The Iron Worker’s Child





Kanayago, a celestial kami, stepped off the moon tree intending to deliver a treatise, “A Secret Writing about Iron Mountain” but her foot got caught and she tripped. Falling to Earth, Kanayago died. She started a vigil over her own corpse. Kanayago’s vigil is eternal. This watchful soul atop a mountain of iron emerged as the presiding spirit of metalworkers. She taught people how to work iron. (Their first project was an iron kettle.) Kanayago protects metal-workers; guards their safety; prevents accidents and increases yield.

Kanayago’s earliest manifestation seems to have been as a female but she eventually began to appear in both male and female form. Kanayago is now envisioned as the male half of a pair of iron-working spirits. The polite way to address him is Kanayago-sama and his female counterpart as Kanayama-hime (i.e., Lord Kanayago and Princess Kanayama).

Iron-working is intimately tied to primordial women’s blood mysteries. Many cultures perceive iron ore to be Earth’s own menstrual blood. Kanayago has stringent taboos against menstruating women: they cannot come into her presence. Active devotees who are male must also avoid menstruating women; not only not having sex with them but also not even looking them in the face. Complete avoidance is preferred until the menstrual cycle has completely concluded.


Kanayago wears rags and his or her teeth are blackened.

Sacred animal:

Kanayago’s relationship with dogs is subject to controversy. Some say she travels with a dog; others that she hates them because it was a dog’s unexpected barking that caused her to trip.


Snowy heron

Plant: Wisteria

Sacred day: Kanayago is honored at the Bellows Festival on the eighth day of the eleventh lunar month


Gorgon; Inari; Kajishin; Kami; Ogun


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.