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Susanoo (須佐之男 (スサノオ), romanized as Susano-o, Susa-no-O, Susano'o, and Susanowo), also known as Takehaya Susanoo-no-Mikoto (建速須佐之男命) and Kumano Ketsumiko no kami at Kumano shrine, is the Shinto god of the sea and storms. He is also considered to be ruler of Neno-Katasu-Kuni (now Yasugi, Shimane-ken). He is married to Kushinadahime.
In Japanese mythology, Susanoo, the powerful storm god of Summer, is the brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the Moon. All three were born from Izanagi, when he washed his face clean of the pollutants of Yomi, the underworld. Amaterasu was born when Izanagi washed out his left eye, Tsukuyomi was born from the washing of the right eye, and Susanoo from the washing of the nose. Susanoo used Totsuka-no-Tsurugi as his weapon.
The oldest sources for Susanoo myths are the ca. 712 CE Kojiki and ca. 720 CE Nihon Shoki. They tell of a long-standing rivalry between Susanoo and his sister. When he was to leave Heaven by orders of Izanagi, he went to bid his sister goodbye. Amaterasu was suspicious, but when Susanoo proposed a challenge to prove his sincerity, she accepted. Each of them took an object of the other's and from it birthed gods and goddesses. Amaterasu birthed three women from Susanoo's Totsuka-no-Tsurugi while he birthed five men from her necklace. Claiming the gods were hers because they were born of her necklace, and the goddesses were his, he decided that he had won the challenge, as his item produced women. The two were content for a time, but Susanoo, the Storm God, became restless. In a fit of rage, he destroyed his sister's rice fields, hurled a flayed pony at her loom, and killed one of her attendants. Amaterasu, who was in fury and grief, hid inside the Ama-no-Iwato ("heavenly rock cave"), thus effectively hiding the sun for a long period of time.
Though she was persuaded to leave the cave (with the help of a ceremony and a unique style of dancing), Susano-o was punished by being banished from Heaven. He descended to the province of Izumo, where he met an elderly couple who told him that seven of their eight daughters had been devoured by the eight-headed dragon Yamata no Orochi and it was nearing time for their eighth, Kushinada-hime (櫛名田比売). The Nihon Shoki, here translated by William George Aston in Nihongi, gives the most detailed account of Susanoo and Amaterasu slaying Yamata no Orochi. Compare to that found in the Kojiki, translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain in The Kojiki (1919:71-3), where Susanoo is translated as "His-Swift-Impetuous-Male-Augustness":
Then Susanoo no Mikoto descended from Heaven and proceeded to the head-waters of the River Hi, in the province of Idzumo. At this time he heard a sound of weeping at the head-waters of the river, and he went in search of the sound. He found there an old man and an old woman. Between them was set a young girl, whom they were caressing and lamenting over. Susanoo no Mikoto asked them, saying:-"Who are ye, and why do ye lament thus?" The answer was:-"I am an Earthly Deity, and my name is Ashi-nadzuchi. My wife's name is Te-nadzuchi. This girl is our daughter, and her name is Kushi-nada-hime. The reason of our weeping is that formerly we had eight children, daughters. But they have been devoured year after year by an eight-forked serpent and now the time approaches for this girl to be devoured. There is no means of escape for her, and therefore do we grieve.” Sosa no wo no Mikoto said: "If that is so, wilt thou give me thy daughter?" He replied, and said: "I will comply with thy behest and give her to thee." Therefore Sosa no wo no Mikoto on the spot changed Kushi-nada-hime into a many-toothed close-comb which he stuck in the august knot of his hair. Then he made Ashi-nadzuchi and Te-nadzuchi to brew eight-fold sake, to make eight cupboards, in each of them to set a tub filled with sake, and so to await its coming. When the time came, the serpent actually appeared. It had an eight-forked head and an eight-forked tail; its eyes were red, like the winter-cherry; and on its back firs and cypresses were growing. As it crawled it extended over a space of eight hills and eight valleys. Now when it came and found the sake, each head drank up one tub, and it became drunken and fell asleep. Then Susanoo no Mikoto drew the ten-span sword which he wore, and chopped the serpent into small pieces. When he came to the tail, the edge of his sword was slightly notched, and he therefore split open the tail and examined it. In the inside there was a sword. This is the sword which is called Kusa-nagi no tsurugi.
This sword from the dragon's tail, the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi ("Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven") or the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi ("Grasscutter Sword"), was presented by Susanoo to Amaterasu as a reconciliation gift. According to legends, she bequeathed it to her descendant Ninigi along with the Yata no Kagami mirror and Yasakani no Magatama jewel or orb. This sacred sword, mirror and jewel collectively became the three Imperial Regalia of Japan.
While Amaterasu is enshrined at the Honden Shrine or "Grand Shrine", which is at the entrance to the Ise Shrine, Susanoo is enshrined at Kumano Taisha located in Shimane (formerly the Izumo region), where he descended when banished from heaven.
In Japanese performing arts
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- Basil Hall Chamberlain. The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
- W. G. Aston, C.M.G. (1896). "Book I: The Age of the Gods". Supplement: Nihongi, chronicles of Japan from the earliest times to A.D. 697. Vol. I. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Limited. pp. 52–53. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
- Aston, William George, tr. 1896. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. 2 vols. Kegan Paul. 1972 Tuttle reprint.
- Chamberlain, Basil H., tr. 1919. The Kojiki, Records of Ancient Matters. 1981 Tuttle reprint.
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