Mythological Spotlight #13 – Amatsu-Mikaboshi (a.k.a. Kagaseo)

There is no traditional artwork of Amatsu-Mikaboshi, and I refuse to use the Marvel artwork, so here’s Mikaboshi from Devil Summoner 2


Amatsu-Mikaboshi is an obscure Japanese deity found within the mythology of the Shinto religion. Other names for him include Kagaseo, Ame-no-kagaseo, or Mikaboshino-Kagaseo. Most people who talk about him refer to him as the god of evil (indeed, all evil), chaos, disaster and misfortune, and I suspect this is in part influenced by the fact that Marvel’s comics depict him as essentially some kind of ultra-Satan figure. But when I dig deep into his lore, I begin to think that perhaps this doesn’t make a lot of sense, and in fact I begin to think that perhaps this is not the only thing about him that doesn’t really add up.


There are very few reliable sources on Amatsu-Mikaboshi. In fact, it seems that the only actual mythological source for Amatsu-Mikaboshi is the Nihon Shoki (“The Chronicles of Japan”), and even there just a section of the text titled “Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni-Heitei” (or, “The Subjugation of Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni”). It is also worth mentioning that, for some reason, the English language and Japanese Wikipedia articles for Amatsu-Mikaboshi seem to have very different accounts of his mythology. Ten years ago editors talked about a discrepancy between the two articles, and even after that the English language article still seems like it leaves out content from the Japanese version. The English language article says little other than him being considered a malevolent god of the Pole Star, and that he was identified with the god Myoken and then Amenominakanushi. The Japanese version, however, talks about how he was the last god to resist the authority of the Amatsukami gods that come from Takamagahara, that he was a star god and that star gods are seen in Japanese myth as being rebellious, and how he was even seen in Shinto theology as the Shinto version of Venus. Both articles mention that Amatsu-Mikaboshi was identified with Takeminakata, one of the rebel kunitsukami of Izumo, on the grounds that both were subdued by Takemikazuchi, though there doesn’t seem to be any traditional source for this identification.

If you dig around for information about Amatsu-Mikaboshi and his role in the Nihon Shoki, two facts about him appear that most people appear not to tell you. First of all, it seems that Amatsu-Mikaboshi’s proper name is Kagaseo, and Amatsu-Mikaboshi is an alternate name for Kagaseo that appears in an alternate version of the Nihon Shoki in which he is executed by the gods Futsunushi and Takemikazuchi. Second, only once and in that same account is Kagaseo treated as a god of evil, and in every other context Kagaseo is simply seen as the god of stars. The various encyclopedias that refer to Kagaseo/Amatsu-Mikaboshi as a god of evil do not mention this, and they certainly will not tell you exactly what evils he brings to the world to earn the title “god of evil”. The only thing Kagaseo is said to have done in the Nihon Shoki is refuse to submit to the authority of the gods of Takamagahara.

The Encyclopedia of Shinto website refers to Kagaseo as Hoshinokamikakaseo, or simply Kakaseo, and describes him as an “evil kami” who resisted the imperial forces in their pacification of the land of Japan. They also note that the alternate edition of the Nihon Shoki refers to Kagaseo as “the evil kami of heaven”, thus referring to him as a heavenly deity and contrasting the indigenous origins established in the original, and that Kagaseo is uniquely not portrayed in subjection to the order of the Amatsukami (the heavenly gods) at any point in the Nihon Shoki, presumably even after the total subjugation of Japan. If the alternate Nihon Shoki is anything to go by, Kagaseo would have preferred death to submission. Surprising, then, that this should be taken as evil in a country where death before surrender is the code of the samurai class.

What’s very interesting is that Kagaseo appears to be the only god in the Shinto pantheon who is identified with stars, let alone any star in particular. Every other Japanese deity associated with stars, such as Myoken, is associated with Buddhism, and as such they are technically Japanese adaptations of Indian and/or Chinese gods and astrological figures. In fact, it seems that Kagaseo’s identification with Myoken, the god of the Pole Star, may or may not be a product of Buddhist influence. So in terms of the native Shinto gods of Japan, only one, Kagaseo, is associated with the stars. In addition this, according to William George Aston in his translation of the Nihon Shoki, Kagaseo (or Ame-no-Kagaseo) is the only star god mentioned in the text and he is denied the suffix of “kami” or “mikoto” that are usually afford to other gods, including opponents of the gods of Takamagahara. Indeed, I can find no name for Kagaseo or Amatsu-Mikaboshi that features either of these suffixes in any source I find. This may lend some credence to the idea mentioned in the Japanese article that star gods are treated in Japanese, or at least Shinto, myth as gods who are unruly, disobedient and hence need to be subdued, as well as the theory that Kagaseo may represent a tribe in Japan that worshipped a star god and refused to submit to the authority of the Yamato dynasty.

