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 Ainu Shaman

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Maschile Capra
Numero di messaggi : 2142
Data d'iscrizione : 04.02.09
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MessaggioOggetto: Aino Folk-Tales   Lun 4 Mag 2009 - 6:26

by Basil Hall Chamberlain
[London, 1888]


Prefatory Remarks.

I VISITED the island of Yezo for the third time in the summer of 1886, in order to study the Aino language, with a view to elucidate by its means the obscure problem of the geographical nomenclature of Japan. But, as is apt to happen on such occasions, the chief object of my visit soon ceased to be the only object. He who would learn a language must try to lisp in it, and more especially must he try to induce the natives to chatter in it in his presence. Now in Yezo, subjects of discourse are few. The Ainos stand too low in the scale of humanity to have any notion of the civilised art of "making conversation." When, therefore, the fishing and the weather are exhausted, the European sojourner in one of their dreary, filthy seaside hamlets will find himself,—at least I found myself,—sadly at a loss for any further means of setting his native companions' tongues in motion. It is then that fairy tales come to the rescue. The Ainos would not suggest the ideas themselves. To suggest ideas is not their habit. But they are delighted to follow it when suggested. Simply to repeat something which they have known by heart ever since the days of their childhood is not such an effort to their easily-tired brains as is the keeping up of a conversation with one who speaks their language imperfectly. Their tongues are at once loosened.

In my own case, I found myself, after a short time, listening to the p. 2 stories for their own sake,—not merely as linguistic exercises; and I ventured to include a few of them in the "Memoir on the Ainos" which was published a few months ago by the Imperial University of Japan. Some remarks in a review of this "Memoir," contained in Nature of the 12th May, 1887, have encouraged me to believe that anthropologists and comparative mythologists may be interested in having laid before them something more than mere samples of the mental products of a people which is interesting for three reasons,—interesting because its domain once extended over the entire Japanese archipelago, interesting because absolutely nothing certain is known as to its origin and affinities, interesting because it is, so to speak, almost at its last gasp. I have, therefore, now collected and classified all the tales that were communicated to me by Ainos, in Aino, during my last stay in the island, and more latterly in Tōkyō, when, by the kind assistance of the President of the University, Mr. H. Watanabe, an exceptionally intelligent Aino was procured from the North, and spent a month in my house. These tales form the paper which I now have the honour to offer for the acceptance of your learned Society.

It would, no doubt, be possible to treat the subject of Aino folk-lore in great detail. The gloss might easily be made longer than the text. Each story might be analysed according to the method proposed by the Folk-Lore Society; a "survey of incidents" might be appended to each, as in Messrs. Steel and Temple's charming "Wide-Awake Stories," from the Punjab and Cashmere. More interesting to the anthropologist than such mechanical dissection of each tale considered as an independent entity would be the attempt to unravel the affinities of these Aino tales. How many of them, what parts of them, are original? How many of them are borrowed, and whence?

To carry out such an investigation with that completeness which would alone give it serious value, would necessitate a greater expenditure of time than my duties will allow of, perhaps also fund of multifarious knowledge which I do not possess. I would, therefore, merely suggest in passing that the probabilities of the case are in favour of the Ainos having borrowed from their only clever neighbours, p. 3 the Japanese. (The advent of the Russians is so recent that they need hardly be counted in this connection.) The reasons for attributing to the Japanese, rather than to the Ainos, the prior possession (which, by the way, by no means implies the invention) of the tales common to both races, are partly general, partly special. Thus it is a priori likely that the stupid and barbarous will be taught by the clever and educated, not the clever and educated by the stupid and barbarous. On the other hand, as I have elsewhere demonstrated, a comparative study of the languages of the two peoples shows clearly that this a priori view is fully borne out so far as far as the linguistic domain is concerned. The same remark applies to social customs. Even in religion, the most conservative of all institutions, especially among barbarians, the Ainos have suffered Japanese influence to intrude itself. It is Japanese rice-beer, under its Japanese name of sake, which they offer in libations to their gods. Their very word for "prayer" seems to be archaic Japanese. A mediæval Japanese hero, Yoshitsune, is generally allowed to be held in religious reverence by them. The idea of earthquakes being caused by the wriggling of a gigantic fish under the earth is shared by the Ainos with the Japanese and with several other races.

At the same time, the general tenour and tendency of the tales and traditions of the Ainos wear a widely different aspect from that which characterises the folk-lore of Japan. The Ainos, in their humble way, are addicted to moralising and to speculating on the origin of things. A perusal of the following tales will show that a surprisingly large number of them are attempts to explain some natural phenomenon, or to exemplify some simple precept. In fact they are science,—physical science and moral science,—at a very early stage. The explanations given in these tales completely satisfy the adult Aino mind of the present day. The Aino fairy-tales are not, as ours are, survivals from an earlier stage of thought. Even if not invented of recent years they fit in with the present Aino view of things,—so much so, that an Aino who recounts one of his stories does so under the impression that he is narrating an actual event. He does not "make believe" like the European nurse, even like the European child, who p. 4 has always, in some nook or corner of his mind, a presentiment of the scepticism of his later years.

So far as I can judge, that "disease of language" which we call metaphor, and which is held by some great authorities to have been the chief factor in the fabrication of Aryan myth, has no place in Aino fairy-land; neither have the phenomena of the weather attracted more attention than other things. But I speak subject to correction. Perhaps it is not wise to invite controversy on such a point unless one is well armed for the fight.

Failing an elaborate analysis of the Aino fairy-tales, and a discussion of their origin and affinities, what I venture to offer for your Society's acceptance is the simple text of the tales themselves, renderd into English. Nine of them have already been printed in the Aino "Memoir" already referred to. One has been printed (but not quite in its genuine form, which decency was supposed to forbid) at the end of Mr. Batchelor's grammar included in the same "Memoir." All the others are now given to the world for the first time, never having yet appeared in any language, not even in Japanese.

I would draw special attention to the character of the translation, as being an absolutely literal one in the case of all those stories which I originally wrote down in Aino from the dictation of native informants. As time pressed, however, I sometimes had the story told me more rapidly, and wrote it down afterwards in English only, but never more than a few hours afterwards. In such cases, though every detail is preserved, the rendering is of course not actually literal. This, and the fact that there were several informants, will account for the difference of style between the various stories. I have appended to each story either the words "translated literally," or the words "written down from memory," together with the date and the name of the informant, in order that those who use the collection may know exactly what it is that they are handling. In all such matters absolute accuracy, absolute literalness, wherever attainable, is surely the one thing necessary. Not all the charm of diction, not all the ingenious theories in the world, can for a moment be set in the balance against rigid exactness, even if some of the concomitants of rigid exactness are such as to spoil the subject for popular treatment. The p. 5 truth, the stark naked truth, the truth without so much as a loin-cloth on, should surely be the investigator's sole aim when, having discovered a new set of facts, he undertakes to present them to the consideration of the scientific world.

