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rice in myth and legend
ALTHOUGH they have different histories, cultures and societies, all the countries of east and southeast Asia have rice as a common denominator. It is not simply that these peoples cultivate rice; they all have customs, rituals and myths concerning rice which serve as threads to bind them together. Rice culture is extremely important as the common inheritance of these regions.
Myths concerning the origin of rice take many forms. Some have points in common with myths related to other crops. One of these, which is widely current in such parts of the region as Indonesia and Malaysia, tells how crops originated from the corpse of a murdered god or human being. Myths of this kind often relate that other crops originated at the same time as rice. In Java, according to some versions, fruit bearing plants originated from the corpse of a young girl; dry land rice from the navel; coconut palms from the head and genitals; ripened fruit dangled from both hands, and fruit originated from the legs and ripened in the ground. Among the Manggarai people of Flores Island, it is said that rice and maize originated from the corpse of a murdered child. According to the Japanese classic Kojiki ("Record of ancient matters'), compiled in 712 AD, Susanoo slew the food goddess Ohogetsu-hime. Silkworms came from her head, rice seeds from both eyes, millet from both ears, red beans from her nose, wheat from her genitals, and soybeans from her buttocks.
Many mountain peoples of the southeast Asian mainland and islands sacrifice domestic animals such as water buffalo and pigs as an agricultural ritual. Some plaindwelling peoples of the region, such as the Lao of Laos, also sacrifice water buffalo. The motives underlying this practice are varied. It is believed …