The musubi gods: A comparative survey of binding gods, binding magic and their origins


According to the Mythology Dictionary:

Japanese – A Shinto creator-god. One of 3 primaeval beings. One of the 5 Separate Heavenly. Deities. One of the Eight Imperial Deities. In some accounts, a goddess representing the female principle. In some accounts, referred to as KamimusubiKami-musubi,Kami-musubiKamu-mimusubiKamu-mimusubiKami-mimasubiKami-mimasubiKami-mimusubiKami-mimusubiZoka-no-sanshinZoka-no-sanshinTakamimusubi or Zoka-no-kami

Among the Zokasanshin (Three gods of creation), two gods have the word ‘musuhi (musubi)’ in their names: Takamimusubi and Kamimusubi (the only goddess?) among the trinity  – Wikipedia


According to the tradition of the Takama shrine (Imaike, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya), where the deity is venerated:

Musu came from Umusu(産むす) /”U” was dropped out. It means “arise naturally”.
Hi (bi) means spirit or spiritual work.
From Alexei Batchourine’s “The Shinto Concept of Kami” at musubu or musubi has the vernacular common meaning of “to tie”, or “to bind” or “to link” and which indicates “a power which gives birth and life force”:

The Emperor is a descendant of Taka-mi-musubi-no mikoto and Amaterasu, noblemen are descendants of the deities from Takamagahara, and the other people are descendants of the deities from The Central Land.

It seems possible that the first deities, which appear in the first episode of “Kojiki” and “Nihongi” (Ama-no mi-naka-nushi-no kami, Taka-mi-musubi-no kami and Kami-musubi-no kami in “Kojiki”) and have no visible form, are the images strongly influenced by Chinese philosophy. Nothing is said about their shrines and geographical location. Only Taka-mi-musubi and Kami-musubi take part, but still very rarely, in the following myths, though, of course, Taka-mi-musubi together with Amaterasu play an important ideological role as the ancestors of the Emperor’s family. The concept which can be found even in the names of these deities is the concept of “musubu”, which is literally translated as “to tie”, “to bind” or “to link” and interpreted as “a power which gives birth and life force”.

From GK report:

What interests me most is the act of uniting (musubu). Mizuhiki is red and white because at the birth of the universe the sun was red and shadow white, and together they made up all there was on the face of the earth. Then came a flash of lightning that merged plus and minus, generating power. At a primal level, earth’s creation began in this union of plus and minus. Our ancestors surely understand this instinctively. Reality is a phenomenon.
In the Japanese creation myth described in Records of Ancient Matters, the marriage of Izanagi and Izanami, the first deities, is known as kami-musubi(holy union). The couple was blessed with many children – their union of plus and minus was a productive one. A nation prospers through the union of man and woman and the merging of the heterogeneous in fertile creation. Creation is a merging of difference that begets even greater heterogeneity. This is what musubu means. The god of musubi was the god of union.


Source: handbook of J . mythology by Michael Ashkenazi pp 190-191
The third deity to come into existence at the beginning of the world at Takamagahara.  Kamimusubi is one of the three “single kami”‘ that is, without a counterpart or gent or. However, this deity is later identified as the parent of sukunabikona. It also seems from the context, as well as from the actions ascribed to this deity, that Kamimusubi is female, because in the Nihonshoki takamimusubi-no-mikoto (who came into being just before Kamimusubi), a male deity is identified as Sukunabikona’s parent as well.
Also known as Kamimusubi- Mioya-no-mikoto (generative great parent deity: the “great parent” title is usually accorded to females)’ Kamimusubi is the one who took the various foodstuffs born from the murdered food deity, Ogetsuhime,  and gave them to human kind. later she restored Okuninushi to life, after he had been killed for the first time by his brothers. he obviously had a soft spot for her because she is mentioned in the song that concluded his agreement with takemikazuchi-no-kami: Takamagahara is mentioned principally as her / his abode.
 At a more mundane level it is certainly possible that Kamimusubi may have been an important deity for the Izumi! as well as for the Yamato.  This is one the many points of similarities between the two polities that helped in their amalgamation. Source: The Shinto Concept of Kami by Alexei Batchourine
From Wikipedia:

Kamimusubi was a Creator deity, able to resuscitate from death, therefore also a death deity

Princess Suseri

As the hare predicted, Princess Yakami pronounces her choice of Ōnamuji for husband before the eighty gods, and they all conspire and kill him twice over. His mother petitions Kamimusubi, one of the creator deities, and resuscitates him each time, finally sending him off to seek Susanoo who has been banished to the Netherworld (Ne-no-kuni), and to obtain his wise counsel.

