Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi (アシナヅチ・テナヅチ)
Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi are a couple of deities (Shinto deities) that appear in a Japanese Mythology about the Yamatanoorochi snake. In "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters), the names of these gods are written, respectively, "足名椎命" and "手名椎命" in kanji, while "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) writes them "脚摩乳" and "手摩乳."
Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi were children of Oyamatsumi who lived in the upper reaches of the Hii-kawa River in Izumo Province. They had eight daughters, but a great snake known as Yamatanoorochi (eight-headed serpent) came to their house every year to eat their daughters, and when Susano came to visit the two deities, the snake was about to come to eat Kushinadahime, who was their youngest and last remaining daughter. Promising to give Kushinadahime to Susano as his wife if he could get rid of the Orochi snake, the two deities made preparations to exterminate the snake.
Having succeeded in exterminating the Orochi snake and having built a palace in Suga, Susano called Ashinazuchi and ordered the head Suga to award him the title Inada no miya nushi sugano yatsumimi no kami (Lord of the rice growing country with eight ears; different kanji are used for the title in "Kojiki" and "Nihonshoki").
Many theories have been proposed about the names of these gods.
Some people argue that the word 'nazu' used in their names means 'to caress' and 'chi' 'holy spirits' and that Ashi (meaning 'foot' in Japanese) nazuchi and Te (meaning 'hand') nazuchi signify the way in which parents caress their daughters' hands and feet with loving care. Others argue that the word 'ashina' means 'asaine,' or late ripening varieties of rice, and 'tena' 'toina,' early ripening varieties of rice.
There is also a theory according to which these names represent, respectively, 'ridge acorns' and 'field acorns.'
Still others argue that since the word 'zuchi' in old Japanese referred to a snake, as in the word 'mizuchi,' the names of these gods represent serpent gods named 'Ashi-nashi-zuchi' (or a serpent without feet) and 'Te-nashi-zuchi' (a serpent without hands).
Susa-jinja Shrine (Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture) is located on the supposed site of Susano's palace. The Inada clan (later Susa clan), whose members have been hereditary priests of Susa-jinja Shrine, claim to be the descendents of Okuninushi no mikoto and the current priest (as of 2004) is the 78th generation counting from Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi.
Apart from Susa-jinja Shrine, these gods are enshrined in shrines such as Hiromine-jinja Shrine (Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture) and Hikawa-jinja Shrine (Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture).
Relationship with Arahabaki beliefs
Monkyakujin-jinja Shrine (guest god shrine) in Hikawa-jinja Shrine in Saitama Prefecture, whose worshippers are alleged to be descendents of the Mononobe clan, used to be called Arahabaki-jinja Shrine and is dedicated to a mysterious god called Arahabaki.
For some unknown reason, the Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi gods are enshrined in this shrine along with Arahabaki.
The Omononushi god of Mt. Miwa (Nara), which allegedly was originally worshipped by the Mononobe clan and appears in mythology as an evil god, is believed to have been a serpent god. There is also evidence to suggest that the Arahabaki god may have been worshipped in Shitennoji in Osaka, which was the Mononobe clan's sacred land. From these facts, some people argue that Omononushi is the same as Arahabaki.
The mystery about Hikawa-jinja Shrine has also led some people to discuss possible relationships between Yamatanoorochi, Arahabaki and the Mononobe clan.