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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
Ryūkyū mythology
Two types of creation myth can be found in the Ryūkyūs, the court myth contained in works compiled by the Shuri court, and folk myths circulating in Amami, Okinawa, Miyako and Yaeyama. The mythology is made very complex by the numerous similarities and differences between them and the variety of motifs. The work Chūzan seikan(1650) represents the best example of court mythology. According to it there was a deity called Amamiku living in the heavenly palace who was ordered by the Heavenly Emperor to descend to the earth and create islands. Receiving earth, rocks, grasses and trees from the Heavenly Emperor, Amamiku created a number of islands. Amamiku requested human stock (hitodane) to populate the islands. In response, the Heavenly Emperor sent down two divine children, a boy and a girl. These two beings became pregnant by the passing wind, and three human boys and two girls were born to them. The eldest son became the progenitor of the royal house, the next son that of the aji (local chieftains), the third son that of the farmers, the eldest daughter that of the kimigimi (high-ranking court priestesses) and the youngest daughter that of the noro. Amamiku ascended to heaven and begged for the seeds of the five grains; having received them the deity planted them on Kudaka Island, and in Chinen and Tamagusuku. This myth tells of the world of the deities and the creator deity, of the creation of the land and the people, and of the origins of grain (the staple food). The heavenly nature of the deities' realm recalls obotsu-kagura, the Other Realm. Many traditions consider Amamiku to be a female deity and the wife of the male deity Shinerikyo. The composition of the group of the five children exemplifies the ideology of the royal court unifying worship and rule. The agricultural rituals performed at court were based on the mythology regarding the origins of the five grains. Court mythology is also recorded in works such as Ryūkyū Shintōki(1608), Omorosōshi(1623), Chūzan seifu(1701) and Kyūyō(1745). Folk mythology is even more diverse. Many of the folk myths speak of creation by siblings rather than by a deity descending from heaven. Many are also linked with a flood myth. Procreation by the first ancestor was often copied from animals such as the dugong. Many also tell that the first child was deformed. According to the Ryūkyūkoku yuraiki Amamiku brought rice seeds from nirai-kanai, and this version is numerous in folk traditions. Myths also exist that a bird brought seed from the other world and dropped them in this world, and that a giant called Amanchu divided heaven and earth.

—Hatakeyama Atsushi
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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