Harisaijo, Amaterasu’s daughter, was married to Sumiyoshi, kami of the sea, fishermen, and poetry. She developed what is usually euphemistically referred to as a “woman’s ailment”: she was not experiencing normal menstrual cycles but bled continuously, which was perceived as polluting.
Harisaijo was exiled to the island of Awashima, shrine of Sukunahikona-no-Mikoto, a kami who specializes in fertility and reproductive disorders. Harisaijo vowed to heal women’s suffering. She, too, was enshrined, transforming into Awashima Myojin. Awashima bestows fertility, protects pregnant women, oversees childbirth, and heals ailments of the female reproductive system, including sexually transmitted diseases.
Devotees spread her veneration by traveling through Japan with portable shrines. Empress Jingu, caught in a storm on her way back from invading Korea, prayed for rescue. Throwing a rush mat onto the waves, she had the boat follow its path, landing safely on Awashima Island. The Empress expressed gratitude for this miraculous rescue by expanding the small shrine on the island. (Another legend says she was pregnant when beached but gave birth safely and for this reason wished to honor and thank Awashima.) Empress Jingu is now enshrined together with Awashima.
Awashima shrines are famous as doll repositories. As dolls may have souls, it is not safe to discard them, as they may take revenge for ill treatment. Awashima shrines are spiritually equipped to accept dolls that no longer have homes. An annual ceremony coincides with Hina Matsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day; a holiday associated with beautiful dolls) in which dolls are floated out to sea.
Awashima is venerated with Sukunahikona and Empress Jingu.
There are several Awashima shrines throughout Japan.
Dolls (especially Hina Ningyo); sewing needles; hair combs and ornaments; pilgrimage to Awashima Shrine; women traditionally offer their underwear when requesting healing of sexually transmitted disease; this practice has expanded: women seeking blessings of fertility or pregnant women petitioning for the birth of a healthy child attach underwear to ema boards (wooden votive plaques), which are offered at Awashima shrines.
Amaterasu; Jingu, Empress; Kami; Sukun ahikona; Tsukogami
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.