Of course Aino tales, like other tales, may also be treated from a literary point of view. Some of the tales of the present collection, prettily illustrated with pictures by Japanese artists, and altered, expurgated, and arranged virginibus puerisque, are at the present moment being prepared by Messrs. Ticknor & Co., of Boston, who thought with me that such a venture might please our little ones both in England and in the United States. But such things have no scientific value. They are not meant to have any. They are mere juvenile literature, whose English dressing-up has as little relation to the barbarous original as the Paris fashions have to the anatomy of the human frame.

The present paper, on the contrary, is intended for the sole perusal of the anthropologist and ethnologist, who would be deprived of one of the best means of judging of the state of the Aino mind if the hideous indecencies of the original were omitted, or its occasional ineptitude furbished up. Aino mothers, lulling their babies to sleep, as they rock them in the cradle hung over the kitchen fire, use words, touch on subjects which we never mention; and that preciesly is a noteworthy characteristic. The innocent savage is not found in Aino-land, if indeed he is to be found anywhere. The Aino's imagination is as prurient as that of any Zola, and far more outspoken. Pray, therefore, put the blame on him, if much of the language of the present collection is such as is not usual to see in print. Aino stories and Aino conversation are the intellectual counterpart of the dirt, the lice, and the skin-disease which cover Aino bodies.

For the four-fold classification of the stories, no importance is p. 6 claimed. It was necessary to arrange them somehow; and the division into "Tales Accounting for the Origin of Phenomna," "Moral Tales," "Tales of the Panaumbe and Penaumbe Cycle," and "Miscellaneous Tales," suggested itself as a convenient working arrangement. The "Scraps of Folk-Lore," which have been added at the end, may perhaps be considered out of place in a collection of tales. But I thought it better to err on the side of inclusion than on that of exclusion. For it may be presumed that the object of any such investigation is rather to gain as minute an acquaintance as possible with the mental products of the people studied, than scupulously to conform to any system.

There must be a large number of Aino fairy-tales besides those here given, as the chief tellers of stories, in Aino-land as in Europe, are the women, and I had mine from men only, the Aino women being much too shy of male foreigners for it to be possible to have much conversation with them. Even of the tales I myself heard, several were lost through the destruction of certain papers,—among others at least three of the Panaumbe and Penaumbe Cycle, which I do not trust myself to reconstruct from memory at this distance of time. Many precious hours were likewise wasted, and much material rendered useless, by the national vice of drunkenness. A whole month at Hakodate was spoilt in this way, and nothing obtained from an Aino named Tomtare, who had been procured for me by the kindness of H. E. the Governor of Hakodate. One can have intercourse with men who smell badly, and who suffer, as almost all Ainos do from lice and from a variety of disgusting skin-diseases. It is a mere question of endurance and of disinfectants. But it is impossible to obtain information from a drunkard. A third reason for the comparatively small number of tales which it is possible to collect during a limited period of intercourse is the frequency of repetitions. No doubt such repetitions have a confirmatory value, especially when the repetition is of the nature of a variant. Still, one would willingly spare them for the sake of new tales.

The Aino names appended to the stories are those of the men by whom they were told to me, viz. Penri, the aged chief of Piratori; Ishanashte of Shumunkot; Kannariki of Poropet (Jap. Horobetsu); p. 7 and Kuteashguru of Sapporo. Tomtare of Yūrap does not appear for the reason mentioned above, which spoilt all his usefulness. The only mythological names which appear are Okikurumi, whom the Aino regard as having been their civilizer in very ancient times, his sister-wife Turesh, or Tureshi[hi] and his henchman Samayunguru. The "divine symbols," of which such constant mention is made in the tales, are the inao or whittled sticks frequently described in books of travels.

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Maschile Capra
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Ainu Shaman   Lun 4 Mag 2009 - 6:28


i.—The Rat and the Owl.*

An owl had put by for next day the remains of something dainty which he had to eat. But a rat stole it, whereupon the owl was very angry, and went off to the rat's house, and threatened to kill him. But the rat apologised, saying: "I will give you this gimlet and tell you how you can obtain from it pleasure far greater than the pleasure of eating the food which I was so rude as to eat up. Look here! you must stick the gimlet with the sharp point upwards in the ground at the root of this tree; then go to the top of the tree yourself, and slide down the trunk."

Then the rat went away, and the owl did as the rat had instructed him. But, sliding down on to the sharp gimlet, he impaled himself on it, and suffered great pain, and, in his grief and rage, went off to kill the rat. But again the rat met him with apologies, and, as a peace-offering, gave him a cap for his head.

These events account for the thick cap of erect feathers which the owl wears to this day, and also for the enmity between the owl and the rat.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 25th November, 1886.)

ii.—The Loves of the Thunder-Gods.

Two young thunder-gods, sons of the chief thunder-god, fell violently in love with the same Aino woman. Said one of them to p. 8 the other, in a joking way: "I will become a flea, so as to be able to hop into her bosom." Said the other: "I will become a louse, so as to be able to stay always in her bosom."

"Are those your wishes?" cried their father, the chief thunder-god. "You shall be taken at your word"; and forthwith the one of them who had said he would become a flea was turned into a flea, while he who said he would become a louse was turned into a louse. Hence all the fleas and lice that exist at the present day.

This accounts for the fact that, whenever there is a thunder storm, fleas jump out of all sorts of places where there were none to be seen before.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 27th November, 1886.)

iii.—Why Dogs cannot speak.

Formerly dogs could speak. Now they cannot. The reason is that a dog, belonging to a certain man a long time ago, inveighed his master into the forest under the pretext of showing him game, and there caused him to be devoured by a bear. Then the dog went home to his master's widow, and lied to her, saying: "My master has been killed by a bear. But when he was dying he commanded me to tell you to marry me in his stead." The widow knew that the dog was lying. But he kept on urging her to marry him. So at last, in her grief and rage, she threw a handful of dust into his open mouth. This made him unable to speak any more, and therefore no dogs can speak even to this very day.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 29th November. 1886.)

iv.—Why the Cock cannot fly.

When the Creator had finished creating the world, and had returned to the sky, he sent down the cock to see whether the world was good or not, with orders to come back at once. But the world was so beautiful, that the cock, unable to tear himself away, kept lingering on from day to day. At last, after a long time, he was on his way flying back up to the sky. But God, angry with him for his p. 9 disobedience, stretched forth his hand, and beat him down to earth, saying: "You are not wanted in the sky any more."

That is why, to this very day, the cock cannot fly high.—(Written down from memory. Told by Penri, 18th July, 1886.)

v.—The Origin of the Hare.

Suddenly there was a large house on the top of a mountain, wherein were six people beautifully arrayed, but constantly quarrelling. Whence they came was unknown. Thereupon Okikurumi came and said: "Oh! you bad hares! you wicked hares! who does not know your origin? The children in the sky were pelting each other with snowballs, and the snowballs fell into the world of men. As it would be a pity to waste anything that falls from the sky, the snowballs were turned into hares, and those hares are you. You, who dwell in this world, which belongs to me, should not quarrel. What is it that you are making such a noise about?"

