Tag Archives: creation story

The Story of Izanami and Izanagi

Main piece: 

EG: So my dad’s from Japan, and there’s this story about how the island of Japan was made with the gods izanagi and izanami, and there was something about how izanagi was stirring the sea to create the island of Japan. And then there was something about izanami hiding a cave, so the sun wouldn’t come up because he’s related to the sun or something. And then she would come out of that cave when she heard music, and that’s why they have Taiko drumming.

Interviewer: And how does that relate to your childhood?

EG: Uh as a kid my family went to Japan every summer so it can relate that way. And since we were in the countryside, or like suburbs, or like near the mountains, there’s a lot of shinto shrines and stuff and a lot of the Japanese kids shows had elements of Japanese folklore like kappa and stuff. 

Context:

My informant, EG, grew up in the US and visited her dad in Japan every summer. Being surrounded by Japanese suburban culture there was a very special experience to her, which is why she remembers the story––especially when Japan in western media is generally only depictions and stories about the very urbanized areas. EG was also the president of the Taiko club at USC, which would explain why she remembered the bit about Taiko drumming. This story was collected over a phone call about her time in Japan.

Thoughts:

Upon doing further research to fill in the gaps of the story, it turns out that Izanagi and Izanami were two, occasionally interpreted as a romantic couple, who created everything as we know it. They created more than just the ocean and Taiko. I think that this story is really interesting because the world springs forth from their bodies; like Izanagi’s eyes became the sun and moon deities, for example. This happens in a lot of other culture’s folklore. A famous example would be the Greek version of the Earth, Gaia, and how the parts of her body create the world. I think it’s interesting that creation stories often have this thread of the world being a singular body.

(For another version of the story of Izanami and Izanagi, please see this link:  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Izanagi, Encyclopedia Britannica.)

The Sun and the Moon

The 22-year-old informant was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. at a very young age. She chose to share this story because they are commonly told in Korean culture.

“There’s this tiger and he sees this brother and sister, and he’s like ‘Can I please have some food?’ and they give him rice cakes, and he tries them, but doesn’t like them, so he starts chasing the brother and sister to eat them, which is messed up! So the children climb up a tree and the tiger’s like, ‘How did you get up there?’ and the brother’s like, ‘We used oil to climb up the tree,’ so the tiger rubs oil on his paws and tries to climb up the tree, but then he slides down. And then the sister’s like “Ha ha!” so then the tiger takes an axe and chops the tree down, so they get chased again. So they’re running and they start to pray to God and they’re like ‘Hey God, please let us live and bring down a rope that we can climb up.’ So two ropes fall in front of them. Then the tiger comes and is like, ‘Can I also have a rope, God?’ So then God brings down a rope, except it’s a rotten rope, so he starts to climb it and he falls and dies. So the brother and sister keep climbing and going up the rope and they become the sun and the moon.”

 

This is an origin story of the sun and the moon, but the story also serves a moral, which is essentially that good things come to those who are good. Basically– you get what you deserve.

Satanai Flower

Lady Satanai saw a beautiful flower behind a forest in Kabardian. She wanted to plant this flower in front of her house, to let everyone see just how beautiful it was, so she brought it home. She planted the flower, but when tomorrow came, the flower had wilted, which made her very sad.

Later, she brought the same kind of flower, hoping it would not wilt like the other one, and planted it in her front garden. This flower also ended up wilting.

She again brought the same kind of flower, thinking that, this time, this flower wouldn’t die. But it also wilted! She began to regret taking these flowers from the forest, thinking she should have just left them alone. Suddenly, a storm came, and it began to rain heavily.
The next day, Lady Satani looked at the flower, and it had come back to life – the rainwater had revived the flower. She was overjoyed. From then on, humanity valued water’s benefits, calling water equal to the soul.
Background information: This is a Circassian story, told to her by her mom.
Context: The informant told me this story in a conversation about folklore
Thoughts: I thought this was a nice story, telling the importance of water to life. It also strikes me as a type of creation story – this is when the role of water on this planet is recognized. Perhaps this might even be the first instance of water.

 

Birth of Ganesh

Informant KM is a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is of Indian descent and moved to America at a very young age; however, she is very proud of her Indian heritage and considers herself to be very knowledgeable in regards to Indian mythology and religion. She is also fluent in two Indian languages, Hindi and Marathi. This piece of folklore is her recitation of a very common Indian folktale to me (AK).

KM: Shivji and Parvati are married. Shivji is the God of destruction and one of the top 3 gods of Hinduism. Parvati is a big goddess and she’s an embodiment of the Indian God Devi. Parvati is showering and she wanted to be protected while she was in the shower, so she used the dirt of her skin to make Ganesh. And Gan, these men, are like little minion kind of looking things that stand outside the door, so Ganesh was standing outside the door. Then Shivji came, and it’s not really sure why and Shivji got really pissed and out of anger he cut Ganesh’s head off. Parvati got pissed, and she threatened to — like tear the world apart if Shiv doesn’t fix the situation. So Shivji went and decided to cut the head off the first thing he saw which was an elephant, and he placed it on the Gan’s head.

For reference (Ganesh):

Ganesh

AK: Woah… that’s a crazy story, anything else you wanted to add?

KM: Yeah, actually what’s controversial about this story is that the idea of her taking the dirt off her skin was the product of adulteration, or it wasn’t Shiv’s child which was why he was so pissed.

AK: Cool, similar questions again, where did you hear this story from?

KM: I heard this from multiple people, my grandma, mom, dad, and I’ve read about it.

AK: What does it mean to you?

KM: I like this story because it shows people as flawed, even Gods.

I personally enjoyed this story because I was very well acquainted with the God Ganesh, but I never knew his creation myth. For this reason, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece because I learned something very relevant to my own life. Obviously, I could have just researched his creation on my own, but it was very nice to hear the story verbally.