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This article is about Izanagi, the kami in Shinto mythology; for the character in Ōkami, see Nagi.


Izanagi (「伊弉諾尊」?; Izanagi-no-mikoto; male who invites) is one of the original kami to exist in the world, and ruled from Takamagahara alongside his sister and wife, Izanami. According to legends in the Kojiki, the two stood from atop the floating bridge of heaven, often portrayed as a rainbow of sorts, and stirred the ocean below with a might spear. When the two pulled back the blade, water beaded up and fell from it back into the world below, forming the original eight islands of Japan as it struck the water's surface. From there, the two descended from the heavens to create numerous other kami.

After a long and successful campaign to populate the world with the many kami humans would come to know, tragedy struck. Izanami, pregnant with yet another child, was in preparation to give birth. However, the deity she bore was one of fire, a child who's flames would inevitably end her life. After the ordeal had nearly ended, Izanami gifted her child with the name Kagutsuchi and shed a single tear that would become the water goddess Mizuhame. The kami of water would become the only one with the power to soothe the god of fire, but in a rage, Izanagi drew his sword and sliced the head off of the infant, giving birth to even more kami in the process, as blood dripping onto the ground.

Izanami, no longer able to hold onto this world, passed on and traveled to Yomi, the land of the dead. Distraught, Izanagi chased after her through a gate between the middle realm Nakatsukuni, and the world below. His arrival uncovered that Yomi was indeed covered in a thick blanket of inky darkness. Fumbling through the black, Izanagi called out the name of his wife, until she replied back. He begged her to return to the world of the living with him, to which she replied that she would, but only in her own time. Her one requirement of Izanagi, however, was that he would not gaze upon her. With that, she turned him away to return to the worlds above. Clinging to his desire not to lose his wife, Izanagi lit the tooth of a comb. The faint light of the flame revealed that Izanami had begun to decay and rot away in the underworld, and no longer could return even if she wanted to. Furious, she chased Izanagi back towards the gate leading to screaming that every day, she would claim the lives of 1000 of Izanagi's creations, to which he replied he would only create 1500 more.

Desperate to escape the horrors of the underworld, Izanagi scrambled back through the gate and blocked it off with a massive boulder. Finally, the nightmare was over. However, Izanagi, during his journeys, had found himself wrought with impurities. Tired and now alone, Izanagi returned to his quarters and begun a purification rites ceremony known as misogi. Though many kami were born through this process--some from the clothes he dropped at the base of a crystal clear pool, others from different parts of his body he washed--the central three kami of the Shintō mythology were created in this rite. From his left eye came the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu. From his right eye came Tsukiyomi, god of the moon, and from his nose sprung the god of the sea and storms, Susanoo. Amazed at the beauty his first daughter possessed, he immediately made her ruler over the world above and tasked her with the purification and completion of the world below.

References

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