Sanrei (Jinja) Shrine and the Silkworm goddess – a Snow White-like tale of abandonment

Sanrei Jinja

Sanrei Jinja

Sanrei Jinja 蚕霊神社(さんれい じんじゃ)

According to the shrine tradition, in the month of March 286 BC, off Toyoura Beach (which is the Nikkawa Beach 神栖市の日川浜 today) in Kamisu city (Ibaraki), a fisherman, Gondayu is said to have found a drifting small boat made of timber. He dragged it back up the beach. Inside the boat, Gondayu discovered a beautiful young girl who turned out to be a princess of India. Her mother had died and her father remarried. But the stepmother hated the princess because she was very beautiful. So the stepmother plotted to abandon the princess on the mountain where lions resided, where hawks nested, and which was located in a remote island in the ocean. And the wicked stepmother ordered it done. But by divine provenance, the princess returned, having been rescued by lions, hawks, and fishermen.

Next, the stepmother contrived to have the princess buried her underground. But a dazzling bright light came out the ground, and once again by divine intervention, the princess was discovered and returned home.

Finally the step mother had the princess confined in a timber boat made of mulberry tree and abandoned her in the boat upon the ocean. The boat drifted to Toyoura Beach and taken up by the the fisherman, Gondayu. Gondayu raised the princess as best as he could, but being sickly, she died from disease and upon her death, she was transformed into small insect. Gondayu figured that the insect was the incarnation of the girl and offered the insect a mulberry tree. Then the insect started to spit out beautiful string, then made a cocoon and confined itself in it. Gondayu used the string from the cocoon and began to weave the fabric. That was how sericulture began in the village. Then the sericulture industry prospered the region.

The shrine was built to show respect toward the ancestors who had started and taught them sericulture.

There are two other versions of the Indian Silkworm goddess, see  Three versions of the Legend of the Silkworm-Golden Princess from India

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