Here Ōnamuji meets face to face with Susanoo’s daughter Suseri-hime and they immediately marry. The crafty Susanoo tests Ōnamuji several times, but, in the end, Susanoo approves of the young boy and foretells Ōnamuji’s victory over his brothers.

Although the Yamato tradition attributes the creation of the Japanese islands to Izanagi and Izanami, the Izumo tradition claims that Ōnamuji, along with a dwarf god called Sukunabiko, contribute to, or at least finish, the creation of the Japanese islands

From the Samurai archives:

Kamimusubi no Kami, according to the first chapter of the Kojiki, was the third kami in existence. His grandson, Kamo no Taketsunomi no Mikoto, manifested himself as the golden Yatagarasu that led Emperor Jimmu across Japan, conquering the various rebellious peoples (Source: Yatakarasu Philippi, Donald (trans). Kojiki. Page 47).


Binding Magic see definition at by 

Definition: The ancient Greeks and Romans used two basic types of binding magic to do something to someone else. Generally, this someone had wronged them or it was someone whose love they wished to keep. A famous instance of binding magic gone horribly wrong is when Deianeira gave Hercules the tunic soaked in poisoned centaur blood thinking it would keep her husband faithful to her.One type of binding magic is the binding spell or curse, written, rolled or folded, and sometimes pierced, and the other is the figurine, erotic or otherwise, that may also be pierced or twisted or bound.

Binding spells can be written on such substrate as potsherds, limestone, gems, papyrus, wax, or ceramic as well as the preferred lead. There may be a connection between binding magic and ostracism.

The names of the victims are written in the subject (nominative) or object case (accusative) probably to show the person is being acted upon by the binding. There may be a verb of binding, like katadein, in the 1st person, so the curse tablet reads, “[So and so] I bind, her [body part/s]….”

Source: Derek Collins Magic in the Ancient Greek World. (Read my review.)

Also Known As: The Greek term for the binding curse is katadesmos or in the plural, katedosmoi. The Latin term for the spell written on a tablet is defixio or in the plural, defixiones.

The most commonly invoked gods for binding magic were gods and goddesses with an Underworld connection, Hecate, Persephone, and Hermes, although the other gods and goddesses could bind and even Zeus could be bound metaphorically or literally


Matthew 16:19, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus referred to binding and loosing as the keys to the kingdom, which means we ought know and use these keys, don’t you think?


Binding is like a temporary spiritual handcuffing. You can bind a demon spirit, much like tying something up with rope or chains. You cannot bind a person’s free will, but you can bind the demons affecting or influencing that person


Binding magic can refer to prowess with speech

The Celtic Ogmios deity depicted with gold chains chained to the mouth:

A Celt, in a discussion with Lucian, explained how the Celtic Ogmios, personifying the power of speech was represented by Heracles rather than Hermes. This Celt made various references to Greek myths in the course of the conversation. – John Rhys, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, London 1898.

Stranger, I will tell you the secret of the painting, for you seem very much troubled about it. We Celts do not consider the power of speech to be Hermes, as you Greeks do, but we represent it by means of Heracles, because he is much stronger than Hermes. So if this old man Heracles, the power of speech, draws men after him, tied to his tongue by their ears you have no reason to wonder, as you must be aware of the close connection between the ears and the tongue. …In a word, we Celts are of opinion that Heracles himself performed everything by the power of words, as he was a wise fellow, and that most of his compulsion was effected by persuasion. His weapons … are his utterances which are sharp and well aimed, swift to pierce the mind: and you too say that words have wings.

From Miranda Green, Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend, pp 165-166, 1992

Osismian Stater, Allen fig 23 Osismian Stater, DT 6555, my collection
Do these Northern Gallic coins depict the inage of Ogmios with fibures chained to him as Lucian describes or do they symbolize the Cult of the Severed Head, depicting a warrior with trophies hanging from his horse? I would suggest they represent both, as the Celts were wont to do.

