“Eight banners,” one of the major deities of the Shintπ pantheon, Hachiman is associated with the activities of war and culture. As a Buddhist deity he is worshiped as a daibosatsu (great Buddha) and protector of Buddhist temples. Goshintai in Hachiman shrines are generally either a bow or a stirrup, referring to the classical mounted archer, and more rarely a writing brush, referring to his nature as deity of culture and learning. Doves are his messengers. Appealed to during the Mongol invasions of Japan, Hachiman sent the kamikaze (divine wind) to sink the combined Mongol-Chinese-Korean fleet.
In the second century C.E. Empress JingΔ, following a vision from the kami, engaged in a campaign of conquest in Korea. Pregnant by her deceased husband and fearful that childbirth would slow down the campaign, she wrapped herself with tight bandages and tied a stone weight to her belly, thus managing to carry the baby for three years in the field. Her son, the emperor Πjin to-be, was born once the campaign was over. JingΔ had dreamed that if her son was born after the campaign was won, he would be a deity, and the child was born with a mark resembling a bow guard on his forearm, thus confirming his wondrous origin. In the sixth or seventh century, the mother-and-son combination were identified together as the deity Hachiman.
Πjin, the fifteenth emperor of Japan according to the Kπjiki, invited Korean and Chinese scholars to educate his son and courtiers in the ways of the world. As a consequence Hachiman is the patron god of writing and culture, as well as war, divination, and protection.
- Joly, Henri L. 1967. Legend in Japanese Art. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.
Handbook of Japanese Mythology written by Michael Ashkenazi – Copyright © 2003 by Michael Ashkenazi