Moreover, there seem to be some sources for the idea that Kagaseo was meant to correspond to Venus, and from there the morning star. For starters there is Hirata Atsutane’s thesis that Kagaseo/Mikaboshi is Venus on the grounds that the “ika” in Mikaboshi means “severe” or “harsh” in reference to the intensity of the star’s light and that “kaga” refers to “kagayaku” which means to “shine”, yet again a reference to the light of a star. There is also a paper from Nagasaki University which argues that Venus is the most appropriate match for Amatsu-Mikaboshi/Ame-no-Kagaseo. There are very few sources on this identification, but if you think about it, it might be possible that, given that his identity with the Pole Star makes the most sense in light of his Buddhist conflation with Myoken, and that the terms “August Star of Heaven” and “Brilliant Male” seem consistent with the traditional description of the morning star as the brightest and most brilliant object in the heavens other than the sun and the moon, it seems like the idea that Kagaseo may in fact have been the morning star, or dawn star, makes the most sense.

It’s kind of strange if you think about it. A god of stars, the morning star specifically, who refuses the authority of the dominant clan of gods and is slandered as an evil being because of his rebellion. Sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? Perhaps that adds to his obscurity in a way. In Western myths, rebellion against gods has an air of legitimacy to it as a theme. The Greek creation cycle seems to involve successive dethronements of ruling gods (first Kronos overthrows Ouranos, then Kronos is overthrown by Zeus), Prometheus becomes an icon of human existence and power by defying the will of Zeus, and Jesus, as too many people forget, was a rebel in light of his cause against the Roman empire and the corruption of the Judaic priesthood, and multiple revolts against injustice and tyranny happen in the Bible. In Eastern religions, however, you generally almost can’t conceive of anything other than full submission and therefore harmony with the prevailing order as representing absolute divine law, and as far as I know any rebellion myths consist pretty much solely of rebellions of rowdy beings that are put down by either the gods or the forces of Buddhist dharma. I’m sure there are exceptions, but in this light it makes perfect sense that a rebellious deity would not be widely venerated in Japanese religious culture.

Numerous Western sources, particularly online forums, claim that Kagaseo, frequently identified as Amatsu-Mikaboshi, represents a kind of primordial principle of chaos, darkness or evil, to the point that it is often added that the Otogi-zoshi describes him being imprisoned within the Pole Star and unable to return to Earth until he breaks free, any prayers involving him are specifically to pray to other gods to oppose him. There was a whole thread on a forum called Pagan Mystics dating back to 2007 which claims that Amatsu-Mikaboshi was “the god of Hell”, “the god of Sin and Darkness” and “the guardian of Soku-no-Kumi”, that he is “a force of absolute domination” (not at all like the absolute domination of the Amatsukami or the Yamato dynasty, I’m sure) that “feeds off of human emotions” like some sort of vampire, that he was the master of “certain creatures that are by nature dark or demonic”, “souls of those whose lives were sinister and unrighteous” and “souls that died with strong attachments and came back to hurt the living”, that he was only later called Ame-no-Kagaseo as part of an attempt to form an imperial cult built around gaining the power to rule the world by using intense discipline to control evil urges, that as Kagaseo he morphed into a Japanese version of Satan, that a woman named Mitoke (supposedly a Yamato queen) worshipped Mikaboshi/Kagaseo only to abandon such worship in order to trade with China, that the Mikaboshi cult resurfaced in World War 2 as a way to explain the atrocities of the Empire of Japan by saying that the people who committed the atrocities were possessed by Mikaboshi (which honestly reads like the kind of apologia that really shouldn’t be written under any circumstances), that the red sun on the imperial flag was the same symbol used by Mitoke as a symbol for Mikaboshi, that the Mikaboshi myth inspired the Star Wars movies and that this somehow prevented Japanese scholars from taking the mythology seriously, that he is “intolerant of humankind”, that he lets “lost souls” or “Shitidama” wreak havoc on the world because it amuses him, that he has soldiers that represent “seven sins”, and that his title of “August Star” comes from him being “born from the darkness of the Endless Stars”.