With these words, Okikurumi seized a fire-brand, and beat each of the six with it in turn. Thereupon all the hares ran away. This is the origin of the hare[-god]; and for this reason the body of the hare is white because made of snow, while its ears—which are the place where it was charred by the fire-brand,—are black.—(Translated literally. Told by Penri, 10th July, 1886.)

vi.—The Position of the Private Parts.

At the beginning of the world it had been the Creator's intention to place both men's and women's genitals on their foreheads so that they might be able to procreate children easily. But the otter made a mistake in conveying the message to that effect; and that is how the genitals come to be in the inconvenient place they are now in.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 11th July, 1886)

vii.—The Reason for there being no Fixed Time for Human Beings to copulate.

Anciently the Creator summoned all the birds and beasts, the gods p. 10 and devils together, in order to instruct them on the subject of copulation. So the birds and all the others of every sort assembled, and learnt from the Creator when to copulate, and when to give birth to their young.

Then the Creator said to the horse: "Oh! thou divine ancestor of horses! It will be well for thee to copulate one spring, and to give birth to thy young in the spring of the following year; and thou mayest eat any of the grass that may grow in any land." At these words, the horse was delighted, and forthwith trotted out. But, as he rose, he kicked God in the forehead. So God was very angry, and pressed his hand to his head, so much did it hurt him.

Meanwhile, the ancestor of men came in, and asked saying: "How about me? When shall I copulate?" To which God, being still angry, replied: "Whenever you like!" For this reason, that race of creatures which is called man copulate at all times.—(Translated literally. Told by Ishanashte, 12th July, 1886).

viii.—The Owl and the Tortoise.

The tortoise[-god] in the sea and the owl[-god] on land were very intimate, The tortoise spoke thus: "Your child is a boy, My child is a girl, so it will be good for us to unite them in marriage. If I send into the river the fish that there are in the sea your son and my daughter, being both of them enabled to eat fish, will possess the world." Thus spoke the tortoise. The owl was greatly obliged. For this reason, the child of the tortoise and the child of the owl became husband and wife. For this reason, the owl, without the least hesitation, eats every fish that comes into the river.—(Translated literally. Told by Penri, 15th July, 1886.)

ix.—How a Man got the better of two Foxes.

A man went into the mountains to get bark to make rope with, and found a hole. To this hole there came a fox, who spoke as follows, though he was a fox, in human language: "I know of something from which great profit may be derived. Let us go to the place to-morrow!" To which the fox inside the hole replied as p. 11 follows: "What profitable thing do you allude to? After hearing about it, I will go with you if it sounds likely to be profitable; and if not, not." The fox outside spoke thus: "The profitable thing to be done is this. I will come here to-morrow about the time of the mid-day meal. You must be waiting for me then, and we will go off together. If you take the shape of a horse, and we go off together, I taking the shape of a man and riding on your back, we can go down to the shore, where dwell human beings possessed of plenty of food and all sorts of other things. As there is sure to be among the people some one who wants a horse, I will sell you to him who thus wants a horse. I can then buy a quantity of precious things and of food. Then I shall run away; and you, having the appearance of a horse, will be led out to eat grass, and be tied up somewhere on the hillside. Then, if I come and help you to escape, and we divide the food and the precious things equally between us, it will be profitable for both of us." Thus spoke the fox outside the hole; and the fox inside the hole was very glad, and said: "Come and fetch me early to-morrow, and we will go off together."

The man was hidden in the shade of the tree, and had been listening. Then the fox who had been standing outside went away, and the man, too, went home for the night. But he came back next day to the mouth of the hole, and spoke thus, imitating the voice of the fox whom he had heard speaking outside the hole the day before: "Here I am. Come out at once! If you will turn into a horse, we will go down to the shore." The fox came out. It was a big fox. The man said: "I have come already turned into a man. If you turn into a horse, it will not matter even if we are seen by other people." The fox shook itself, and became a large chestnut [lit. red] horse. Then the two went off together, and came to a very rich village, plentifully provided with everything. The man said: "I will sell this horse to anybody who wants one." As the horse was a very fine one, every one wanted to buy it. So the man bartered it for a quantity of food and precious things, and then went away.

Now the horse was such a peculiarly fine one that its new owner did not like to leave it out-of-doors, but always kept it in the house. He shut the door, and he shut the window, and cut grass to feed it p. 12 with. But though he fed it, it could not (being really a fox) eat grass at all. All it wanted to eat was fish. After about four days it was like to die. At last it made its escape through the window and ran home; and, arriving at the place where the other fox lived, wanted to kill it. But it discovered that the trick had been played, not by its companion fox, but by the man. So both the foxes were very angry, and consulted about going to find the man and kill him.

But though the two foxes had decided thus, the man came and made humble excuses, saying: "I came the other day, because I had overheard you two foxes plotting; and then I cheated you. For this I humbly beg your pardon. Even if you do kill me, it will do no good. So henceforward I will brew rice-beer for you, and set up the divine symbols for you, and worship you,—worship you for ever. In this way you will derive greater profit than you would derive from killing me. Fish, too, whenever I make a good catch, I will offer to you as an act of worship. This being so, the creatures called men shall worship you for ever."

The foxes, hearing this, said: "That is capital, we think. That will do very well." Thus spake the foxes. Thus does it come about that all men, both Japanese and Aino, worship the fox. So it is said.—(Translated literally. Told by Ishanashte, 15th July, 1886.)

x.—The Man who Married the Bear-Goddess.

There was a very populous village. It was a village having both plenty of fish and plenty of venison. It was a place lacking no kind of food. Nevertheless, once upon a time, a famine set in. There was no food, no venison, no fish, nothing to eat at all; there was a famine. So in that populous village all the people died.

Now the village chief was a man who had two children, a boy and a girl. After a time, only those two children remained alive. Now the girl was the older of the two, and the boy was the younger. The girl spoke thus: "As for me, it does not matter even if I do die, since I am a girl. But you, being a boy, can, if you like, take up our father's inheritance. So you should take these things with you, p. 13 use them to buy food with, eat it, and live." So spoke the girl, and took out a bag made of cloth, and gave it to him.

