Since ancient times, people have believed “Magatama”, an unique shaped stone, has power to avoid evils. Name of Magatama is still unknown, but it is commonly considered the name is derived from the word “Magaru” and “Tama”, which means “curve” and “ball”, repectively.
This really unique shaped stone is only found in Japan and a part of Korean Peninsula. And it already existed in the Jomon era. (B.C.3000 – B.C.100)
According to Japanese mythology, a legendary Magatama was presented to the Amaterasu-Omikami, the supreme god of Shinto, by a warrior Susanoo, who got rid of a monster Yamata-no-orochi using Magatama. Actually, there were three secret treasures as equipment of the warrior Susanoo: sword, mirror and Magatama. The official name of the Susanoo’s magatama is called “Yasakani-no-magatama”. (八尺瓊勾玉)
In this article, I will explain about this world’s most ancient and sacred power stone.
Why are Magatama Shaped Like This? Reason for Its Unique Shape
It is said that Magatama’s head represents the Sun and tail represents the moon. By representing both the sun and the moon, people tried to show their worship to the great universe. Putting a hole at its head, they could have connections with their ancestors, protected themselves from evils and evil spirits, and received benefits of the power stone.
In addition, the material of the stone is important. In an ancient mound tomb in Osaka region, large and small 34 Magatama were found, which all made of the hard jade. Jade is one of the most popular materials for Magatama. Size of Magatama is relatively small. Large size of them founded in the tomb is approximately 3-4 centimeters (1.25-1.5 inches) in length. The biggest one founded so far is approx. 6cm (2.3 inches) in length, which is also founded in Sakai city of Osaka in 1912.
The reason why many Magatamas are found in tomb is that Magatama was the most popular accessory for noble people, as well as an important religious item used for Buddhism. Because of its power of the shape, Magatama sometimes dedicated to the foundation of big temples and shrines, or ornaments of Buddha statues. A hole of Magatama was basically used to thread the string to put on one’s body.
Magatama as the Three Secret Treasures in Japanese Mythology
Once upon a time, Amaterasu-omikami, the supreme god of Shinto, was hidden behind Iwado, a rock area. To call her back from Iwado, a large Magatama was made and displayed by a festival equipment made of a sacred Masaki tree, then she accepted.
Later on, Amaterasu awarded the Magatama, sacred sword and mirror to Ninigino, which are called the three secret treasures.
Believe or not, this Magatama actually exists. It is literally a sacred teasure which has been handed down to the imperial family of Japan. The successor of the Yasakani-no-Magatama shall be the emperor of Japan. Therefore, this Magatama is still owned by the Japanese imperial family.
Other than this story, the origin and location of the three secret treasures are quite unknown. However, related myths about the treasures are widely permeated among not limited to Japanese historical documents but also contemporary arts and pop cultures. You can see them in some anime and manga as well. I’m going to show you some examples, but before that, let me briefly explain why the three secret treasures attract very much of Japanese heart.
Shinto, one of the Japanese famous religions, put heavy focus on the rituals. The rituals are important to connect human souls with the past and lives. The three secret treasures are a part of Shinto. Japanese emperors don’t wear crowns. Instead, they succeed the treasures, which represent their throne. The three secret treasures are the most iconic symbols of this country.
Magatama in Japanese Manga
There are several manga stories which draw Magatama, especially in case of Japan’s ancient stories. A famous manga story Inu Yaksha (犬夜叉) is an example. A main character is Yaksha (Buddhist guardian deities sometimes depicted as demonic warriors). He wears a necklace named Kotodama-no-Nenju, which has a special power of receiving its Surgeon’s soul of language. Magatama used in the necklace amplifies the soul power of language.
Blue Seed is not a very famous manga, but it is a story set by a place of origin of Magatama, Izumo region. Its main character, Momizi Fujimiya, was aimed for her life by malicious spirits. However, her special ability became alive when she owned power of a legendary Magatama, which was sealed inside a legendary monster, Yamata-no-orochi. Then, she became active as a member of a National Special Agency.
Various Design of Magatama. How It Changes as Time Passes
In the 6th century, people began to favor Magatama made of red agate and crystals, in addition to the original green jade. In the first place, Japanese prefer various colors. When you imagine Kimono, one of the most traditional Japanese clothes, you can easily imagine how many colors are used. Because of their sensitivity and preference for various colors, a variety of Managama is made.
As Magatama became popular among people, producing centers of the materials of Magatama had increased their presence. Izumo region is one of such typical places. Izumo locates in Matsue city, Shimane pref. It produces high quality jade and agate, and many ruins of Magatama factory are found.
In fact, few Magatama factories are still alive now. The master of Izumo Shrine, one of the three major shrines in Japan, uses Magatama in a traditional ritual of his inauguration. The magatama is made in such a factory.
Izumo Magatama Museum has craftsmen for Magatama, who only inherited Izumo-type Magatama and have protected for hundreds of years. Yes, you can also purchase Magatama products from them! If you’re interested, please see another article which will be published very soon.
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Author - Hiro
Lived in Kyoto in school days, I was impressed by profundity of history and tradition of the city. Had a job to join the three major festivals of Kyoto: Aoi, Jidai and Gion festivals. Love Kyoto and Japanese culture.
Manager of OrientalSouls.com, selling items of Japanese culture, tradition and craftsmanship. I'll introduce interesting information about Japan!