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Amaterasu

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Lotus Flower
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The Goddess Files: Enlightenment through Discover

Amaterasu

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I first learned of Amaterasu after reading a book of Japanese lore that I checked out from the library last year. What I find most interesting is that she is the first, and only, that I know of, goddess that is linked with the sun. Goddesses, and women in general, are more often than not associated with the moon, in almost all eras and cultures. The wikipedia entry is more like what I read in that book.



AMATERASU Sun goddess, ruler of the heavens. When her great enemy, the storm god Susa-No-Wo, destroyed her fine palace, Amaterasu went to hide in a cave. The other gods used all their magical tricks to get her to come out, to no avail. In her absence, darkness and demons ruled the earth until Ama-No-Usume lured Amaterasu out of the cave with a trick. With a comical and obscene dance, he made the gods gathered at the mouth of the cave laugh. When Amaterasu asked what was going on, Ama-No-Uzume replied that they had found another and better sun goddess. Amaterasu peeped out of her cave and saw her own reflection in a mirror which Ama-No-Uzume had hung on a nearby tree. Fascinated, Ameratasu drew a little closer for a better look, and the gods grabbed her and hauled her out. (1)

Amaterasu, the powerful sun goddess of Japan, is the most well-known deity of Japanese mythology. Her feuding with her uncontrollable brother Susanoo, however, is equally infamous and appears in several tales. One story tells of Susanoo's wicked behavior toward Izanagi. Izanagi, tired of Susanoo's repeated complaints, banished him to Yomi. Susanoo grudgingly acquiesced, but had to attend to some unfinished business first. He went to Takamanohara (heaven) to bid farewell to his sister, Amaterasu. Amaterasu knew her unpredictable brother did not have any good intentions in mind and prepared for battle. "For what purpose do you come here?" asked Amaterasu. "To say farewell," answered Susanoo.

But she did not believe him and requested a contest for proof of his good faith. A challenge was set as to who could bring forth more noble and divine children. Amaterasu made three women from Susanoo's sword, while Susanoo made five men from Amaterasu's ornament chain. Amaterasu claimed the title to the five men made from her belongings. Therefore, the three women were attributed to Susanoo.


Torii at Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, Takachiho, Miyazaki PrefectureBoth gods declared themselves to be victorious. Amaterasu's insistence in her claim drove Susanoo to violent campaigns that reached their climax when he hurled a half-flayed pony--an animal sacred to Amaterasu--into Amatarasu's weaving hall, causing the death of one of her attendants. Amaterasu fled and hid in the cave called Iwayado. As the sun goddess disappeared into the cave, darkness covered the world.

All the gods and goddesses in their turn strove to coax Amaterasu out of the cave, but she ignored them all. Finally, the kami of merriment, Ama-no-Uzume, hatched a plan. She placed a large bronze mirror on a tree, facing Amaterasu's cave. Then Uzume clothed herself in flowers and leaves, overturned a washtub, and began to dance on it, drumming the tub with her feet. Finally, Uzume shed the leaves and flowers and danced naked. All the male gods roared with laughter, and Amaterasu became curious. When she peeked outside from her long stay in the dark, a ray of light called "dawn" escaped and Amaterasu was dazzled by her own reflection in the mirror. The god Ameno-Tajikarawo pulled her from the cave and it was sealed with a holy shirukume rope. Surrounded by merriment, Amaterasu's depression disappeared and she agreed to return her light to the world. Uzume was from then on known as the kami of dawn as well as mirth.(2)


(1) http://www.purgingtalon.com/nlm/worldmyth/japanese.htm
(2)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_mythology#Amaterasu_and_Susanoo


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