I cannot find a single traditional or mythological source for any of these ideas. In fact, it seems that the Pagan Mystics thread clearly derives from the Wikpedia article on Amatsu-Mikaboshi that has since been edited precisely to purge all of the ridiculously ahistorical and unsourced claims made in the thread. More to the point, these ideas are utterly nonsensical simply at face value if you do even a little bit of research, and there are several reasons why.

First of all, Hell, in the Christian understanding clearly implied by the thread, does not exist in Shinto doctrine. There is Yomi, but that’s just a dreary underworld not unlike other pagan underworld realms (such as in Greek or Mesopotamian polytheism). There is Jigoku, but that is not part of Shinto doctrine and instead is based on Buddhist doctrine, and Kagaseo/Mikaboshi is not really a part of the Buddhist pantheon. There is no “Soku-no-Kumi” in Shinto myth that corresponds to any kind of hell realm. There also seems to be no source for anything known as a “Shitidama”, not that you would need it to convey “demonic spirit” considering the litany of yokai that exist in Japanese myth. There is no analogue for the Seven Deadly Sins in Shinto. There is already a god, or group of beings, that brings sin, evil, impurity and disaster, and it’s not Mikaboshi/Kagaseo but rather Magatsuhi-no-kami, a group of gods who come from Yomi. Kagaseo is the original name for Amatsu-Mikaboshi based on the fact this is what he was originally referred to as in the Nihon Shoki, and Amatsu-Mikaboshi is an alternative name that exists in an alternate version of the canon. I cannot find a single soure for a Yamato queen named Hitoke, which makes me believe that she never existed. The Japanese ruling classes and the Empire of Japan, as far as we know, did not see fit to invent a new cult of black magick to crush their enemies when they could adequately do so militarily. And most of all, the whole concept of a “primordial force of domination” preceding creation doesn’t seem to make sense and is inconsistent with the existing creation myths in which Ame-no-minakanushi is established as the first god to exist.

While we’re here, I can’t be the only who thinks the whole idea of Kagaseo/Mikaboshi being a “god of evil” implies a dualism that isn’t consistent with Shinto doctrine, to the point that it sounds like the idea seems like a product of some kind of artificially imposed Christian lens. If there really is a god representing all evil within Shinto, where is the god representing all good? Any dualistic religious belief system, such as Christianity, Zoroastrianism or Islam, usually tends to pit a representation of all that is good against a representation of all that is evil. The Christian form of this is God and his son Jesus versus Satan, the Zoroastrian form of this is Ahura Mazda versus Angra Mainyu, the Islamic version of this is Allah versus Iblis or Shaitan. But Shinto is not a dualistic religion. In Shinto, for the most part there is nature and all the kami are the divine spirits representing the various elements, forces, objects and phenomenon – theoretically, there can be a kami for everything in the world. The closest thing to “the good god” would be Amaterasu, but that is more or less a designated good deity in the same way that Zeus, Indra, Odin or El are – in other words, simply the ruling deity of the pantheon. Kagaseo is treated as an evil god, but all he did was stand in the way of the gods of Takamagahara. Now a point can be made that none of the kunitsukami seem to be referred to as evil gods within Shinto canon, but then Kagaseo does nothing to earn the title of being a “god of evil”. In fact, older texts on religion and mythology that mention that god we call Amatsu-Mikaboshi seem to acknowledge him as Kagaseo and as a god of stars, not evil.

And if Kagaseo/Mikaboshi was recognized as a god of all, why is he never treated as such in any of his shrines, why in fact was he worshipped at all as a god of stars? In Chiba Shrine, Kagaseo (as Ame-no-Kagaseo) is worshipped in an auxiliary shrine dedicated to him referred to as Hoshi Jinja. It seems that in Oomika Shrine Kagaseo’s adversary, Takehazuchi, is worshipped, and Kagaseo resided in the Oomika Mountain (or Mt. Omika) as Mikaboshino-Kagaseo and ruled over what is called Togoku (the “eastern country”). Kagaseo also appears at the perimeters of the Oomika Shrine as Kamiboshino-Kagaseo embodied by a stone called the Shukkonseki, which is believed to contain his ara-mitama (meaning riugh, wild or violent spirit). This at least seems to be according to the biographies of the respective shrines, which I can safely say is a hell of a better source than what most Western accounts of Kagaeso can muster.


