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Posts Tagged ‘bears’

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Most Honourable Bear ©

Spirits watch over the Ainu people. These aborgines who inhabit parts of Hokkaido island in Japan know it has been so. Through years of drought and leanness. In the midst of famine these spirits had unleashed their power in such mysterious ways they have no other explanation. Kamui (spiritual beings) carefully see to their well-being. Naturally these people revere them by lighting inau or prayer sticks. Old Ainu( pronounced eye-noo) take special care to please two gods in particular: god of harmony and god of opposites.
Once the quarrel between these two gods became sharper then ever before. “The sky has kissed the earth. Peace must follow. Most honourable Bear would make it so.”said god of harmony while the other saw nothing but trouble. One whole day they argued back and forth while the island of Hokkaido lay in ruins after a run of calamities, seven years in a row. More willow-trees were cut and more incense sticks were lit; and the smoke filled the nostrils of those who lived in the spirit world. They stepped in to make peace between the two.
Thus Most Honourable Bear was sent on the earth. After sending him well provided for the spirits waited for things to happen.
Most Honourable Bear known by name Kayano had a change of pelts and he knew what he must do. While descending over the island he scanned the villages and the hunting grounds of the people whom he was required to watch over.
It was the month of October. He saw a girl among many and her beauty struck him. He wanted to hasten to her side. The god of opposites whispered into his ears,”She is a mortal,Kayano. She will lose all her beauty which affect you now so much.” God of harmony whispered quietly,”But she will make you complete. Love is the key!”
“Bah!”the other god snorted,”Misery is another name.”When god of opposites snorted the sound was covered by a splash, which startled the girl. She was called Katanto. She was busy gathering bunches of algae from Lake Akan, which were needed for the coming festival. Yes, she saw Kayano who had taken a human form and was rising from the waters.
The two gods watched on with interest. They were of course invisible to her.
Kayano seemed as if he were in danger. Katanto shrieked in horror at the sight of a young man who was going down for the third time. She swam and reached him first. She managed to bring him to safety. Other girls lit a fire and brought him some hot broth. When Kayano opened his eyes he thought he saw his rescuer was the most beautiful thing on earth. He smiled boldly and she blushed in return. “I know,”he said after he had revived,”you are by far the best thing in this world!””No those curls of smoke going up from the roof of a chisei,” she said with her head turned down,”it is far lovelier.” He was sure it was not since it had to be lit by some hand. “The hand that lights the stone stove and keeps the fire from going out is lovelier than any smoke.”He heard one god saying in his ear,”Must you be so quick as to declare your love?”The other whispered in his turn,”Must you break her heart so lightly?”
Kayano could not help and he pursued her and she finally agreed to marry him. She took him to her father who was the elder of the village. He explained how the village was cursed because of a famine. “A family in such lean time as this scrapes the barrel of misery.”he said stroking his flowing beard sadly, “Can you not wait till we all have had peace and prosperity?”
“But I love Katanto so much.”
“Such haste is becoming in the young. But with age comes that sad understanding as I have; So I must say, No.”
“Father!”his daughter shrieked unable to contain herself,” it will be the death of me!”
While her father tried to comfort the sobbing girl the two gods were counselling Kayano. Both gods had made it very plain. One ended,”Most Honourable Bear, you have sown love and must reap death!” He was torn with pain and asked god of harmony,”Isn’t there something which shall bind love and death into one?”
“Sorry, Most Honourable Bear,”both gods said slightly embarrassed,”the matter entirely rests with the girl.”
Kayano was allowed by both to meet the girl once for the last time. Before he spoke she surprised him by saying,”I am sure of my love for you. Nothing in this world shall separate me from you.”
“Nothing shall stop me from death which now awaits me, Farewell!” Before parting he gave a bearskin to her and said,”Think of me ever!”
After that Katanto was no more seen in that village. It seemed all so mysterious that all of a sudden two bears were spotted in the neighbourhood. Those hunters who had hung up their bows and arrows having nothing to hunt became so excited. One evening they went in formation to stalk one of the two which one had seen at the Nibutani area. At last he was cornered and one hurled a spear. It would have found its mark but to their amazement the female bear hurled herself and got the point right in her chest. When one hunter checked her, along came the other with a great howl and impaled himself in a shower of arrows. How it came altogether was so uncanny. They didn’t know what but villagers knew they appeared in order to heal the land.
Since that time bears were always plentiful to them.
Only the gods knew the truth. Katanto had died in order to be one with her beloved. Of course they thought it all a waste. ‘Why die when you are a god?’ Most Honourable Bear was sent to make peace between the sky and earth. He needed not have died. In the end they had to agree the land of Hokkaido was in peace indeed. There were nightly singing there. Peace such as that comes after an agreeable feast; such peace that comes from certainty of abundance. In that knowledge old men could dream on while the youth hunted, and made their hearths once more a haven for their future.
God of Opposites had to agree: in their love Kayano and Katanto brought harmony into two opposites. (An old Japanese legend retold)

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