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In Shintoism, there is a legend that says two gods, Izanagi and Izanami, walked around a pillar. The goddess spoke to the god, then the god spoke to the goddess. They had a few kids but were unsatisfied with them. They consulted other gods about their problem. They told them that the Izanagi should have spoken first and to redo going around the pillar. They did so and had better luck with their offspring.

Why would the goddess speaking first cause bad luck with procreation?

  • It was one of those days when you are researching, just clicking, not really reading. But, then something catches your eye, and that is what ends up sticking with you. In other words, I don't know how I came to find this legend. I think I was trying to find more out about the origin stories of Shinto (Universe, gods, Takamagahara, humans and such). But if you Google "Japanese Mythology pillar," the first result (for me) is "Kuniumi." This is how I found it again. – Andrew Johnson Mar 20 '18 at 15:20
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    I found the legend, thanks. From a cursory read, this appears to be little more than blatant male chauvinism (not surprising for a patriarchal society). There probably is a lot more to it, though. – yannis Mar 20 '18 at 15:45
  • Chauvinism? Patriarchal? – Andrew Johnson Mar 20 '18 at 15:49
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  • @yannis I would say that's pretty much all there is to it, actually. – Semaphore May 13 '18 at 9:25
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This legend is found in the Kojiki, the oldest "history book" from Japan. The original text makes the reason quite plain: because Izanami is a woman.

告其妹曰「女人先言、不良」 . . . 「因女先言而不良」

He then told his sister, "The woman speaking first is bad" . . . [they copulated anyway and then consulted the gods, who advised:] . . . "It was bad because the woman spoke first.

As is apparent by the use of Chinese, Kojiki was written at a time when Japan was importing Chinese ideas wholescale. One aspect of the Confucian philosophy was the concept "男尊女卑", lit. "male superiority, female inferiority". Since Kojiki was commissioned by the Imperial family for propaganda purposes, it has been theorised that this passage reflected the Yamato Court's then ongoing effort to implement Chinese legalism.

(Ancient Japan was not originally patriarchal; hence, the theorised need for ideological propaganda to justify the reforms being adopted at the time.)

There are various theoretical frameworks to rationalise this belief. For instance, under the yin and yang, duality men are held to be yang while women are yin. Yet, according to Dong Zhongsu's theorem:

物隨陽而出入,數隨陽而終始,三王之正隨陽而更起。以此見之,貴陽而賤陰也。

All things rise and rests with yang; the year begins and ends with yang . . . therefore, yang is noble and ying is lowly.

Regardless, it's pretty obvious that Yannis' initial observation applies: it's blatant chauvinism.

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