land of the Roots), where the mother goddess Izanami stayed, but Izanagi was angered by that and expelled him from the land. So, he went up to Takamanohara in order to say goodbye to his sister, Amaterasu Omikami, before he left for Nenokuni, but Amaterasu Omikami thought Susano had come to attack Takamanohara, so she was armed and he pleaded his faith with Amaterasu so as to dispel her doubts. His name was cleared by pleading his faith, so Susano remained in Takamanohara; but he behaved badly there and Amaterasu Omikami hid in Ama no iwato (Cave of Heaven). Therefore, Susano was expelled from Takamanohara and went down to Ashihara no nakatsukuni.

When Susano went down to Mt. Torikami (now Mt. Sentsu) of Izumo Province, in Ashihara no nakatsukuni, he exterminated Yamatanoorochi (eight-forked snake), which was devastating the land, and gave Amaterasu Omikami an Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi Sword (which was derived from the tale of Yamatanoorochi). Susano went to Suga-jinja Shrine in Izumo by taking Kushinadahime as his wife, who was about to be eaten by Yamatanoorochi.
He then composed a poem, 'Clouds covered the eightfold fence; making the eightfold fence to keep my new wife in the house; great eightfold fence.'
('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,' original text in "Kojiki," '夜句茂多菟伊弩毛夜覇餓岐菟磨語昧爾夜覇餓枳都倶盧贈廼夜覇餓岐廻,' original text in "Nihon Shoki") It was estimated to be the first waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables). From that, 'Yakumo' became the word that symbolized Izumo. Susano had his wife give birth to Okuninushi (chief god of Izumo in southern Honshu Island, Japan, and the central character in the important myths of that region) (called Oanamuchi no Kami in "Nihon Shoki"). In "Kojiki," Okuninushi no mikoto was a descendant after the sixth generation of Susano, and eventually he went to Nenokuni (underworld).

In the fourth section of the first book, which described Yamatanoorochi in "Nihon Shoki," Susano, who had been expelled from Takamanohara, went down to Soshimari (Shoshimori) in Shiragi. Susano didn't want to stay there, so he said 'I do not want to stay here' ('乃興言曰 此地吾不欲居' --original text) and took his son Isotakerunokami to the east by tsuchibune (a ship used to carry sediment) and reached the Torigami no Mine (Range) on the upper Hii-kawa River in Izumo Province('遂以埴土作舟 乘之東渡 到出雲國簸川上所在 鳥上之峯'--original text), whereupon he exterminated Yamatanoorochi. At that time he didn't plant the seeds of trees, which Isotakerunokami had brought back from the heavens, in Kara (the old Korea) and planted them in Yashima (also known as Oyashima, Honshu (the main island of Japan)), and Oyashima became the land of mountains.

Also, in the fifth section of the first book he said that children would be in trouble without trees; so he changed his skin hair into trees, established the usage for each kind, and ordered his son Isotakeru and his daughters Oyatsuhime and Tsumatsuhime to plant the trees.

In the mythology of Okuninushi, Onamuji (Okuninushi), who came to Susano in Nenokuni (the underworld), fell in love with Suseri-bime, Susano's daughter, at first sight, but Susano set various trials before Onamuji. Onamuji overcame those trials and Susano accepted Onamuji's right to take Suseri-bime as his wife, whereupon he gave Onamuji the name of Okuninushi.

Susano had many faces. On one hand, he could scream like a child in order to go to his mother's land, but he also showed a brutish side in Takamanohara. When he came down to Izumo, he suddenly changed to the hero character of Kishuryuri-tan (a type of folktale in which a character such as a young deity or nobility overcomes trials in order to be a god or be blessed). There was a theory that the Eiyutan (a story told to describe a hero's success) of Yamatanoorochi's extermination was a symbol to subjugate the clever Santetsumin (people who had technology for iron-making), and many people believed that attaining the Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi Sword was symbolic of that. Susano showed a cultivated side, composing the first waka in Japan and utilizing trees for woodcraft or architecture. Some say that this was because Susano was created by an amalgamation of many gods, and other theories suggest this was a side of Susano that appeared as he grew.

There were some theories regarding his deity name of 'Susa,' which asserted that it came from the god of storms or the god of rainstorms (Susano's activities in Takamanohara indicated the damage by rainstorms) or that it meant acting on the momentum, having the same root as 'susumu' (progress). Another theory was that it was derived from Susa-jinja Shrine in Izumo (the present-day Susa-jinja Shrine in Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture) (Susano was created by deifying the head of Susa-go), or that it was from the king of iron sand or the chief of O County.

