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Protectors and PredatorsGods of Medieval Japan, Volume 2$
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Bernard Faure

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839314

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839314.001.0001

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The Face of the Snake

The Face of the Snake


(p.269) 7 The Face of the Snake
Protectors and Predators

Bernard Faure

University of Hawai'i Press

The ophidian god Ugajin, while often paired with the dragon-goddess Benzaiten, was also worshiped as an independent figure. In spite of his archaic features, Ugajin and his cult are essentially a product of medieval esoteric Buddhism. His representation as an old man with the face of a snake, however, can be traced to early Chinese prototypes like Fu Xi and Nü Wa. Like other members of hist divine cohort, Ugajin came to be associated with prosperity and the wish-fulfilling jewel—indeed, he is represented as dwelling inside a jewel. I conclude with a discussion of Ugajin’s function as a directional deity and his elevation to the status of a primordial deity, “the warp and woof of heaven and earth.”

Keywords:   Ugajin, snake-deities, Inari, old-man deities, wish-fulfilling jewel, Suwa Shrine

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