Then the boy went out on to the sand, and walked along the seashore. When he had walked on the sand for a long time, he saw a pretty little home a short way inland. Near it was lying the carcase of a large whale. The boy went to the house, and after a time entered it. On looking around, he saw a man of divine appearance. The man's wife, too, looked like a goddess, and was dressed altogether in black raiment. The man was dressed altogether in speckled raiment. The boy went in, and stood by the door. The man said to him: "Welcome to you, whencesoever you may have come," Afterwards a lot of the whale's flesh was boiled, and the boy was feasted on it. But the woman never looked towards him. Then the boy went out and fetched his parcel, which he had left outside. He brought in the bag made of cloth which had been given to him by his sister, and opened its mouth. On taking out and looking at the things inside it, they were found to be very precious treasures. "I will give you these treasures in payment for the food," said the boy, and gave them to that divine-looking man-of-the-house. The god, having looked at them, said: "They are very beautiful treasures." He said again: "You need not have paid me for the food. But I will take these treasures of yours, carry them to my [other] house, and bring you my own treasures in exchange for them. As for this whale's flesh, you can eat as much of it as you like, witnout payment." Having said this, he went off with the lad's treasures.
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Ainu Shaman   Lun 4 Mag 2009 - 6:29

Then the lad and the woman remained together. After a time the woman turned to the lad, and said: "You lad! listen to me when I speak. I am the bear-goddess. This husband of mine is the dragon-god. There is no one so jealous as he is. Therefore did I not look towards you, because I knew that he would be jealous if I looked towards you. Those treasures of yours are treasures which even the gods do not possess. It is because he is delighted to get them that he has taken them with him to counterfeit them and bring you mock treasures. So when he shall have brought those treasures and shall display them, you must speak thus: 'We need not exchange treasures. I wish to buy the woman!' If you speak thus, p. 14 he will go angrily away, because he is such a jealous man. Then afterwards we can marry each other, which will be very pleasant. That is how you must speak." That was what the woman said.

Then, after a certain time, the man of divine appearance came back grinning. He came bringing two sets of treasures, the treasures which were treasures and his own other treasures. The god spoke thus: "You, lad! As I have brought the treasures which are your treasures, it will be well to exchange them for my treasures." The boy spoke thus: "Though I should like to have treasures also, I want your wife even more than I want the treasures; so please give me your wife instead of the treasures." Thus spoke the lad.

He had no sooner uttered the words than he was stunned by a clap of thunder above the house. On looking around him, the house was gone, and only he and the goddess were left together. He came to his senses. The treasures were there also. Then the woman spoke thus: "What has happened is that my dragon-husband has gone away in a rage, and has therefore made this noise, because you and I wish to be together. Now we can live together." Thus spoke the goddess. Afterwards they lived together. This is why the bear is a creature half like a human being.—(Translated literally. Told by Ishanashte, 9th November, 1886.)

xi.—The two Foxes, the Mole, and the Crows.

Two brother foxes consulted together thus: "It would be fun for us to go down among men, and assume human shape." So they made treasures and they made garments out of the leaves of various trees, and they made various things to eat and cakes out of the gum which comes out of trees. But the mole[-god] saw them making all these preparations. So the mole made a place like a human village, and placed himself in it under the disguise of a very old man. The foxes came to that village; they came to the very old man's house. And the mole himself made beautiful treasures and made garments out of various herbs and leaves of trees; and, taking mulberries and grapes from the tops of the trees, he made good food. On the arrival of the foxes, the mole invited all the crows in the place and all sorts p. 15 of birds. He gave them human shape, and placed them as owners in the houses of the village. Then the mole, as chief of the village, was a very old man.

Then the foxes came, having assumed the shape of men. They thought the place was a human village. The old chief bought all the things which the foxes had brought on their backs, all their treasures and all their food. Then the old man displayed to them his own beautiful treasures. The old man displayed all his beautiful things, his garments. The foxes were much pleased. Then the old man spoke thus: "Oh you strangers! as there is a dance in my village, it will be well for you to see it." Then all the people in the village danced all sorts of dances. But at last, owing to their being birds, they began to fly upwards, notwithstanding their human shape. The foxes saw this, and were much amused. The foxes ate both of the mulberries and of the grapes. They tasted very good. It was great fun, too, to see the dancing. Afterwards they went home.

The foxes thought thus: "What is nicer even than treasures is the delicious food which human beings have. As we do not know what it is, let us go again and buy some more of it." So they again made treasures out of herbs. Then they again went down to that village. The mole was in a golden house—a large house. He was alone in it, having sent all the crows and the rest away. As the foxes entered the house and looked about them, they saw a very venerable god. The god spoke thus: "Oh! you foxes; because you had assumed human shape, you made all sorts of counterfeit treasures. I saw all that you did. It is by me, and because of this, that you are brought here. You think this is a human village; but it is the village of me, your master the mole. It seems you constantly do all sorts of bad things. If you do so, it is very wrong; so do not assume human shape anymore. If you will cease to assume human shape, you may henceforth eat your fill of these mulberries and grapes. You and your companions the crows may eat together of the mulberries and of all fruits at the top of the trees, which the crows cause to drop down. This will be much more profitable for you than to assume human shape." Thus spoke the mole.

Owing to this, the foxes left off assuming human shape, and, from p. 16 that time forward, ate as they pleased of the mulberries and the grapes. When the crows let any drop, they went underneath the trees and ate them. They became very friendly together.—(Translated literally. Told by Ishanashte, 11th November, 1886.)

xii.—The Stolen Charm.

A very rich man kept a puppy and a fox-cub. Besides these he possessed a tiny silver model of a ship,—a charm given to him by some god, what god I know not. One day this charm was stolen, and could nowhere be found. The rich man was so violently grieved at this, that he lay down and refused all food, and was like to die. Meanwhile the puppy and the fox-cub played about in his room. But when they saw, after some time, that the man was really going to die, the fox-cub said to the puppy: "If our master dies, we shall die of hunger too; so we had better search for the charm." So they consulted as to the best way to search for it; and at last the fox-cub was struck by the idea that the ogre who lived at the top of the large mountain that stands at the end of the world might have stolen the charm and put it into his box. The fox-cub seemed to see that this had really happened. So the two little animals determined to go and rescue the charm from the ogre. But they knew that they could not accomplish this alone, and resolved to add the rat[-god] to their number. So they invited the rat, and the three went off, dancing merrily.

Now the ogre was always looking steadily in the direction of the sick rich man, hoping that he would die. So he did not notice the approach of the fox-cub, the dog, and the rat. So when they reached the ogre's house, the rat, with the help of the fox-cub, scooped out a passage under and into the house, by which all three made their way in. They then decided that it must be left to the rat to get hold of the charm by nibbling a hole in the box in which it was kept. Meanwhile the fox-cub assumed the shape of a little boy, and the puppy that of a little girl,—two beautiful little creatures who danced and went through all sorts of antics, much to the amusement of the ogre. The ogre was, however, suspicious as to how they had come into the p. 17 house, and whence they had come, for the doors were not open. So he determined just to divert himself awhile by watching their frolics, and then to kill them. Meanwhile the rat had nibbled a hole in the box. Then getting into it, he rescued the charm, and went out again through the passage in the ground. The little boy and girl disappeared too; how, the ogre could not tell. He made to pursue them through the door, when he saw them fleeing. But on second thoughts he came to the conclusion that, having once been taken in by a fox, there was no use in further endeavours. So he did not follow the three animals as they fled away.

They returned to the village; the puppy and the fox-cub to their master's house, the rat to its own place. The puppy and the fox-cub took home with them the charm, and placed it by their master's pillow, playing about near him, and pulling his clothes a little with their teeth. At length he lifted his head and saw the charm. Then he worshipped it with great joy and gratitude. Afterwards the fox-cub and the puppy caused him to see in a dream how the charm had been recovered through the rat's assistance. So he worshipped the rat also.

