May 8, 2013

Akibimi: Japanese Goddess of Autumn

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , at 11:00 pm by Babs

Akibimi is the Yuriban deity of autumn.  Little is known about her, as archaeological evidence of her past worship is extremely rare.  Her sphere of influence encompasses the autumn season, changing leaves, wind, and the first frost.  She often goes by the epithet of “Lady of the Leaves”.  Akibimi-san, the westernmost of Yuriba’s mountains, is named after her.

Common Mythology:

Few myths of Akibimi have been preserved in the modern era and none exist in written form, having been transmitted orally through a few of the island’s older residents.  According to a popular origin story she is physically embodied within the mountain of Akibimi-san.  The myth tells the story of how Akibimi used her power over autumn and the coming frost to create a frost bridge, which the deities Engetsu and Chikyuu used to reach each other and share their love once a year.  Yet when Engetsu’s separation from Chikyuu grew too painful she gathered with the other two goddesses at the apex of the ice bridge.  All three ultimately fell from the bridge, with Chikyuu ultimately using her poers to embrace the falling Engetsu and Akibimi, saving their lives by transforming them into mountains as they hit the earth.  A continuation of this myth tells that Akibimi found herself powerless in the form of the mountain, and in the absence of her powers eternal spring covered the earth. One day a dryad named Momiji stumbled upon the mountain and, realizing that the beauty of the earth cold not be appreciated without the slumber brought on by Akibimi’s powers, offered to free the autumn.  To this end Momiji climbed up onto Akibimi’s head and set down roots, and through her autumn once more fell on the world.

Associations:

Akibimi seems to be associated with any of the colors of autumn leaves, and is also strongly tied to the first frost, which is a time of particular power for her.  Japanese Maples grow heavily on the slopes of her mountain, suggesting that she has a strong connection with that particular type of tree.  Given the myth of Momiji she appears to have some sort of association with dryads and it has been hypothesized that the Shunyannichuan spring is somehow tied to her.  The puzzling method of locating the spring suggests that Akibimi is associated with riddles.

Akibimi is closely associated with Fuyuzora and is often portrayed as Zansho’s lover.  She is considered a dear friend of Amanohara and of Chikyuu.

Akibimi’s association with Fuyuzora is almost motherly.  Lore of the goddess claims that with autumn laid across the earth Akibimi wished to lay herself to rest, and so she laid down a frost across the land.  From the first frost Fuyuzora was born, much to Akibimi’s surprise.  Fuyuzora offered to stand watch over the earth while Akibimi slept, but Akibimi saw that Fuyuzora was cold and callous, and she thus took her to Amanohara and asked the Lady of the Winds to watch over Fuyuzora for her.  However, Fuyuzora and Amanohara became friends, revealing the Lady of the Winder’s playful side to Akibimi and ensuring her that she cold trust her.  Followers of Akibimi believe that the first frost is Akibimi’s last act before she sleeps, serving as a call to Fuyuzora to arrive for the winter.

According to one myth, before Akibimi came to the world eternal summer reigned.  As the summer dragged on Zansho grew tired of maintaining it, but she forced herself to continue for fear of the death that would reign in the absence of summer.  Eventually Akibimi appeared to Zansho and convinced her that by letting the world – and herself – sleep, the summer would be infinitely more beautiful when the world awakened after autumn and winter passed.  Though she resisted at first, Zansho eventually relented and allowed Akibimi to lay her gently to rest on a bed of leaves, with songbirds singing her to sleep.  Local belief claims that at the end of every summer Akibimi comes to repeat this process.

Teachings:

Little is known about the worship of Akibimi.  In the modern era her only known follower is Moriko, a dryad who appears to serve as a priestess to the goddess.  She has made some effort to relate information about Akibimi through stories.  Though many of Akibimi’s specific philosophies are unknown, the embracing of loss has been well-preserved.  Followers of Akibimi believed that the negative aspects of life were to be celebrated along with the positive, for only through them did the good truly shine.  For instance, in mythology Momiji reveals that though Akibimi and autumn were sealed away she took no joy in spring, and Akibimi responds that “It is only in lumber that one can appreciate the waking world.  It is only in change that one can appreciate the ground.”  This is further emphasized by the association of Akibimi with the first frost.  Scholars have thus concluded that the teachings of Akibimi embraced such things as loss and death as natural.  By this method of thinking autumn and winter are not to be feared because they allow one to appreciate spring and summer.

The followers of Akibimi view death as a natural extension of life, with the certainty of death allowing one to appreciate what life they were given.  They believe in reincarnation rather than an afterlife.

Tradition suggests that the day of the first frost is a holy day in the cult of Akibimi.  A few tales handed down through time tell of impromptu rituals on that day, referred to as Slumber, though what these rituals entailed as unknown.

Temples:

The ruins of a small temple dedicated to Akibimi have been found on the mountain’s slope.  Though they are badly weathered, the foundation and the remaining stonework show that it bears a superficial resemblance to the round “tholos” style of temple, a rarity for the Lilian civilization.  A large Japanese maple  in closer proximity to the temple than the others appears particularly ancient and has drawn occasional attention.  While scholars have been reluctant to draw any direct connection between the ruins and Akibimi, the association was recently revealed by Moriko.

While the Isolated Shrine does lie on the slopes of Abimimi-san, it appears to be tied to the local druidic religion, having no specific attachment to Akibimi.  Modern thought explains the absence of other temples to Akibimi by suggesting that the cult of the goddess favored sacred groves rather than constructed temples.

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