Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the day of equal light and dark to mark the transition from Summer to Autumn. I thought finding an “equinox dragon” would be easy (since my Writing Thoughts post still isn’t done from last week*) but I got SO much more than I bargained for as I went Finding Dragons today…
This piece is called Feathers and Arrows by Indonesian professional artist Yasmine Putri, posting as MischievousMartian, and will stand alone because it’s that amazing, even though the dragon isn’t really the central figure. Her artwork is accompanied by a legend Yasmine created based in Japanese mythology about a race that occurs annually today, on the Autumnal Equinox, which I’ll add below the image.
If there was anything left unmarked by the arrows of Hoori, the god of hunting, it’s the swift swans of Takamagahara, or the godly plane. Created by Tsuki-yomi, the god of the moon, the swans have almost translucent, paperlike feathers that glow like ember in moonlight, shines like jade in starlight, and burns like fire in sunlight. As they were of godly origin and therefore sacred, no creature in heaven or earth is allowed to hunt them, a policy that is against Hoori’s very nature. He devised a plan and went to the river where the swans reside, politely asking their king, Inkoku, for a friendly race. Inkoku has lived long and is wise of the intentions of gods and men, and had known that Hoori would purposely fall behind in the race to aim his arrows without being seen.
Inkoku agreed given the time of the race would be to his liking, and chose dusk as the moon has yet to rise and the stars have yet to appear, save for the already sunken sun so that the swans’ feathers would be dull and translucent like the air and in turn escape Hoori’s exceptionally keen eyes. To Inkoku’s dismay, however, on the day of the race Hoori brought with him the three celestial light of the Sun, Moon, and Stars inside stolen paper lanterns that belonged to Amaterasu, the sun goddess and also the hunting god’s great-grandmother. The race started and the three lanterns illuminated the way, making the swans shimmer and shine against the darkening sky.
Nearly halfway through the race, Hoori pretended to lag behind, giving the swans the lead and carefully started to draw his first arrow. But with a single flap of his wings Inkoku slowed down drastically, his flock doing the like, and the very moment before Hoori released his first arrow he found himself at the lead with the swans behind him. Hastily he lowered his bow in embarrassment and pretended to pick up speed, the swans following closely, and later fell behind for the second time. But the swans quickly fell behind him again and then he had to pick up his pace once more and the entire process would begin again. The race progressed so slowly that it lasted all through the night, ending at dawn when the swans’ feathers again became dull and Hoori’s lanterns finally went out, giving Inkoku and his flock the edge they needed. With this they sped on and escaped Hoori, thus winning the race and saved from the fate of death.
The next year Hoori used his defeat as an excuse and called for a rematch, but the swans beat him every time until this became an annual event. Look up to the sky just before sunrise at the fall equinox’s last day and you may see Hoori and the swans floating across the dawning sky or gliding just above the land on the last leg of their slow race, with fireflies as onlookers. But comely as he may be, try not to stare at Hoori—embarrassment might force him to again lower his bow and miss his last shot of that year.
— Written by Yasmine Putri
Author’s notes: Takamagahara, Hoori, Tsuki-yomi, and Amaterasu really do exist in Japanese mythology. The swans, race, lanterns, fireflies, and Hoori’s mount/falcon are fictional.
Reading this magical tale makes me want to get back to working on my own, and I find I could stare at Yasmine’s art for hours, taking in the details of the dragon mount, the swans with paper-like wings, the three stolen lanterns, the stars and fireflies, even the hunter himself… in fact, it’s my tablet’s wallpaper now!
So thanks for reading, I hope this inspired you as it did me. Take care and stay creative!
* By the way, when you eventually do get to read the very late Writing Thoughts post (hopefully soon?), I hope you appreciate the irony of the piece as much as I do now…
Image and fiction credit:
Feathers and Arrows by Yasmine Putri