Monday, July 2, 2012

Mt. Miwa, Passed Down in Myths

In ancient time, lots of wild lilies whose ancient name was Sai or Saikusa (sasayuri, lilium japonicum) used to be thriving around Sai-river (狭井川) at the foot of Mt.Miwa. This is where legendary first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu came across the maiden and fell in love with her. She was a daughter of Ōmononushi who was believed to be a deity residing in Mt. Miwa according to the myth.


Saikusa Festival (三枝祭) is held on June 17 every year in honor of her at Isagawa shrine (率川神社), an auxiliary shrine where she has been dedicated to and Sasayuri grown  at her birth place are sent for that ceremony. Due to the change of environment, it has become  difficult they grow naturally so most of them have been cultivated there.

                                                                           image from Wikipedia

                  Mt. Miwa seen from Yamanobe-no-michi (last autumn)

Speaking of Ōmiwa shrine(大神神社)or also called Miwa shrine(三輪神社), my previous post is here, it is a prominent example of mountain worship and ancient snake cult. Snakes were widely revered as a water deity and thunder deity as well in Japanese myths surrounding Mt. Miwa as well as early Shinto in general. Here is a very famous story written in Kojiki, an ancient chronicle, as follows;

Long time ago, there lived a beautiful lady. An unidentified noble man visited her every night and soon she became pregnant. Her parents wondered who he was and advised her to tie a hemp thread with a pin to his clothes. The following morning, the hemp thread was found to go out of the house through the keyhole of the door and all the way to Mt.Miwa and stop in front of the shrine in the mountain. Here it gives a hint that he is a deity and a snake, however, in another two ladies stories, he is described clearly as a snake.

image from Wikipedia

Anyway Kojiki says there were only three coils of the thread left on the reel and from this incident, this place has been called Miwa (三輪、three rings) ever since.

There are three beauties loved by this deity according to the chronicles. The controversial Hashihaka Kofun (old tomb) is said to be one of theirs. 

The sight of snakes makes me creep all over but this weird appearance, regeneration
by their molting or their wavy movements or an image of fertility must have inspired people with a sense of awe, something unworldly power.  

There is a scenic view point at the foot of Mt. Miwa called 大美和の杜 (Ōmiwa grove).
You can see a breathtaking view of Yamato basin in a westward direction where there once was Fujiwara Palace.  I'd like to take a picture of sunset from here again.

 Looking back, you can see the beautiful figure of Mt. Miwa


 I saw  butterflies fluttering from flowers to flowers.

namiageha (ナミアゲハ swallowtail)


monkiageha (モンキアゲハ the red Helen)

In Greek,  butterfly is called psyche and inspired by butterfly’s power of transformation, the word also means the soul. I remembered Greek myth, a story of Psyche and Eros. 
Here in some region, they are also believed to carry souls. I felt as if those butterflies happily invited me to the ancient world. 
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