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Terashi, the Sun kami

August 8, 2012

Magic: The Gathering: the game in which the Sun tentacle rapes your stuff.

As much as of a mechanic clusterfuck as it is, Kamigawa is my favourite MTG setting, thanks to it’s rich flavour based on japanese mythology. So vivid is the Shinto theme that many obscure characters from the myths feature promeniently.

 

One of said characters happens to be Terashi, the Sun kami. While not having a card dedicated to him, there are three cards that illustrate his might, and he features promeniently in one of the vignettes (albeit mostly because his temple was stolen). From the get-go, Terashi has interested me for a number of reasons.

 

Perhaps the strongest one is his mythological origins. At first, I thought he was an original character – the Sun in japanese mythology is widely represented as a female deity, Amaterasu -, but with some help I got some rather interesting information.

 

The mythological Terashi

Terashi in his fascist years. No, seriously, that’s him pictured.

Terashi has historically been known as Terashi Haru-omikami. As the name implies, Terashi Haru-omikami, as the herald of the dawn, was seen as a symbol of rebirth, most specifically the renewal of the world (yana-oashi). His rising in the East marked a daily Spring, bringing life into the world and expelling darkness. Eventually, he was adopted as the sun circle in the flag of Japan.

 

Terashi was particularly associated with mountains, Mt. Fuji being the most obvious sacred place (this probably means Terashi should have been Red on Kamigawa, but whatever). The yamabushi ascetics paid particular homage to him, as he lighted the path to enlightment.

 

As previously said, Shinto mythology has a more prevalent solar deity, Amaterasu, who is female. Both deities remained seperate, despiste sharing ostensibly the same domain, and Amaterasu eventually became more dominant, though Terashi kept being recognised, in particular in association with the Yatagarasu, the three legged crow (a common sun-symbol in Asia). This seems to suggest that Amaterasu was a personification of the Sun’s light, while Terashi was the Sun itself – much like Apollo and Helios in Greek mythology. A similar situation occurs in norse mythology, where the female Sunna is the incarnation of the Sun, while the male Dagr or Freyr is daylight.

The prettiest of all! [eldritch abominations, that is]

Lovecraft would be so proud.

As hinted previously, Terashi is not quite your humanoid god. He is either depicted as the sun symbol, or as a three legged crow (known as Yatagarasu in the latter aspect). This is quite the contrast to the woman-like Amaterasu, and it further cements the different nature of these deities – if Amy is your acessible folk deity, Terashi is the more alien, esoteric occult god. That his main worshippers were ascetics doesn’t hurt.

 

In Magic: The Gathering, the Kamigawa version of Terashi strongly reminds me or Aforgomon, one of Yog-Sothoth’s avatars in H.P. Lovecraft’s story. In role in the story is fundamentally the same: a very alien being, whose main contributions to the storyline were aiding the other kami to slaughter mortals (making him, you guessed it, a White villain). Yet, he doesn’t appear to have much malice himself.

 

Then again, who the hell knows what he’s thinking.

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