In Kiki-shinwa (the mythology of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki), Susano was described as being a soshin (an ancestor worshipped as a deity) of a god from the Izumo region, but he received little mention in the "Izumo no kuni fudoki" (the topography of Izumo Province), which provided descriptions of place name systems such as those of Yasugi-go in O County and Susa-go in Iishi County and setsuwa (anecdotes) concerning the mikogami (the child gods in a shrine where parent-child gods are enshrined) so anecdotes concerning the slaying of Yamata no Orochi were not included. Therefore, some say he might have originally been a god in another area, and the possible areas are as follows.

There is a theory that it might be Bitchu Province, where Yamatanoorochi was exterminated, as described in Nihon Shoki. It might be Kii Province since Okuninushi went to 'Kinokuni' (Land of Trees) before he went to Susano in Nenokuni and his son Isotakeru was enshrined. There is a theory that it might be Shiragi, since it was written in the fourth section of the first book in Nihon Shoki that he first went down to Soshimori in Shiragi and then came to Torigami no Mine in Izumo. However, it could be said that he basically developed strong ties with Izumo by looking at the historical records called Kiki and Fudoki. There is Mt. Torikami (now Mt. Sentsu) in Okuizumo-cho on the east side of Izumo Province (the present-day Shimane Prefecture), to which Susano descended, and it was written in Fudoki (ancient record) that Susano named the neighboring city, Yasugi City. These areas had developed the tatara iron-making method in ancient times, and it was widely thought that this meant that Susano established his rule over the iron-making group by slaying Yamata no Orochi. Based on comparative mythology, the mythology of obtaining iron and a sword by exterminating a monster is thought to be a metaphor for the establishment of a nation. There are various theories as to why Susano was thought to be a younger brother of Amaterasu and an important god.

Later, he became combined with Gozu Tenno (a deity said to be the Indian god Gavagriva), who was a guardian god of Jetavana Vihara under Buddhism. It was because both gods delivered disasters and epidemics.

Among the three deities of Izanagi's last children, called Sankishi (in other words, Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi and Susano) the common description was that Amaterasu equaled the sun only, and there was a case where the governing regions of Tsukuyomi and Susano overlapped, depending on the literature. Both Tsukuyomi and Susano were deities of the ocean and this myth was a legacy of the Jomon period. Voyagers sailing in the sea calculated the time by the night moon and prayed to the ocean deities, wishing for favorable winds.

However over time, as the seafarers memories became vague along with the boundaries of governing regions, these deities became separate entities.

Former Kankoku Heisha (general term for Kanpeisha and Kokuheisha, which were the high-ranking shrines) and shrines in the appendix

Yasaka-jinja Shrine (Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture)
Hiromine-jinja Shrine (Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture)
Tsushima-jinja Shrine (Tsushima City, Aichi Prefecture)
Hikawa-jinja Shrine (Omiya Ward, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture)
Susa-jinja Shrine (Izumo City) (Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture)
Yaegaki-jinja Shrine (Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture)

Another name for Susano was 'Izanagi no Himanako Kaburogi Kumano Okami Kushimikenu no Mikoto,' who was an enshrined deity of Kumano-taisha Shrine in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture.

It has also been assumed that Susano was Kumano Gongen Deity, an enshrined deity of Kumano-hongu-taisha Shrine in Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture.

The Yasaka-jinja and Hiromine-jinja shrines used the name of sohonsha (main shrine) of Gion-sha Shrine.

Shrines distributed across the country

Many followed the Gion-shinko faith, Tsushima-shinko faith or Hikawa-shinko faith. Many of these shrines used the names of Gion-sha Shrine and Tenno-sha Shrine but were given their present names upon the separation of Buddhism and Shintoism in the Meiji period.

Gion-jinja Shrine, Yasaka (八坂)-jinja Shrine (avoid ambiguity), Yasaka (弥栄)-jinja Shrine
Susano (素盞嗚)-jinja Shrine, Susano (素盞雄)-jinja Shrine, Susa-jinja Shrine
Tenno-jinja Shrine, Tenno-sha, Tsushima-jinja Shrine (avoid ambiguity)
Suga (須賀)-jinja Shrine, Suga (須我)-jinja Shrine, Suga (素鵞)-jinja Shrine
Hikawa (氷川)-jinja Shrine (avoid ambiguity), Hikawa (簸川)-jinja Shrine
Yagumo-Jinja Shrine

[Original Japanese]