Frankly I’m amazed at how much lore is constructed about Kagaeso/Mikaboshi that also happens to be founded on complete bullshit, though I guess this should not be surprising given the nature of the internet. Most of what you will see written about this deity has no sources attached to it, you have to dig around to find out what little truth there is about him, and there really isn’t a whole lot said about him. He just seems to have been a rebellious star god who was defeated by the gods of Takamagahara so that they could rule Japan unopposed. Given that he was likely not only the only star kami but also seemingly associated with Venus, such a rebellious deity seems to be the Japanese analogue to what we would recognize as Lucifer in the West, and his resistance to the gods of Takamagahara could be interpreted in terms of national liberation, refusing the occupation of the gods of a foreign territory. But it seems that rather than this angle people seem to have chosen to go with the whole “god of evil” angle even though Ou-Magatsuhi, Yaso-Magatsuhi and the Magatsuhi-no-Kami already exist to fill any “god of evil” niche that exists in a way that still more or less fits Shinto doctrine.

The only thing I don’t understand is why. I only have two guesses. For Japan, I can only guess that rebellion is somehow evil in their traditional culture, and for the West I can only assume it comes down to some desperate desire to make the “Mikaboshi” of Japanese myth conform to the Mikaboshi that appears in the Marvel comics.

The influence of Indian religion on Japan

Kangiten, the Japanese incarnation of a popular Hindu god, Ganesha.

Hinduism is one the oldest religions in the world, and was around thousands of years before the time of Jesus, let alone the first religion of Abraham, or even the first dedicated monotheistic religion. Surely, then, it would be no surprise that such a religion would have spread far and wide over the course of its development and evolution. Hinduism as a religion is not commony practiced in Japan, and is considered a minority religion, with only 4,000 registered Hindus living there. Nevertheless, Hinduism has played a very significant and important role in shaping Japanese culture.

Buddhism, which shares a common root with Hinduism, came to Japan in the 6th century AD from China, where the Buddhist teachings had been translated into Chinese, via the Korean peninsula. Buddhist missionaries would introduce gods from Hinduism to Japan, as well as Buddhist ideas, most of which were ultimately born from Hindu thought. Hundreds of Hindu deities were adopted into the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist pantheons, and nearly all of them have a Hindu counterpart, and many of these deities are still popular. Here’s some examples.

First is Benzaiten. In Hinduism, Saraswati as the goddess of rivers, beauty, and the arts, such as music. In Japan, she become a lucky goddess, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune to be exact. Worship of her came to Japan in the 6th-8th centuries through Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light.

Benzaiten, the Japanese counterpart to the Hindu goddess Saraswati.

Another god of fortune is Bishamonten, who is also a god of war and warriors in Japan, in contrast to his other depictions in Buddhism, where he is called Vaisravana, in which he is a more pacifist figure. Bishamonten comes from Vaisravana, one of the Four Heavenly Kings, who himself originates from a Hindu god of wealth called Kubera.

Shiva has also entered the Japanese pantheon, mainly in the form of Daikokuten, another lucky god of happiness of wealth. He is said to be combination of the Shinto god Okuninushi and the Tibetan and Mongolian Mahakala, and he most likely entered Japan from Mongolia. Daikoku’s status as a god of wealth possibly originates from Mahakala’s association with Kubera, indicated by reports from Chinese pilgrims of seeing Mahakala placed in Indian temples carrying a bag of gold. And there is a white form of Mahakala who is sometimes seen as a god of wealth.

Shiva’s son, Ganesha, also appears in the pantheon, brought to Japan in the 9th century by the founder of Shingon Buddhism, and images of him have been throughout Japan. He is known there as Kangiten or Shoten, and is worshipped as a god of bliss, endowed with great power and beleived to confer happiness to couples and devotees, as well as conjugal blessings. He is also said to be a manifestation of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. There is a popular temple at Futako Tamagawa in Tokyo, in which figures of Ganesha are displayed more prominently than those of the Buddha.

Indra, king of the gods in Vedic mythology, appears as Taishakuten, and a deity presiding over the Four Heavenly Kings.

Yama, the lord of the departed, appears in Japan as Enma, or Enma Dai-O.