For this reason the Ainos do not think so very badly of the rat after all. The fox, too, though often pursued by dogs, will sometimes make friends with them; and even when a dog is pursuing a fox, it will not bite the latter if it turns its face towards the pursuer.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 21st November, 1886.)

xiii.—The Fox, the Otter, and the Monkey.

In very ancient days, at the beginning of the world, there were a fox, an otter, and a monkey, all three of whom lived on the most intimate terms of friendship.

One day the fox spoke to the other two as follows: "What do you say to our going off somewhere, and stealing food and treasures from the Japanese?" His two companions having consented, they all went together to a distant place, and stole a bag of beans, a bag of salt, and a mat from the house of a very rich man. When they had p. 18 come home with their plunder, the fox said: "Otter! You had better take the salt, for it will be useful to you in salting the fish which you catch in the water when you go fishing. Monkey! do you take the mat; it will be very useful for you to make your children dance upon. As for myself, I will take the bag of beans."

After this, all three retired to their respective houses; and a little later the otter went to the river to fish. But, as he took his bag of salt with him when he made the plunge, all the salt was melted in a moment, to his great disappointment. The monkey was equally unlucky; for, having taken his mat and spread it on the top of a tree, and made his children dance there, the children fell, and were dashed to pieces on the ground below.

The monkey and the otter, enraged by the misfortunes which the fox's wiles had brought upon them, now joined together in order to fight the fox. So the latter took a lot of beans out of his bag, chewed them to a pulp, smeared all his body with the paste, and lay down pretending to be very ill. And when the otter and the monkey came and made to kill him, he said: "See to what a pitiful plight I am reduced! As a punishment for having deceived you, my whole body is now covered with boils, and I am on the point of death. There is no need for you to kill me. Go away! I am dying fast enough." The monkey looked, and saw that the fox seemed to be speaking the truth. So he went testily away, across the sea to Japan. That is the reason why there are no monkeys in the land of the Ainos.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 11th July, 1886.)

xiv.—The Fox and the Tiger.—(No. I.)

Said the tiger to the fox: "Let us run a race from the top of the world to the bottom of the world, and he who wins it shall be lord of the world!" The fox agreed, and off the tiger bounded, but without noticing that the fox had caught hold of his tail so as to get pulled along by him. Just as the tiger was about to reach the other end, he suddenly whisked round, in order to jeer at the fox, whom he believed to be far behind. But this motion exactly threw the fox p. 19 safely on to the far end, so that he was able to call out to the astonished tiger: "Here I am. What are you so long about?"

For this reason there are no tigers in Aino-land.
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Maschile Capra
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Ainu Shaman   Lun 4 Mag 2009 - 6:30

(No. II.)

Said the tiger to the fox: "You are said to be the craftiest of all creatures. Let us now enter into rivalry, and see which of us can roar the loudest; for to him shall belong the chieftainship of the world." The fox consented, and the two stood up alongside of each other. But as it was for the tiger to roar first, he remained standing up, and did not notice how the fox scraped a hole with his paws to hide his head in, so that his ears might not be stunned by the tiger's roaring.

Well, the tiger roared a roar which he thought must be heard from the top of the world to the bottom of the world, and must certainly stun the fox. But the fox, as soon as he knew the tiger's roar to be at an end, jumped up out of the hole where he had been hiding his ears, and said: "Why! I hardly heard you. You can surely roar louder than that. You had better try again."

The tiger was very angry at this; for he had expected that the fox would be stunned to death. However he resolved to make another still more tremendous effort. He did so, while the fox again hid his head in the hole; and the tiger burst his inside in the attempt.

For this reason there are no tigers in Aino-land. For this reason, also, foxes are crafty and eloquent even at the present day.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 27th November, 1886.)

xv.—The Punishment of Curiosity.

In very ancient days, when the world had just been made, everything was still unsettled and dangerous. The crust of the earth was thin, and all was burning beneath. For this reason the people did not dare to venture outside of their huts even to obtain food: for they would have scorched their feet. So they were fed by the god Okikurumi, who used to fish for them, and then send round his wife p. 20 Turesh with what he had caught. But he commanded the people to ask no questions, and never to attempt to look at Turesh's face. But one day an Aino in one of the huts was not content with being fed for nothing, and disobeyed Okikurumi's commands. He wished to see who the woman was that came round every day with food. So he waited till her hand was stretched in at the window, seized hold of it, and pulled her in by main force. She screamed and struggled; and, when she was inside the hut, she turned into a wriggling, writhing dragon. The sky darkened, the thunder crashed, the dragon vanished, and the hut was consumed by lightning. Okikurumi was very angry at what the man had done. So he left off feeding the people, and went away, none knew whither. That is why the Ainos have been poor and miserable ever since that time.—(Written down from memory. Told by Kuteashguru, July, 1886.)

xvi.—How it was settled who should rule the World.

When the Creator had finished creating this world of men, the good and the bad gods were all mixed together promiscuously, and began disputing for the possession of the world. They disputed,—the bad gods wanting to be at the head of the government of this world, and the good gods likewise wanting to be at the head. So the following arrangement was agreed to: Whoever, at the time of sunrise, should be the first to see the luminary, should rule the world. If the bad gods should be the first to see it rise, then they should rule; and if the good gods should be the first, then they should rule. Thereupon both the bad Gods and the brilliant gods looked towards the place where the luminary was to rise. But the fox[-god] alone stood looking towards the west. After a little time, the fox cried out: "I see the sunrise." On the gods, both bad and good, turning round and gazing, they saw in truth the refulgence of the luminary in the west. This is the cause for which the brilliant gods rule the world.—(Translated literally. Told by Ishanashte, 10th July, 1886.)

p. 21

xvii.—The Man who lost his Wife.

A man had lost his wife, and was searching for her everywhere, over hill and dale, forest and sea-shore. At last he came to a wide plain, on which stood an oak-tree. Going up to it he found it to be not so much an oak-tree as a house, in which dwelt a kind-looking old man. Said the old man: "'I am the god of the oak-tree. I know of your loss, and have seen your faithful search. Rest here awhile, and refresh yourself by eating and smoking. After that, if you hope to find your wife again, you must obey my orders, which are as follows: Take this golden horse, get on his back, fly up on him to the sky, and, when you get there, ride about the streets, constantly singing."

So the man mounted the horse, which was of pure gold. The saddle and all the trappings were of gold also. As soon as he was in the saddle, the horse flew up to the sky. There the man found a world like ours, but more beautiful. There was an immense city in it; and up and down the streets of that city, day after day, he rode, singing all the while. Every one in the sky stared at him, and all the people put their hands to their noses, saying: "How that creature from the lower world stinks!" At last the stench became so intolerable to them that the chief god of the sky came and told him that he should be made to find his wife if only he would go away. Thereupon the man flew back to earth on his golden horse. Alighting at the foot of the oak-tree, he said to the oak-god: "Here am I. I did as you bade me. But I did not find my wife." "Wait a moment," said the oak-god; "you do not know what a tumult has been caused by your visit to the sky, neither have I yet told you that it was a demon who stole your wife. This demon, looking up from hell below, was so much astonished to see and hear you riding up and down the streets of heaven singing, that his gaze is still fixed in that direction. I will profit hereby to go round quietly, while his attention is absorbed, and let your wife out of the box in which he keeps her shut up."

