Sunday, August 7, 2011
sketchbook project 2012 (third tale)
The Ainu word that usually gets translated as "god" is kamuy, and it basically applies to all things other than humans (ainu). This includes both living and non-living things. In the traditional Ainu worldview, kamuy spirits normally live in kamuy moshir (the land where the kamuy dwell), living just as humans do in ainu moshir (the land where the humans dwell). But once in a while, the kamuy borrow the forms of animals, plants, tools, and so forth, to visit the human world. And when they are freed from those forms (usually when their form dies or is used up in service to the humans) their spirits return to the land where the kamuy dwell, until such time as they desire to visit the human world again.
If the kamuy are not treated with honor during their visit to the human world, they are less likely to come for another visit. The forms which kamuy leave behind when they return to their own world are the food and other necessities that humans require for life. A steady supply of these necessities depends on humans showing proper respect and thankfulness (through various rituals) to ensure that the kamuy will make regular visits to the human world.
So, while there are many, many kamuy, some kamuy have higher status than others. The Owl Kamuy takes the form of the Blakiston's Fish Owl, probably the largest species of owl in the world. It is the guardian of the human village and has very high status. That's why I kept the word "god" in the title of The Owl God's Song, even though I omitted it in the other titles as being irrelevant and potentially confusing.