“Ogmios We know of the god Ogmios from the writings of Lucian of Samosata, a Greek author who wrote during the 2nd c. AD. Ogmios was apparently equated with the Classical demo-god hero HERCULES. Lucian describes a picture of Ogmios which he saw in Gaul, when residing in Gallia Narbonensis, perhaps around Marseille: he was depicted with bow and the club normally associated with Hercules, but instead of the powerful god of Graeco-Roman mythology, Ogmios Hercules was portrayed as an old man, bald and burnt by the sun. Curiously, the god in Lucian’s picture drew behind him a happy band of men who were attached to him by thin gold chains linking their ears to the tip of his tongue. Lucian was informed by a Gaulish acquaintance that the Celts associated eloquence with Hercules, because of his strength. Apart from Lucian’s testimony, Ogmios is invoked on two lead defixiones or curse tablets from Bregenz on Lake Constance; on one of these, Ogmios is requested to intervene and lay a curse on a barren woman so that she would never marry.

Two features, apart from the name, may identify the Romano-Celtic Ogmios with the Irish god mentioned in the early literature, known as Oghma. Not only was Oghma described as a ‘strong man’, like Hercules, but he was credited also with the invention of ogham, a system of writing which consisted of horizontal or slanting strokes and notches cut on stone or wood and branching out on either side of a vertical line or corner.”

From Proinsias Mac Cana, Celtic Mythology, pp 35-36, 1996

A lead tablet from Bregenz, Austria, on which a jealous women tells her lover to go to Ogmios
Transliteration, obverse Transliteration, reverse

Gaulish Ogmios-Hercules: Irish Oghma

“According to Lucian, who wrote during the second century A.D., Hercules was known to the Celts as Ogmios. He describes a Gaulish picture of him armed with his familiar club and bow but portrayed uncharacteristically as an old man, bald and grey, with skin darkened and wrinkled by the sun, more like Charon than Hercules, and drawing behind him a joyful band of men attached to him by thin chains which linked their ears to the tip of his tongue. By way of elucidation, Lucian quotes a Caulish informant who explained that his fellow Celts did not identify eloquence with Hermes, as did the Greeks, but rather with Hercules because he was much the stronger. The existence of Ogmios is further confirmed by two defixiones, inscribed tablets on which he is besought to wreak a curse on certain individuals.

Albrecht Drürer, Ogmios the god of death as Hermes

If these few materials are to yield anything of their original total significance, it seems essential that they be considered in conjunction with the Irish traditions of the god Oghma, sometimes qualified as grianainech, ‘of the sun-like countenance’. It is not at all certain that the form Oghma is the regular Irish reflex of a Celtic Ogmios, but, nevertheless, the consensus of opinion is that the two names must be identified in terms of mythology and some have resolved the linguistic problem by assuming that Oghma is a borrowing from Gaulish Ogmios rather than a cognate. Not merely is Oghma known as a trénfher, ‘champion’, literally ‘strong man’ but he is also credited with the invention of the Ogham letters, a system of writing based upon the Latin alphabet and consisting of strokes and notches cut upon wood or stone, in its attested form it came into use about the fourth century A.D., but almost certainly it continues an older system of magical symbols.

Much has been written and many theories formulated about Ogmios and Oghma, especially with reference to the enigmatic vignette by Lucian. But all one can say with certainty is, first, that Lucian’s Ogmios appears to govern by the power of the spoken word, and, secondly, that his identification with Hercules — together with the character of the Irish Oghma marks him out as the divine champion. Beyond this one must risk the errors of speculative interpretation if one is to come closer to the patterns of thought represented for the Celts by Ogmios-Oghma. Perhaps the most interesting and, despite its highly speculative character, the most persuasive of the interpretations so far advanced is that of Françoise Le Roux, which has the considerable merit that it is based on a close analysis of a wide range of early Irish material. According to Mlle Le Roux, Ogmios- Oghma is the god who binds, like the Indian Varuna, a character which manifests itself for example in Lucian’s description and in the binding force of the magic ogham symbols as used by Cú Chulainn in Táin Bó Cuailnge to stay the advance of the Connacht army. She also accepts the older view of Ogmios as a psychopomp leading souls from this world to the other. This rests mainly on Lucian’s testimony, though one should perhaps add that divinities of death are commonly conceived (like the Indian Yama) as binding gods; in other words, they bind and carry off the dead.”

