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Shinto Creation Stories

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Background Information
The name "Shinto" originated from "shin tao", which translates into the "way of the gods." An ancient Japanese religion, Shinto was formed around the year 500 BCE. Shinto evolved into one of Japans official religions, along with Buddhism. Eighty-four percent of the Japanese follow these religions. Shinto consists mainly of an informally structured priesthood. It lacks a founder, any religious laws, and written scriptures. This ancient religion does, however, possess its own distinct version of creation story.

Creation of Heaven and Earth
The Shinto creation story begins by describing the means by which Heaven and Earth were separated. Initially, both were combined into a substance analogous to an egg. This mass contained germs within indefinite borders. As this composition separated, the purer, clear element rose out, forming Heaven. The denser, impure substance sank to become Earth. Heaven formed easily, thus was completed first. Earth, however, evolved with more trouble, and therefore developed later.

Creation of the Kami
Once Heaven and Earth were formed, the deities of Shinto were created. A reed sprouted from the newly created Earth, becoming the god Kuni-toko-tachi no Mikoto. Next evolved seven more generations of deities both male and female. These gods are Kuni no sa-tsuchi no Mikoto, Toyo-kumu-nu no Mikoto, pure males, Uhiji-ni no Mikoto, Suhiji-ni no Mikoto, Oho-to nochi, Oho-to mahe no Mikoto, and finally Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto. These deities or Kami do not possess the omnipotence or wrath commonly associated with gods of other religions.

Creation of Land Masses
Once created, Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto discussed the lack of creation on Earth. To rectify the situation they threw their heavenly spear into the ocean that composed Earth. Upon contact with the spear, part of the ocean became an island named Ono-goro-jima. When translated, this means center of the land. The two Kami descended to Earth and lived together on this island. By uniting as husband and wife, Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto produced more islands. They created the islands of Ahaji no Shima, Oho-yamato no Toyo-aki-tsu-shima, Iyo no futa-na, Tsukushi, Oki and Sado, Oho-ya-shima, and Tsushima and Iki. Together these islands formed a country. Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto then joined together to create the sea, rivers, and mountains.

Izanagi no Mikoto & Izanami no Mikoto :
Parents of the Gods
In addition to natural structures, they produced other deities. The firstborn was Ku-ku-no-chi, the ancestor of trees, followed by Kaya no hime, ancestor of herbs. The parent deities then formed Oho-hirupme no muchi, the sun goddess. Although this goddess resided in Heaven, she was the ultimate ruler of Earth. The importance of the sun goddess is clear in Japans title Land of the Rising Sun. Next, the two Kami gave birth to a leech child who by the age of three was still unable to stand. As a result, they set this child adrift in a wooden boat of Heaven. Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto went on to create Tsuki-yumi no Mikoto, the moon god. Finally, Soso no wo no Mikoto was formed. Unlike the other deities, this god was cruel, thus he was exiled to the land below. Overall, the many deities were connected to some aspect of nature, be it the sun or plants or creatures. The Kami served as protectors of various families and lands. The original emperors were considered gods.

The Importance of the Creation Stories
This creation story forms the core of the Shinto faith. Not only does it explain the existence of earth and all of its components, it also defines many of their beliefs. This story explains the creation of their gods, an important aspect of religion. It also serves as a foundation for their belief that their emperors were divine. This idea is the basis for many of the Japanese peoples actions. The Japanese emperors authority went unquestioned, and Kamikaze flights were considered to be the highest tribute one could pay to the emperor-god. By doing such an act, the gods would reward the pilot and his family. In these instances and in many more the Shinto creation story permeates the lives of its Japanese followers.

Information courtesy of:

http://www.encarta.msn.com/find/concise.asp?z=/&pg=2&ti=761560532

http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/ANCJAPAN/CREAT1.HTM

http://www.religioustolerance.org/shinto.htm

Torii: a Shinto shrine

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