Susanoo And The Eight-Headed Serpent

An older man and woman were crying beside a girl in ancient Japan. Suddenly, they saw a finely dressed young man standing beside them.

“Why are you crying?” asked the young man.

Brushing his tears aside, the older man explained. “I had eight daughters,” he said. “Every year, a snake with eight heads has come from the Kashi district and eaten one of my daughters. Seven have al- ready been eaten, and now the snake is coming to devour the last. What am I to do? I am too frail to slay the snake my- self!”

The young man drew himself up proudly. “I am Susanoo, the god of the sea,” he announced, “lately come from heaven. I will save your daughter.”

Susanoo asked the old parents to give him the girl, and they gladly agreed. Tales of ancient Japanese mythology tell us that Susanoo changed the girl into a comb that he stuck into his hair.

Then he got some rice wine and poured it into eight bowls which he placed on the ground. As soon as the terrifying snake appeared, it smelt the scent of the wine and each head made for one of the bowls. When the monster was sleepily drunk, Susanoo drew and killed his sword.

Freed from this scourge, the old parents were overjoyed and watched in wonder as Susanoo took the comb from his hair and returned their daughter to human form.

He asked her to become his wife and built her a wonderful palace at Suga. They had a son born O-Kuni-Nushi, the god of medicine connected with sorcery.

Before this incident, Susanoo went up to heaven to see his elder sister, the sun goddess. But Susanoo shook the mountains and rivers and made the earth quake so terribly that the sun goddess armed herself with a bow and a quiver of arrows and kept her finger on the string while he was with her.

“Why have you come?” she asked.

“I have no evil intent,” replied Susanoo. “I have come simply to say goodbye before going to my mother in a distant land.”

The sun goddess must have been doubtful, for she asked Susanoo to give proof of his goodwill. So, he proposed that they should each create children.

At this, the sun goddess broke Susanoo’s sword into three pieces. After chewing the pieces, she blew a light mist from her mouth, giving birth to three goddesses.

Seeing that his sister was wearing five strings of jewels, Susanoo asked for these, cracked them between his teeth, blew a light mist from his mouth and gave birth to five gods.

The sun goddess declared they were her children because they had been created from the jewels she wore.

Susanoo’s success over this achievement turned his head. He rampaged over the land, destroying the rice fields, filling irrigation ditches and damaging the temples.

Although the sun goddess tried to make excuses for her brother’s misdeeds, he did not stop. One day, when weaving the god’s clothes in the sacred house, Susanoo made a hole in the roof. This caused such a disturbance that one of the weaving women pricked herself with a needle and fell dead.

So terrified was the sun-goddess that she hid in a rocky cave in heaven and blocked the entrance with a boulder, plunging the world into darkness.

The wicked gods were delighted by the darkness which covered the earth, but the good gods were worried. Various ruses tried to get the sun goddess out of the cave. None worked until a goddess decked herself with different plants and began dancing on a tub.

Eight hundred myriads of gods roared with laughter when they saw her. Wondering at the cause of this, the sun goddess looked out of the cave and saw her reflection in a large mirror that had been set up.

Interested by the reflection, she came a little out of the cave. Suddenly, she was seized by the god of force, who had hidden close by and made to come out ultimately.

A rope was stretched before the cave to prevent the sun goddess from returning to it.

Once more, the world was lit by sunshine… and Susanoo was banished from heaven for his misdeeds.

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