Three crows of Arima

“Two Gods and Three Crows of Arima  有馬の三羽烏
In olden times, the gods Onamuchi-no-Kami 大己貴命 and Sukunahikona-no-Kami 少彦名命descended to earth one day and saw three injured crows bathing in a puddle. Some days passed when the gods happened again upon the three crows. To their amazement, the crows had been cured. Thinking this was remarkable, they took a closer look at the puddle and discovered that it was, in fact, a hot spring with a miraculous healing effect. This is how the world came to know the magical properties of the hot springs of Arima.
From this day forward, the crows and two gods have been worshipped as guardian deities of Arima Onsen.

There is a sloping path called “Slope of Wish” extending from Onsenji Temple to Nenbutsuji Temple. Along the way there is “Garden of Wish”, where there are statues of the three crows and Saint Gyoki. The gods Onamuchi-no-Kami and Sukunahikona-no-Kami are worshipped at the Tosen Shrine.

The history of Tousen Jinja (Shrine)
which is familiarly known as the protecting god of Arima Hot Springs says that Onamuchi no mikoto and Sukunahikonano mikoto discovered Arima Hot Springs. When the two gods visited Arima, three injured crows drank water from a pool. A few days later, they found the pool curing their injuries, which proved the pool was a Spa.

Only these three crows who found the place of the Spa were permitted to live in Arima and are called
“Three crows of Arima 有馬の三羽烏 ”
An Imperial visit of the 34th Emperor Jomei (593 – 641) and the 36th Emperor Koutoku (596 – 654) made the name of Arima popular. Jomeiki of Nihonshoki, Chronicles of Japan, says The Emperor Jomei stayed at Arima-Ontouguu (shrine) in Settsu to enjoy bathing for 86 days from September 9th till December 13th since 631.

Shakuni honki, a commentary of Chronicles of Japan, says the Emperor Koutoku liked Arima Hot Springs and he stayed there for 82 days with his ministers, Abe-no-Kurahashimaro and Soga-no-Ishikawamaro and his guardians for 82 days from October 11th till his Imperial vist on New Year’s Eve in 647. — History of Arima

The monk Gyoki enshrined
Arima Hot Springs History tells the story that Arima Hot Springs declined gradually after the famous period of the Imperial visit of the Emperor Jomei and Koutoku. The monk Gyoki founded and rebuilt the Arima Hot Springs.
Gyoki whom the Emperor Shomu (701 – 756) trusted deeply was a high monk who dedicated himself to building ponds and bridges, digging ditches and enshrined temples.”

Daruma pilgrims in Japan 


Arima in Japan was likely settled by a branch of the Indo-Iranian (which may or may not have been also a Saka lineage (whose peoples are said to have lived in what is now Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Ukraine, and Altai and Siberia in Russia, in the centuries before 300 AD and whose presence today is now associated with Xinjiang and Khotan as well as the northwest part of the Indian subcontinent) from the continent who may have been the Arimaspoi (Arimaspi) noted in history by Herodotus.

Battles between griffons and warriors in Scythian tunics and leggings were a theme for Greek vase-painters. Spiritual descendants of the one-eyed Arimaspi of Inner Asia may be found in the decorative borderlands of medieval maps and in the monstrous imagery of Hieronymus Bosch.

Their various iconic culture included phallic lingam-yoni cult items, three crows motif, foxes or wolves totems.

Emperor Kotoku’s son was named Prince Arima no Miko (640-658).

Among their clan shrines are the Arima Tosen Shrine and the  Arima Inari Shrine

Modern historians speculate on historical identities that may be selectively extracted from the brief account of “Arimaspi”. Herodotus recorded a detail recalled from Arimaspea that may have a core in fact: “the Issedones were pushed from their lands by the Arimaspoi, and the Scythians by the Issedones” (iv.13.1). The “sp” in the name suggests that it was mediated through Iranian sources to Greek, indeed in Early Iranian Arimaspi combines Ariama (love) and Aspa (horses)[4]—a designation that fits very well any steppe people of riders. Herodotus or his source seems to have misunderstood the Scythian word as a combination of the roots arima (“one”) and spou (“eye”) and to have created a mythic image to account for it. …

Tadeusz Sulimirski (1970) claims that the Arimaspi were a Sarmatian tribe originating in the upper valley of the River Irtysh, while Dmitry Machinsky (1997) associates them with a group of three-eyed ajna figurines from the Minusinsk Depression, traditionally attributed to the Afanasevo and Okunevo cultures of southern Siberia.[6]

Mythological background

As philologists have noted, the struggle between the Arimaspi and the griffins has remarkable similarities to Homer’s account of the Pygmaioi warring with cranes. Michael Rostovtzeff found a rendering of the subject in the Vault of Pygmies near Kerch, a territory that used to have a significant Scythian population.[7] Analogous representations have been discovered as far apart as the Volci of Etruria and the fifth kurgan of Pazyryk.[8] A Hellenistic literary rendering of a battle with uncanny guardian “birds of Ares” is in Argonautica 1.

Cheremisin and Zaporozhchenko (1999), following the methodology of Georges Dumézil, attempt to trace parallels in Germanic mythology (Odin and the mead of poetry, the eagle stealing golden apples of eternal youth). They hypothesize that all these stories, Germanic, Scythian, and Greek, reflect a Proto-Indo-European belief about the monsters guarding the entrance to the otherworld, who engage in battles with the birds conveying the souls of the newly dead to the otherworld and returning with a variety of precious gifts symbolizing new life.[9]
Adrienne Mayor & Michael Heaney, ‘Griffins and Arimaspeans’ in Folklore, Vol. 104, No. 1/2, 1993, pp. 40–66

Historical Arimaspi (Wikipedia)

The Japanese identification with the crow symbol (the yatagarasu three legged crow and Emperor Jimmu founding myth, tengu) is shared with a number of peoples, the Wusun (who thought of themselves as ‘grandchildren of the crow’), the Korean royals (who had the triple legged crow painted on their royal tomb), the Han dynasty Chinese who had the triple legged crow painted as royal insignia on a robe found in a tomb in Xinjiang and considered messenger of the Queen of the West, Xiwang Mu, the Celtic peoples and Norse peoples and Mithraic Romans [there are more peoples associated with crows but these are the ones with positive associations].

In Pamphylia and Lycia, in Scythian dominated Asia Minor, coins have been found which bear the rare figures of three-legged birds in various forms” [24]. — The origins of the nations of Southeast Asia

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