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Yamata-no-Orochi

八岐大蛇


A Story of the Desperate Struggle to Grow Rice
Yamata-no-Orochi

This Kagura is a story about set in ancient Japan about the peoples' desperate attempt to protect their rice fields from the ravages of a raging, flooded river.

Rice, the staple of the Japanese diet, requires fertile soil, sunshine, and a sustainable, clean water source to flourish.

The eight-headed serpent, Yamata-no-Orochi, symbolizes the mountains and their plentiful reserves of water, as well as the water that flows from the mountains.

Farmers plant rice seedlings in the spring and wait for the autumn, harvest season. However, if the summer is plagued by heavy rains before the harvest season, the rainwater rushes from the mountains and spills into the rice fields, flooding them and ruining the crops. Serious floods like these are being compared to the serpent swallowing a beloved daughter in the story.

Yamata-no-Orochi proceeds as follows:

  1. An elderly couple is in mourning because their eighth daughter will be sacrificed to a serpent, but then a deity comes down to them from the heavens.
  2. The deity promises to get rid of the serpent by having it drink poisoned sake and lulling it into a deep sleep.
    The elderly couple and their daughter dance in prayer for the plan's success.
  3. Then, from out of nowhere, the serpent appears and drinks all of the poisoned sake. The deity then faces the drunken serpent in battle.
  4. Once the serpent is slayed, a sword appears in its belly, and the story ends with the sword being taken as a token of the deity's victory, and later becomes a national treasure.

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