Japan · Political

Samurai beheaded, turns to vengeful spirit in form of a flying severed head

March 25, 940
Samurai Taira no Masakado is beheaded in battle by his cousin

Masakado has led a small rebellion against the emperor. During that time, he killed his uncle Kunika, earning him a bounty on his head. His cousin, son of the uncle he killed, killed Masakado at the Battle of Kojima, severed Masakado’s head, and returned to the capital with it.

From this part on, legend begins. It is said that Masakado’s head not only refused to rot for the 3 months it was housed within the capital, but would also curse those who passed by. Eventually tiring of being a stationary, curse-spewing, never-decaying head, Masakado’s head levitated for a moment before flying out of the palace, landing in a small village which would later become Edo, known today as Tokyo. The peasants found the head, buried it, built a shrine, and deified.

Despite becoming a god, his spirit is considered to remain vengeful. Masakado’s deity status was revoked in 1874 when the current emperor visited the area, as it was seen as inappropriate for someone who actively rebelled against the royal family to be honored while the emperor was in the city as well. This apparently angered Masakado and many disasters followed, including an earthquake destroying a large portion of the city, several government employees dying around the same time, various illnesses being spread, and mysterious sightings being reported. Masakado’s deity status was reinstated in 1984 in an effort to quell his fury.

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