The oak-god did as he had promised. He brought back the woman, and handed over both her and the gold horse to the man, p. 22 saying: "Do not use this horse to make any more journeys to the sky. Stay on earth, and breed from it." The couple obeyed his commands, and became very rich. The gold horse gave birth to two horses, and these two bred likewise, till at last horses filled all the land of the Ainos.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 21st July, 1886)

xviii.—The First Appearance of the Horse in Aino-land.

A very beautiful woman had a husband. He was a very skilful fellow. Once he went to the mountains, and disappeared. But at night he returned, bearing a deer on his back. After feasting on the deer, they went to bed. But in the middle of the night, the woman wept and screamed, saying: "This man is not my husband. Though with shame, I will declare the fact as it is. His penis is so big, so big, so big, that it will not get into my vagina; and if it did get in, I should die."

Alarmed by her cries, the neighbours ran out, and came into her house; and one strong fellow took a stick, and beat the husband, saying: "You must be some sort of devil," whereupon the husband turned into a horse, and ran away neighing. Afterwards he was beaten to death.

The truth was that the husband had been killed and supplanted by the horse. That was the first the Ainos saw of horses. In ancient days every sort of creature could thus assume human shape. So it is said.—(Translated literally. Told by Penri, 12th July, 1886).


When the sun rises at the head of the world [i.e. in the east], a devil tries to swallow it. But some one thrusts two or three crows or foxes into the devil's mouth. Meanwhile the sun mounts on high. The creatures, than which there are none more numerous in this world, are the crows and the foxes. That is why things are thus. In return for this service of theirs, the crows and foxes share in all man's eatables. It is because of the above fact.—(Translated literally. Told by Penri, 13th July, 1886.)

p. 23

xx.—The Sex of the Two Luminaries.

Formerly it was the female luminary that came out at night. But she was so greatly shocked at the immoralities which she saw going on out of doors among the grass, that she exchanged with the male luminary, who, being a man, did not care so much. So now the sun is a female deity, and the moon is a male deity. But surely the sun must be often shocked at what she sees going on even in the daytime, when the young people are in the open among the grass.—(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, November, 1886.)
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MessaggioOggetto: Ainu Shaman   Gio 7 Mag 2009 - 6:29