I can go on with many more examples of Hindu gods adopted in Japanese Buddhism. Shinto adopted Hindu gods alongside Buddhism, despite Japan’s efforts to separate itself from foreign religions, including Indian religions, during what is called the Meiji Restoration, and many Hindu gods became Shinto gods, or Shinto gods adopted characteristics and links with Hindu gods.

A komainu guarding a temple in Japan.

Some Hindu symbolism also appears in temple iconography. For instance, many Shinto shrines in Japan are guarded by lion-dogs called Komainu, which resemble Chinese guardian lions, who ward off evil spirits. A common characteristic of these statues is that there are pairs of two identical statues, but with one’s mouth open and the other’s closed. This pattern is Buddhist in origin, but is laced with Hindu symbolism. The one whose mouth is open is uttering the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, pronounced “a”, while the one whose mouth is closed is uttering the last letter, pronounced “um”. Together, they represent the beginning and end of all things and form the sacred syllable in Hindu thought, the Aum. The same is true of a pair of fierce, muscular guardian gods called Nio (or Kongorikishi), where one’s mouth is open (often he is called Agyo), and the other is closed (called Ungyo).

The influence of Indian ideas was noted by the Japanese scholar, Hajime Nakamura (1912-1999). He stated that “Without Indian influence, Japanese culture would not be what it is today. As most Japanese profess the Buddhist faith, needless to say, they have generally been influenced by Indian ideas to a great extent”.

Ultimately, Hinduism is one of the most important religions for Japanese culture, for its ideas were carried on the back of Buddhism’s arrival to Japan, many centuries ago.

Here is a good website on Buddhism in Japan if you want more information:

Why I like Japan

Who doesn't like this?
Who doesn’t like this?

Japan. What a country. I haven’t been there myself, but god I wish I could go there. It has so much that I like and I want. Sure, it may not have had a pretty past, it may have something of a collectivist culture, has a reputation of shame being a primary agent of social control, and, from what I hear, an extremely harsh prison system, but the bad can’t possibly overwhelm the good. In fact, here’s what I like about Japan.

Technology (well, mostly video games)

Ya think Pokemon might be trying to predict the future when it comes to technology?
Ya think Pokemon might be trying to predict the future when it comes to technology?

Japan is where lots of my favourite video games come from. Pokemon, Shin Megami Tensei, Sonic the Hedgehog, Asura’s Wrath, Dynasty Warriors, and others. I find it hard to forget the experiences provided by the games Japan brought us. I like some Western games, but over all they can’t compete. Japanese games inspire my ideas of design (I intend to be a game designer in the artistic sense, and creative director, in the future), and that’s good enough for me.

Religious culture and mythology

Daigensui Myo-O, a fierce deity in Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Admit it, you think this is awesome too.
Daigensui Myo-O, a fierce deity in Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Admit it, you think this is awesome too.

Japanese religious life seems to be a syncretism of Shintoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, though life is still secular. Buddhism first came to Japan from Korea in around the mid-6th century, and over time, it became a part of Japan’s culture, and the source of some awesome religious art and architecture, it has had such great appeal to me ever since. Then there’s Shinto, which also inspires equally cool religious art and architecture.


A famous example of anime.
A famous example of anime.

I like anime and manga, and its culture has frequently given me ideas. I’ve always appreciated anime, especially some of the famous dark anime movies from the 80’s and 90’s, and some of the brighter stuff in the modern age, and the sexy side of anime, and some action anime shows, like Bleach. Of course, some modern Japanese games feel like anime, due to presentation and voice actors, to both good and bad effect. I’m not sure where I’d be without it.

Katanas…f***ing katanas.

My favourite weapon, followed by the machine gun and chain gun.
My favourite weapon, followed by the machine gun and chain gun.

Katanas are awesome. Fact. Everyone on the Internet agrees. OK, I guess I get that from video games, but all pathways to the katana are acceptable in my eyes.

It’s mingling of “move forward” with “treasure the past”

It's a Shinto shrine and a city skyline in the night. Not bad, eh?
It’s a Shinto shrine and a city skyline in the night. Not bad, eh?

Japan is very progressive with technology. Moving forward is definitely a thing for Japan. But from what I hear, the Japanese still respect their age-old traditions and cultures. They treasure their past and its traditions. Hell, there’s still a lot of unspoiled nature and wilderness in Japan where the cities don’t tread. We have a lot to learn from them.

I forgot to mention Japanese cuisine, ninjas, and samurai, just to get that out of the way.