Occulted City Vol.3 Tesso
Embodiment (Original Mix)
Cam Lasky - Embodiment (Original Mix)
4 : 28
10th Jul 2017
Embodiment (Cam Lasky 64000 Rats Mix)
Cam Lasky - Embodiment (Cam Lasky 64000 Rats Mix)
Embodiment (BabieGION Enter Nirvana Mix)
Cam Lasky, Babie GION
Cam Lasky, Babie GION - Embodiment (BabieGION Enter Nirvana Mix)
4 : 12
Vox, Synth and Prog by BabieGION (3)
Produced, Written and Performed by Cam Lasky
Engineered & Mixed by Sonar Graham
P&C 2017 Cam Lasky under exclusive license from KWAIOTO Records
In Japanese folklore, if you make a promise you had better keep it—even if you are the Emperor of Japan. Otherwise, the person you betrayed might hold it against you and transform into a giant rat with iron claws and teeth and kill your first-born son. That is the story of the Emperor Shirakawa, his son Prince Taruhito, and the Abbot of Miidera temple Raigo—better known as Tesso, the Iron Rat; or more simply as Raigo the Rat.
What Does Tesso – Iron Rat Mean?
The kanji for Tesso is about as straight-forward as you can get. 鉄 (te; iron) +鼠 (sso; rat). The name Tesso was given to this yokai by artist Toriyama Sekien in his yokai collection Gazu Hyakki Yako (画図百鬼夜行; The Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Demons,), although the character is much older.
Tesso is different from many yokai in that he is a singular character. There is only one Tesso. Until Toriyama came up with the much cooler name for his collection, Tesso was known as Raigo Nezumi (頼豪鼠), meaning Raigo the Rat.
The Story of Raigo the Rat
The tale begins with the Emperor Shirakawa, who was desperate for an heir to his throne. He enlisted the aid of the Abbot of Miidera temple, a powerful Buddhist monk named Raigo. Emperor Shirakawa promised Raigo vast rewards if he could use his spiritual powers to give the Emperor a son. Accepting the offer, Raigo threw himself into meditation and prayer and magic. Soon enough a son was born to Emperor Shirakawa, the Prince Taruhito.
Raigo went to the Emperor for his promised reward, and asked only for the funds to build an ordainment platform at his temple of Miidera. The Emperor was too happy to oblige, until temple politics interfered.
Miidera had a rival temple, the powerful Enraku-ji in Mt. Hiei in Kyoto. The monks of Enraku-ji were not normal, peaceful monks, but a terrible army of militant warriors feared across all Japan. It was said the Emperor could influence all on Earth except three things—the blowing of the wind, the rolling of dice in a cup, and the monks of Enraku-ji. Even though they were both of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, Miidera and Enraku-ji has split into different factions after the death of their founder. Enraku-ji was not about to allow new Tendai monks to be ordained at Miidera, a privilege they reserved for themselves.
The Emperor had no choice but to break his promise to Raigo. He asked if there was anything else he could give, but Raigo was adamant. So adamant, in fact, that he went on a hunger strike and died after 100 days, cursing the Emperor with his final breath. At the house of his death, a figure in white was said to have appeared beside the cradle of the 4-year old Prince Taruhito, who died soon afterward. What Raigo had given, Raigo had taken away.
What happened next was strange—up until now this is the usual ghost story with Raigo returning as a yurei. But the tale does not end there. Raigo used black magic to ensure he was reborn after death as a dread yokai. He twisted his body into the form of a giant rat as large as a man, with a body as strong as stone and with claws and teeth or iron.
The newly-named Raigo the Rat invaded Enraku-ji with an army of rats, devouring their rare and valuable Buddhist scriptures, and even eating statues of the of the Buddha himself. This reign of rat-terror when on until a shrine was built to appease Raigo, transforming him from a deadly emissary of vengeance into a protecting kami spirit. Because that’s how evil spirits roll in Heian-period Japanese folklore.
Raigo the Onryo
Old texts describe Raigo as an onryo, the name for the grudge-bearing spirit popular in Japanese horror films. Raigo wouldn’t be seen as an onryo nowadays—his transformation into a rat makes him more of a monster than a ghost. But in the Heian period the word onryo had a more specific meaning, being something with a grudge against the Emperor of member of the Imperial family. And that label suits Raigo just fine.
Raigo and the Heike Monogatari
The story of Raigo comes from the Heike Monogatari (平家物語; Tale of the Heike) an epic poem from the Heian period that tells of the Heike/Taira wars that split Japan as two factions struggled for the throne. The Heike Monogatari is often called Japan’s version of The Odyssey, freely mixing historical fact with the supernatural and mythological.
Because the Heike Monogatari comes from an oral storytelling tradition, there are multiple versions of it with variations of the story of Raigo the Rat. In one of the older versions—the Engyo Hon (延慶本; Book of the Engyo Period), the story ends with the death of Prince Taruhito. In later versions Raigo gets more and more monstrous. The 48-volume Genpei Seisuiki version has Raigo attacking Enraku-ji with his army of rats, and in the 14th century historical epic Taiheiki (太平記; Record of the Great Peace) Raigo is described as having a body of stone and claws and teeth of iron. This Raigo ate not only the sacred texts of Enrakuji, but also their statue of Buddha.