Traditions of Noh and Kabuki as in response to Western theatre, has in the postwar
years assimilated the Western impact to such a degree that it now stands on its own
as a substantial, very Japanese form. Furthermore, Professor Kawatake appears to
overlook the fact that one can find in the beginnings of Noh and Kabuki certain aspects
of Chinese or Korean origin. These traditional forms may well be more " Japanese "
in a traditional sense than Shingeki. But to claim that they are uniquely so is hardly
accurate, and to condemn Shingeki because it is a modern, Western-tinged phenomenon
is, at best, not befitting a scholar of Professor Kawatake's stature.
His other inconsistency is actually an oversight, one in which he is not alone.
How often have we in the West heard the claim that Kabuki's famed onnagata are,
as Professor Kawatake asserts, " more woman-like than women . . . " (p. 189), that
they express feminine beauty which women themselves are " not capable of expressing.
. . " (p. 142)? Not to belittle the onnagata, whose art is often stunning, but this
notion is surely open to question. Why, we may ask, can women not effect male
roles with more masculinity than men? Professor Kawatake entertains not even an
inkling of this obvious question; rather, he accepts as axiomatic the conventional
wisdom on onnagata. He goes on in similar vein to discuss the fact that onnagata
were required to live as women in real life in order to act " as if they had stepped out
of actual life and onto the stage " (p. 193). But why were actors in other Kabuki
roles, the merchants, the braggarts, the murderers, the thieves, not also required to
live their roles in real life? Why is it that even today women are deemed incapable
of rendering true femininity on the Kabuki stage? Why does Professor Kawatake
not broach these questions? Of course, the fact that he does not reveals as much
about the prevailing Japanese attitudes toward women as it does about Kabuki. Some
objective discussion of this phenomenon would not only be germane but enlightening,
adjectives which amply describe the rest of Professor Kawatake's portion of the book.
Admittedly, these are all mere quibbles when considering the work as a whole.
One might have hoped for more insight and analysis to accompany an otherwise fascinating
historical excursion. But the value of this book is as an introduction and as
such it makes for good reading. Even scholars who might not find it a work to savor
will be hardpressed to deny its usefulness. For it provides the means to a substantial
end: an accurate grasp of the history and development of the very workings of traditional
Japanese theatre.
OHNUKI-TIERNEEMYIK, O. Illness and healing among the Sakhalin Ainu:
A symbolic interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1981. xvi+245 pp. Appendices, bibliography, subject index. Hardcover
E20.000. ISBN 0-521-23636-3.
Illness and healing among the Sakhalin Ainu is a valuable book in terms of its presentation
of Ainu ethnomedicine, its analysis of the Ainu symbolic structure and its discussion
of Ainu shamanism. In the studies of ethnomedicine the analysis of field data
usually precludes any development of a broader perspective other than that of taxonomic
classification. While the value of these studies is apparent, they seldom provide
insight into a people's medical system as a whole or the principles of perception that
underlie the classification of illnesses. Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney's book is a significant
exception in that it attempts to relate the various cognitive, sensory and emotive factors
involved in Ainu symbolic medicine with the dyadic oppositions expressed in the
Ainu world view.
Her work, based on fifteen years of research into Ainu culture, gathers together
ethnomedical data and linguistic studies of Ainu illness and healing terminology to
present an interpretation of this particular cultural activity as well as a general method.
She discusses various theories of symbolic classification to indicate the positive contribution
of ethnomedical data for anthropological research. Of particular importance
in her symbolic analysis is the issue of unclassifiable elements or anomaly and their
significance in Ainu rituals. Finally she discusses the formation of the Ainu shaman,
the multiple social roles of this healer, and imu: or shamanic sickness as it relates to
Ainu symbolic medicine and social sanction.
After an introductory section locating the Ainu in their geography, history and
ethnography the author uses an ethnomedical and linguistic approach to present the
Ainu classificatory schema of illnesses. Her underlying argument is that such an
investigation provides a means for understanding the way in which the Ainu order
their world. Furthermore, the Ainu perceptual structure may be determined by
means of the illness terminology and their subsequent classification. Habitual illnesses,
then, " . . . are those that the Ainu diagnose on the basis of such symptoms
as the nature of the pain or the appearance of the ailing part of the body " (39). Treatment
of these recurring illnesses is so standard that they are often ignored in symbolic
anthropology. Researchers have consistently shown more interest in the metaphysical
illnesses that involve supernatural beings which of necessity require symbolic expression.
But the author emphasizes the significance of the sensory and emotive
factors in classifying habitual illnesses suggesting that such factors provide initial
insight into the perceptual structure underlying the world view. Ohnuki-Tierney
then takes up a discussion of the metaphysical illnesses indicating that among the Ainu
they are identified by causal agents in the supernatural world rather than by appearance.
Thus the manner of perception is instrumental in later classification. A most important
factor for understanding Ainu ethnomedicine, however, is the presence of
those unclassifiable elements or anomalous symbols which figure so prominently in
the sacred:profane opposition of the Ainu world view.
A significant contribution of this work, then, is its discussion of anomaly as a
central element in understanding Ainu medical symbols, shamanistic activity and world
view. Ohnuki-Tierney refers to theories of symbolic classification and the way in
which they treat of this unclassifiable element. She raises questions regarding the
possible investigation of the anomalous by developing classes of expression. She
accentuates the need for study of the particular symbolic structures that deem phenomena
as anomalous as well as the mediating capacity of anomalous symbols. Using
Ainu data Ohnuki-Tierney articulates three manifestations of anomaly, namely, as a
negative threat to the existing order, as a positive benefit to the current structure,
or as an anti-structural element that mediates change of the structure. Anomaly as
negative anti-structure, or demons, can cause sickness thus threatening the classified
world of the Ainu and upsetting the dyadic balance of the sacred: profane world view.
But evocation of certain anti-structural anomaly or spirits can also be mediated in
formalized rites of mythic recitation by men or in non-formalized shamanistic rites by
women. Both of these ritualized expressions augment the Ainu way of life, the profane
side of the dyadic opposition, in order to reassert balance. The multivocality of
creative anomalous symbols is further analyzed by the author using symbolic oppositions
such as sacred: profane, nature: culture, and men: women to indicate two sets
of belief systems in which the Ainu can invert the male and female roles with relation
to healing as a profane activity. For example, Ainu shamanistic rites draw extensively
on cooking for symbolic forms which accentuates the women's profane side as the
locus for countering anti-structure rather than the invocation of the sacred to combat
evil as in the men's healing by mythic recitation.
With regard to the contrast between habitual and metaphysical illnesses Ohnuki-
Tierney critiques structural theories which are unable to adjust to varying principles
of perception within particular cultures. Modes of perception, she suggests, may
very well accompany sets of belief systems within one culture. Following this discussion
the author elaborates her linguistic method especially its indebtedness to the
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. This hypothesis posits correlations between the structure
of a people's world view and the grammatical categories of their language. In relation
to perceptual structures, Ohnuki-Tierney indicates that conceptual forms may
also find a variety of linguistic and non-linguistic expressions.
The final chapter presents a general discussion of the shaman in relation to the
patient and the larger Ainu society. After reviewing the formation of the shaman
she presents two aspects of the power of the shaman, namely, communication with
deities and " miracle performances " of unusual skill customarily performed by men.
Various roles of the shaman are associated with their formalized power recognized by
society and their non-formalized power which is not so recognized but which Ohnuki-
Tierney identifies with domestic shamanism. This form of Ainu shamanism is largely
open to women and politically marginal men. The roles considered are: religious
specialist, health care specialist, theatrical performer, and covert politician. Finally
describing the individual shaman and his sickness or imu:, the author presents comparative
materials on shamans in various Ainu societies. She acknowledges the psychological
disturbance prevalent in a majority of Ainu shamans; but she indicates that
the Ainu perception of this imu:-sickness is not of a pathology but rather of a nonformalized
contact with power. In the final section, Ohnuki-Tierney reasserts the
need for a dual approach to the study of shamanism which takes account of the individual
personality as well as significant sociocultural factors.
The points in her work which might be critiqued more closely are her apparent
reliance on one " key informant," the introduction of a variety of interpretive theories
which cause some ambiguity regarding her own position, and the absence of an assessment
of the cultural role (emic) of religion in mediating anomaly, curing sickness
and explaining the individual formation of a shaman. While all of these points are
mentioned in the book, a fuller discussion would be helpful in supporting her overall
In conclusion, this reviewer welcomes this work as a positive contribution to the
development of the ethnomedical method as well as an insightful analysis of the Ainu
people in their symbolic classification of illness. This work provides a new interpretation
of Ainu healing and illness; and, perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates the
value of utilizing multiple field methods in elucidating a more comprehensive view
of a " classic people," the Ainu of Sakhalin Island.
John A. Grim
Elizabeth Seton College, Yonkers NY
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Femminile Serpente
Numero di messaggi : 1826
Data d'iscrizione : 22.03.10
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Località : Prov. CN

MessaggioOggetto: Re: Ainu Shaman   Sab 17 Dic 2011 - 10:07

Admin riporto alcuni stralci dei documenti di wikipedia che parlano della popolazione Ainu e dei loro miti, per approfondimenti si consiglia la visione anche alla fonte originale.


Gli Ainu (propriamente "uomini"), sono una popolazione abitante l'isola di Hokkaidō nel nord del Giappone (un tempo chiamata Ezo, in giapponese Isola dei selvaggi), le isole Curili e in piccola parte, l'isola russa di Sachalin e le coste del continente, caratterizzati fino ai primi decenni del secolo scorso, da una società a struttura tribale. La loro appartenenza ad uno dei ceppi etnici attualmente esistenti è da lungo tempo discussa.

Alcuni Ainu (la maggior parte di essi ha adottato usi, costumi e lingua giapponesi o russi) parlano ancora l'idioma tradizionale, la Lingua Ainu, una lingua isolata.

Mito e storia

Le origini degli Ainu sono tuttora avvolte dal più fitto mistero. Gli antichi scritti sacri dello scintoismo, il Kojiki ed il Nihonshoki narrano che Susanoo, kami del vento e della tempesta, rifiutato l'incarico affidatogli dal padre Izanagi di governare i mari, andò a lamentarsi dalla sorella Amaterasu, personificazione del Sole, che governava le Pianure dell'Alto Cielo, una sorta di paradiso, luogo di origine e di residenza degli innumerevoli kami. Qui, per aver distrutto le risaie di Amaterasu, insozzato la sala dei banchetti delle divinità con i propri escrementi ed aver scorticato contropelo il sacro cavallo della sorella, fu scacciato e condannato a vivere tra gli uomini. Sulla Terra egli ed i suoi numerosi discendenti conobbero molte donne dalle quali nacquero diversi personaggi che spartirono tra loro la terra di Yamato, mantenendo una situazione di continuo conflitto tra i diversi feudi. Tempo dopo Amaterasu decise di unificare e pacificare l'arcipelago dai suoi discendenti, mandando suo nipote Ninigi a compiere l'impresa. Uno dei figli di costui, Jinmu, dall'isola di Kyushu da dove proveniva si diresse verso il Giappone Centrale, sottomettendo chi della numerosa progenie di Susanoo riconosceva la sua supremazia e uccidendo senza pietà i signori delle terre che si ribellavano alla sua avanzata. In poco tempo il condottiero riuscirà a sottomettere una buona parte del paese, divenendo il primo imperatore della dinastia dei Tennō.

