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Home » 2. Kami (Deities) » Kami in Classic Texts
Izanami
[Izanami no mikoto]
Consort of the kami Izanagi. The name Izanami has been understood in various ways, but most interpretations agree that iza means "invite" (izanau), while mi means "female." As the kami responsible for the birth of various other kami representing the land and its contents, Izanami has strong connotations of an "earth mother" goddess.

Burning her genitals as she gave birth to the god of fire, Izanami fell sick and then died after passing the gods of metal, earth, water, and wood.

Izanami was the first kami for which funeral rites are described, and her burial was said to be in Mount Hiba at the border of Izumo and Hōki (according to Kojiki), or in Kumano (an "alternate writing" quoted in Nihongi).
Traveling to the land of death (Yomi) to bring Izanami back, her consort Izanagi broke a taboo (kinki), and was shocked by the putrefying appearance of his dead wife, whereupon he fled from the place and spoke words of divorce. Angered by this betrayal, the dead Izanami threatened to kill one thousand persons each day, but Izanagi stated that he would respond by giving birth to fifteen hundred persons, a story said to symbolize the origins of human life and death.

Kojiki relates that as a result of this event, Izanami was called the "great kami of Yomi" (Yomotsu ōkami) and "road-pursuing great kami" (Chishiki ōkami). The Kojiki account also portrays Izanami as being unrelated to the birth of the "three noble children" (Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi, and Susanoo), and thus unrelated to the ancestral kami of the imperial family.

Kojiki relates that after giving birth to the land (kuniumi), Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to numerous other deities. First was Ōkotooshio no kami, then Iwatsuchibiko no kami; Iwasuhime no kami; Ōtohiwake no kami; Amenofukio no kami; Ōyabiko no kami; Kazamotsuwakenooshio no kami; the sea kami Watatsumi no kami, and the kami of the sea straits (Hayaakitsuhiko no kami and Hayaakitsuhime no kami).

In turn, this last pair of deities gave birth to Awanagi no kami and Awanami no kami; Tsuranagi no kami and Tsuranami no kami; Amenomikumari no kami and Kuninomikumari no kami; Amenohikuzamochi no kami and Kuninohikuzamochi no kami; the deity of wind (Shinatsuhiko no kami); the deity of trees (Kukunochi no kami); the deity of mountains (Ōyamatsumi no kami); and the deity of fields (Kayanohime no kami, also called Nozuchi no kami).

Ōyamatsumi no kami and Nozuchi no kami then produced Amenosazuchi no kami and Kuninosazuchi no kami; Amenosagiri no kami and Kuninosagiri no kami; Amenokurato no kami and Kuninokurato no kami; and Ōtomatohiko no kami and Ōtomatohime no kami. Finally, Izanami gave birth to Torinoiwakusufune no kami (also called Amenotorifune), Ōgetsuhime no kami, and the fire deity Hinoyagihayao no kami (also known as Hinokakabiko no kami, or Hi no Kagutsuchi no kami). Izanami was burned by giving birth to the kami of fire, however, and fell mortally ill. She finally gave birth to Kanayamabiko no kami, Kanayamabime no kami, Haniyasubiko no kami, Haniyasubime no kami, Mitsuhanome no kami and Wakumusuhi no kami, after which she died. See also Izanagi.

-Kadoya Atsushi, Yumiyama Tatsuya
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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