The Legend of Enoshima

Benzaiten Ukiyoe

Or, a Generally more accurate recounting of the Legend of Benzaiten of Enoshima than is generally found in comparative mythology texts.

In the Islands of Japan, off the Eastern Sea Route, lies the Isle of Enoshima. This island is sacred to the goddess Benzaiten.

On this Island Enoshima, there once was a lake where a wicked dragon king made his lair. He was terrifying to behold, as his body was wreathed with stormclouds, and lightning darted from his piercing eyes, blinding to see. No one dared approach the lake, and the valley where it lay became a haunt for wild dogs and fearsome creatures, while the trees and thorns grew tight and tangled.

But the Dragon King hungered, as all dragons do. He came forth from his lair and brought fire down from the sky, and so much rain that the people of Enoshima were forced to seek shelter in the caves. He, along with the winds, and baneful spirits, departed from Enoshima to sate their hunger throughout the rest of the land. They broke the backs of mountains and crumbled hills into dirt, releasing the waters and making all the people suffer.

Finally, the dragon returned to his lake, but still he was hungry. He swallowed the children who came to play in the lake’s waters, and when the people of Enoshima hid their children from him, he became enraged, and rushed out of his lair in a torrent of water. The people of Enoshima feared him, and out of fear they decided to appease him by giving him a child as a sacrifice. Yet they people grieved and lamented, and prayed that someone would save them

It was then that the earth shook, and clouds darkened the sky, and a burst of golden radiance shone bright as the sun, and descended to the earth. It was none other than the Goddess Benzaiten, taken mortal form. Upon seeing her, the dragon was filled with love, and forgot his hunger. Instead, he uttered sweet words to her, and asked if she would be his bride.

And Benzaiten said “In body and heart we are complete opposites. I have taken a vow of compassion for all creatures, yet you cause such suffering. How could I ever be bride to someone like you?”

The dragon knew nothing but his love for the goddess, and his hunger was sated. “Great Goddess,” he asked, “I wish to be compassionate as well. Make it so that I may care for living beings as you do!” And then, as the goddess consented, the dragon turned to stone. He remains there this day as a hill, where he is the protector of children and of Enoshima itself.

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