Alcuni individui (tra cui dei capi locali sia ribelli che più docili), incontrati da Jinmu nelle parti dei sacri testi dedicate alla sua opera di conquista, sono dotati della coda, una curiosa caratteristica attribuita anche alle orde di rozzi cavernicoli brutalmente sterminati nei pressi di Osaka e di Ise. Si potrebbe dunque identificare questi feroci barbari con i membri delle tribù Ainu preistoriche che furono decimati o spinti sempre più a nord nel corso dei secoli, e gli appartenenti alla stirpe del Sole che l'autore descrive con la coda con i frutti delle numerose unioni miste realmente avvenute che contribuirono ad aumentare il numero degli antenati dei Giapponesi e contribuendo alla loro vittoria sugli indigeni.

Quando ancora la dinastia del Trono del Crisantemo governava soltanto quella che oggi è la provincia di Yamato e fino al XVII secolo, gli Ainu erano visti con timore e vennero combattuti in uno stato di guerra continua per millenni, venendo quasi sempre sconfitti dalla superiorità bellica del nemico (gli Ainu non conoscevano il ferro) e man mano esiliati nelle foreste delle terre settentrionali, uccisi o convertiti agli usi civili dei Giapponesi di un tempo.

La presenza degli Ainu in tempi remoti su tutta la superficie dell'Arcipelago è testimoniata dalla presenza di moltissimi toponimi moderni che in giapponese hanno un significato assurdo o senza senso, ma più che appropriati se riesaminati nel quadro linguistico e culturale Ainu. Quando i Giapponesi infatti presero definitivo possesso delle terre del Sol Levante, non rinominarono i nomi di luogo precedentemente utilizzati, ma, con l'avvento della scrittura, gli attribuirono degli ideogrammi che corrispondevano ai suoni dei nomi da scrivere, pur avendo spesso significati completamente diversi. Un chiaro esempio che spicca tra i tanti ateji ("ideogrammi appiccicati dopo") è quello del monte Fuji, che in giapponese può essere scritto con due ideogrammi che possono significare "non-due" (cioè l'ineguagliabile) o "non-morte" (cioè l'immortale), ma che in genere viene trascritto con i due caratteri di ricchezza e samurai. Nella religione Ainu invece, Fuchi o Huchi era il nome della dea del fuoco, nome più che appropriato dunque per un vulcano. Altri studiosi hanno invece osservato, partendo dal fatto che gli Ainu preferivano battezzare i corsi d'acqua piuttosto che le montagne, che il termine push, che significa "sorgere violentemente" riferito all'impetuoso torrente Fujisawa, avrebbe potuto mutarsi in Fuzi, l'antico nome giapponese del monte.

Solo nell'era moderna il governo giapponese ha incominciato ad intraprendere politiche di protezione verso questa ormai minoranza nel territorio, ma gli Ainu e la loro lingua sembra stiano per scomparire, ad eccezione di quelli che vengono esibiti ad uso e consumo dei turisti.


Gli Ainu praticavano una religione di tipo animistico che vede in ogni oggetto, animale o fenomeno atmosferico la presenza di un dio. Per questo essi si affidano ad un nutritissimo pantheon di dèi (kamuì, da notare una possibile connessione con kami, corrispondente parola giapponese riferita alle divinità shintoiste) che influiscono positivamente o negativamente su ogni ambito della vita umana. Particolarmente importante è l'adorazione dell'orso, animale-simbolo di questo gruppo etnico. Le cerimonie tradizionali più importanti riguardano la caccia (l'iyomante, forse il più importante rito fra i culti tradizionali Ainu, l'hopnire, l'iwakte), la pesca e i riti iniziatici dei giovani già citati.

Benché incanalino il loro potere negli elementi della natura, i kamuì vivono in un altro universo simile a quello degli uomini, e si dividono in dèi pesanti e dèi leggeri, cioè dèi più importanti e meno importanti. Gli uomini invece vivono nel Mōshur, la terra che noi tutti conosciamo.


Nel manga Shaman King, Horo Horo, uno dei personaggi principali, è un Ainu.




The Ainu (アイヌ?), also called Aynu, Aino (アイノ), and in historical texts Ezo (蝦夷), are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin. Most of those who identify themselves as Ainu still live in this same region, though the exact number of living Ainu is unknown. This is due to confusion over mixed heritages and to ethnic issues in Japan resulting in those with Ainu backgrounds hiding their identities. In Japan, because of intermarriage over many years with Japanese, the concept of a pure Ainu ethnic group is no longer feasible.[3] Official estimates of the population are of around 25,000, while the unofficial number is upward of 200,000 people.[1]


The Ainu are traditionally animists, believing that everything in nature has a kamuy (spirit or god) on the inside. There is a hierarchy of the kamui.

The most important is grandmother earth (fire), then kamui of the mountain (animals), then kamui of the sea (sea animals), lastly everything else. They have no priests by profession.

The village chief performs whatever religious ceremonies are necessary; ceremonies are confined to making libations of rice beer, uttering prayers, and offering willow sticks with wooden shavings attached to them. These sticks are called inaw (singular) and nusa (plural).

They are placed on an altar used to "send back" the spirits of killed animals. Ainu ceremonies for sending back bears are called Iomante. The Ainu people give thanks to the gods before eating and pray to the deity of fire in time of sickness. They believe their spirits are immortal, and that their spirits will be rewarded hereafter by ascending to kamui mosir (Land of the Gods).

The Ainu believe the bear is very special because they think the bear is the mountain kamuy's way of delivering the gift of bear hide and meat to the humans.

Some Ainu in the north are members of the Russian Orthodox Church.


Ainu creation myth
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Ainu creation myths are the traditional creation accounts of the Ainu peoples of Hokkaidō, Japan. Their stories share common characteristics with Japanese creation myths and earth diver creation stories commonly found in Central Asian and Native American cultures.[1] In one version the creator deity sends down a water wagtail to create habitable land in the watery world below. The little bird fluttered over the waters, splashing water aside and then he packed patches of the earth firm by stomping them with his feet and beating them with his tail. In this way islands where the Ainu were later to live were raised to float upon the ocean.[1][2]

Because they think of themselves as hairy, many Ainu stories tell their first ancestor was a bear. However, an alternative version tells of kamuy sending a heavenly couple to earth called Okikurumi and Turesh. This couple had a son, whom some consider the first Ainu, and he is believed to have given the people the necessary skills to survive.[1]


^ a b c Leeming & Leeming 2009 - "Ainu Creation"
^ Sproul 1979, p. 215


Leeming, David Adams; Leeming, Margaret Adams (2009). A Dictionary of Creation Myths (Oxford Reference Online ed.). Oxford University Press.
Sproul, Barbara C. (1979). Primal Myths. HarperOne HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 978-0-06-067501-1.
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