From JA MacCulloch, The Religion of the Ancient Celts, pp 75-76, 1911

“Another son of Brigit’s was Ogma, master of poetry and inventor of ogham writing, the word being derived from his name.’ It is more probable that Ogma’s name is a derivative from some word signifying “speech” or “writing,” and that the connection with “ogham” may be a mere folk-etymology. Ogma appears as the champion of the gods,’ a position given him perhaps from the primitive custom of rousing the warrior’s emotions by eloquent speeches before a battle. Similarly the Babylonian Marduk, ” seer of the gods,” was also their champion in fight. Ogma fought and died at Mag-tured, but in other accounts he survived, captures Tethra’s sword, goes on the quest for Dagda’s harp, and is given a síd after the Milesian victory. Ogma’s counterpart in Gaul is Ogmios, a Herakles and a god of eloquence, thus bearing the dual character of Ogma, while Ogma’s epithet grianainech, “of the smiling countenance,” recalls Lucian’s account of the ” smiling face ” of Ogmios. Ogma’s high position is the result of the admiration of bardic eloquence among the Celts, whose loquacity was proverbial, and to him its origin was doubtless ascribed, as well as that of poetry. The genealogists explain his relationship to the other divinities in different ways, but these confusions may result from the fact that gods had more than one name, of which the annalists made separate personalities. Most usually Ogma is called Brigit’s son. Her functions were like his own, but in spite of the increasing supremacy of gods over goddesses, he really never eclipsed her.” – The Coins of the Ancient Celts, Allen, DF, EUP, 1980, ISBN 0852243715, D. Nash

Binding and loosing concept has a long history in JudeoChristian beliefs — it also implies “authority over territorial spirits” Source

From GotQuestions: “What does the Bible mean by binding and loosing?”

Answer:The concept of “binding and loosing” is taught in the Bible in Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In this verse, Jesus is speaking directly to the apostle Peter and indirectly to the other apostles. Jesus’ words meant that Peter would have the right to enter the kingdom himself, that he would have general authority symbolized by the possession of the keys, and that preaching the gospel would be the means of opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers and shutting it against unbelievers. The book of Acts shows us this process at work. By his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40), Peter opened the door of the kingdom for the first time. The expressions “bind” and “loose” were common to Jewish legal phraseology meaning to declare something forbidden or to declare it allowed.

Peter and the other disciples were to continue Christ’s work on earth in preaching the gospel and declaring God’s will to men, and they were armed with the same authority as He possessed. In Matthew 18:18, there is also a definite reference to the binding and loosing in the context of church discipline. The apostles do not usurp Christ’s lordship and authority over individual believers and their eternal destiny, but they do exercise the authority to discipline and, if necessary, excommunicate disobedient church members.


Also in the meaning of covenant theology, see Binding God The Development Post-Reformation and The Binding of Isaac

Magical protection of being encircled by a serpent

Was the waist binding obi, a serpent girdle? The early girdles used to be only 6 cm thick (see Obi(Wikipedia). 

Did the word obi originate from the ubiquitous usage equating ob and obi with serpent symbolism and serpent worship? The following passage on serpent etymology suggests a tantalizing connection and Middle Eastern origin:

“IX. SYRIA.–From Arabia we pass into the Land of Canaan, for so many ages the theatre upon which truth and superstition contended for the ascendancy. The country which we include under the general name of SYRIA extends from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean sea, on one side; and from Mount Taurus to Arabia, on the other. It includes, therefore, the whole of Ph†Inicia and Palestine, the territories of Damascus, and the possessions of Solomon.

The Ph†Inicians, according to Sanchoniathon, cited by Eusebius 1, were among the earliest of the nations that embraced ophiolatreia; and the author of this idolatry is said to have been TAAUTUS. Sanchoniathon calls him “a God 2,” and says, that he first made an image of CoeIlus, and afterwards of Saturn; and then invented hieroglyphics 3. He is supposed to be the same p. 79 as the Hermes Trismegistus of Egypt, where the was called Thoth, and deified. The words of Sanchoniathon are the following: “Taautus consecrated the species of dragons and serpents; and the PhoeInicians and Egyptians followed him in this superstition.”

