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Aoriyae

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  • Japanese: 煽りやへ、阿応理屋恵 (Aoriyae)

Aoriyae was a local deity of the northern Ryukyu Islands associated with wind, rain, water, and military force. The term also came to refer to priestesses dedicated to this deity. Based at Nakijin on Okinawa Island, the Aoriyae priestess may have been the most powerful woman in the islands prior to the rise in stature and influence of the Kikôe-ôgimi in the 16th century. Rituals she performed at Kanahyan utaki in Nakijin were seen as being paired with ones performed at Sonohyan utaki within Shuri castle, and as being vital to the protection of the kingdom.

Aoriyae may have originated as a well-water deity on Kumejima, or may have its origins in a deity known as Sashikasa in the Tokara Islands, which according to some scholars spread southward and came to be known as Aoriyae in northern Okinawa (Hedo and Nakijin), as Sasukasa-Aoriyae on Kumejima, and as Sasukasa in southern Okinawa.

Aoriyae later came to be associated with the war god Hachiman, and is described in the Omoro sôshi as an "island-smashing priestess," the word shima ("island") in Okinawan referring not only to physical islands but also to any well-defined settlement or community. Aoriyae is often described in the Omoro as acting within, or otherwise being associated with, a sacred space called shike. Some have suggested a connection between this shike and sacred spaces on Tsushima and elsewhere known as shigechi.

Meanwhile, Sasukasa, the southern counterpart to Aoriyae, became associated with Shimasoe Ôzato gusuku in southern Okinawa, and with byôbu (folding screens), a poetic symbol of great wealth.

References

  • Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 32-33, 96-98.
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