Chamberlain, in 'Aino folk-tales', reports the following tale, referred to as 'How it was settled who should rule the World', from the Ainus (Hokkaido, Japan):

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.)

Meaning that the Ainus consider some of their gods (Kamuy) to be bad. Do we have any idea of which one they consider(ed) to be the bad ones?

  • 1
    This reminds me a bit of this old Chinese story about how their Zodiac animals were selected. There are lots of different versions, but I believe the one I first heard involved the sunrise on a specific day.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


These evil supernatural beings are known collectively as the kunne kamuy or wen kamuy, lit. "dark spirits" or "evil spirits", respectively. They are referred to as kamuy because it is considered more polite than calling them demons to their faces.

It is always good to call any being politely as kamuy. Then its soul would be pleased and won't do any harm to us. that's why we call even demons kunne kamuy or wen kamuy. Then they will be pleased and stay away from us.

- Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. The Ainu of the Northwest Coast of Southern Sakhalin. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974.

One example is Pakoro Kamuy, the spirit of pestilence, also known as the Oripak Kamuy. Manifesting as smallpox, it is evil and feared for obvious reasons.

The smallpox, which ravaged the villages, was called Pakoro (punishing) Kamui and even Oripak (awe-inspiring) Kamui.

- Munro, Neil Gordon, and Brenda Z. Seligman. Ainu Creed and Cult. Kegan Paul Intl, 1996.

Another is the Pawci Kamuy, the spirit of lust and lust induced insanity (i.e. naked dancing).

Pauchi Kamui, who is supposed to hail from the Willow-soul River (Susu-ram Pet) in High Heaven (Rukun Kando) [is] responsible for gastralgia, food pisoning, insanity, and epidemics of frenzied dancing.

- Munro, Neil Gordon, and Brenda Z. Seligman. Ainu Creed and Cult. Kegan Paul Intl, 1996.

The Mintuci Kamuy, a sort of monster like the Japanese kappa, is usually regarded as a not exactly good spirit, but also said to help people occasionally.

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