Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mothra: Kaiju Protector Deity

(Today's blog post is courtesy of Kim. Thanks Kim!)

Mothra, a popular adversary of Godzilla, is a kaiju, or popular Japanese monster. In the 1961 film Mothra she proves herself as a protector deity for the people of her land. The interplay between Mothra and humans is not unlike the relationship of kami and humans. Mothra is awakened when her spirit twins are stolen from her, at which point she leaves in pursuit after them. In this scene we see the humans crossing into the kami realm and taking what is not theirs. This disruption disturbs the balance between humans and kami and thus Mothra retaliates.

We see a similar situation with the ancient Ainu people and their kamui deities. The Ainu people displayed a reciprocal relationship between themselves and the kamui. They held the bear cub sacrifice in honour of their deities and to keep the channel of communication open between the deities and the humans. When the kamui are disturbed, their area is polluted, or their amoral personalities decide to act out there is a negative result for the Ainu people. This could appear in the form of a man dying in hunt or a poor catch of fish. Either way, however, whenever the boundary between the kamui realm and the Ainu realm is broken, the affect is felt on either sides of the divide.

Mothra arguably plays the same role throughout the film. She is a monster deity, a kaiju, who evolved from ancient Japanese fables. She demonstrates a reciprocal relationship between herself and the people of Infant Island. The twin sister spirits sing in prayer of Mothra, and because of this positive communication between the three, the sisters are able to summon Mothra to their rescue. In later depictions of Mothra she is not only the guardian deity for Infant Island, but she represents the environmental saviour of the earth.

In the film Godzilla vs. Mothra: the Battle for Earth, Mothra represents the saviour deity for all humanity. This film version depicts the twin sister spirits recounting the story of creation when a perfect society flourished under the guidance of Mothra’s other form, Battra. Through new technology the people of this time built a weather machine with which to control the skies. The creator deity Battra destroyed the machine and created chaos as a result of the people trying to control what is not theirs. Mothra appears to restore power and defeat Battra, unfortunately the people of in the village did not survive, and from this Mothra recreated earth.

Both these accounts of Mothra portray her as being ambivalent to society. I think this is a true feature of most kami. The kami of the Kojiki appear to work within the world with no particular concern for humanity. Humanity relies upon them, but they do not rely upon humanity. This is true of kami such as Amaterasu and Susa-no-wo, or Izanami and Izanagi. In both these narratives chaos circulates throughout the human and kami realm. The kami remedy these situations by creating a balance between the two borders. This is true too of Mothra. She only attacks when her realm is disturbed, when something is taken from her. Like other kami, Mothra is ambivalent with respect to humanity. Human beings may benefit or suffer from her actions--it all depends upon how they approach her.

Mothra is commonly known as a kaiju, or monster deity. I would argue however, that she is a powerful kami creator deity. Representations of Mothra in popular culture align with Japanese religious kami traditions. As I have discussed, based on the film interpretations of Mothra she is very much in tune with the religious realm. Mothra is a kami, protector deity of the earth, and if you ever meet her in battle she’ll be sure you know it.

~ guest blogger, Kim Adams