Hence we may infer, that Taautus was the first person who introduced into Phoenicia both zabaism and serpent-worship. For such must be the meaning of the expressions that he was “the first who made an image of CoeJLUS,”–that is, represented “the heavenly host” by visible symbols, and “consecrated DRAGONS and SERPENTS.”

The UNION of these two superstitions, intimated by the attribution of them to the same inventor, proves the origin of the serpent-worship to be co-ordinate with that of the sun, or of the celestial bodies. From which we may argue, that Taautus was the leader of the first colony after the flood which settled in PhoeInicia; out of which he may have passed easily into Egypt, if we take the word Phoenicia in its most extended sense, as including the whole land of Canaan. There is then no difficulty in conceiving that the PhoeInician TAUT and the Egyptian THOTH were the p. 80 same person. The intimate connexion of the latter with the serpent-worship of Egypt we shall observe in the sequel.

The prevalence of ophiolatreia in the land of Canaan, is therefore directly shown upon historical testimony: it is proved, collaterally, by the traditions of the country, and the remains of serpent-worship which was occasionally visible in the sacred and classical writings. The name of the sacred serpent, according to Bryant 1, (who has taken great pains to arrive at accuracy in this statement,) was in the ancient language of Canaan, variously pronounced AUB, AB; OUB, OB; OPH, OP; EPH, EV . . . . . all referrible to the original , or ; which being derived from (inflare), was, perhaps, applied to the serpent from his peculiarity of inflation when irritated.

The first oracle mentioned in history was dedicated to the serpent-god, who was known in Canaan by the name of OB, or AUB: hence arose the notion that the oracular response of the priestess of these serpent temples must be always preceded by a mysterious inflation, as if actuated by the internal presence of the divine p. 81 [paragraph continues] Spirit. Thus Virgil describes the Pythian priestess–

————- Ait, “Deus, ecce Deus!” cui talia fanti

 pectus anhelum,

Et rabie fera corda tument, majorque videri,

Nec mortale sonans: adflata est

Numine quando

Jam propiore Dei.…\neid. vi. 46, &c.

[paragraph continues] The whole of this notion of necessary inflation was taken up by the Greeks, from mistaking the word OB, (the name of the Deity,) for the word OB, that property of inflation, from whence the name was derived: OB signifying both the serpent, and his property of inflation 1.

The first mention of the God OB occurs in the Scriptures. Moses refers to his oracle, when he commands every AUB, AB, or OB, to be put to death:

“A man also, or woman, that hath a familiar spirit, ( ) shall surely be put to death.” (Levit. xx. 27. Deut. xviii. 1.1.)

The word is translated by the Septuagint, ventriloquist,–one that speaks from his belly. This is the Greek notion of inflation, adopted by the p. 82 [paragraph continues] Septuagint in accommodation to the received opinions respecting the Pythian priestess. The English version “who hath a familiar spirit,” is too indefinite; and the septuagint, “who is a ventriloquist,” too paraphrastic, to express the meaning of Moses. We must therefore look for another. In doing so, we may remark, that it was not an unusual custom of the Gentiles for the priest or priestess of any God to take the name of the deity they served. Thus Clemens Alexandrinus calls the priest of Cnuphis in Egypt, SECNUPHIS. This was the priest with whom Plato conversed  1, and his god was the same as the OB of Canaan; that is, the SERPENT-GOD of the country. We read also of OINUPHIS, a priest of Heliopolis, from whom Pythagoras is said to have learned astronomy  2. Heliopolis, “the city of the SUN,” was called in Egypt ON, which was a title of the solar deity. OINUPHIS therefore, (or rather ONUPHIS,) was the solar deity ON, symbolized by the sacred serpent OPH. In this case therefore, as in the former, the priest assumed the cognomen of his God. Again, Eudoxus was taught astronomy by another priest”.

One thought on “The musubi gods: A comparative survey of binding gods, binding magic and their origins

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