·· Minerva Maharet ·· (chianagirl) wrote in the_goddesses,
·· Minerva Maharet ··

Amaterasu (also Amaterasu Omikami)

Amaterasu is a Japanese sun goddess. She is the supreme deity of the Shinto religion, and ruler of all the kami (the gods). She is also honoured as the guardian of Japan’s people and the symbol of Japanese cultural unity. Her symbol, the rising sun, still flies on Japan’s flag. Amaterasu’s sacred site is the Grand Shrine of Ise. Her simple shrines are notable for their architectural purity, unpretentiousness, and the central mirror representing the goddess.

There is one central myth surrounding her. Amaterasu did not trust her brother, the storm god Susano-o, because of his excesses and constant shouting. He came to heaven to see her one day, claiming that he meant her no harm. She was suspicious, but he promised that he would undergo a ritual test to prove his good will. He said that he would give birth, and if his intentions were peaceful, the children would all be male. Amaterasu took Susano-o’s sword and broke it with her teeth, then spit out three pieces. These pieces struck the ground and became goddesses. Susano-o asked her for some of her jewels. She gave him five jewels, which he cracked open and made into gods. He grew wild with excitement at his feat of creation and tore through the world, destroying everything in his path. He even piled feces under Amaterasu’s throne. He crept into her quarters and threw a flayed horse’s corpse through the roof over her weaving room, startling one of the goddess’ companions so badly that she pricked herself and died.

This madness proved too much for the sun goddess. She left the world and shut herself up in a cave. Without her light and warmth, the entire world was plunged into unending darkness. The gods of rice and all living things began to wither and die. The eight million goddesses and gods, desperate for Amaterasu’s light, gathered together to call out pleas for her return. But the goddess remained unmoved in her cave. Uzume, the voluptuous young goddess of merriment, finally took matters into her own hands. She overturned a washtub, stepped on top and began stamping out a rhythm. She began to dance, sing, and scream out bawdy remarks, eventually exposing her breasts and lifting her skirts. Uzume was dancing so wildly and obscenely that the eight million deities began to shout with delight. Inside the cave, Amaterasu heard this noise. She called out to ask what was going on. Someone paused to answer that they had found a better goddess than the sun.

Curious and annoyed by the commotion, Amaterasu cracked open the door of her cave to peek out. Behind Uzume, there was hidden a mirror. When Amaterasu looked out of the cave, the dancing goddess moved aside, and the sun goddess was staring directing into the great mirror. Never having seen her own beauty before, she was dazzled and delighted. She was surprised at the bright face she saw. Tajikara-o ('He of Powerful Arms') rolled away the stone door. Amaterasu returned to her throne in heaven, to warm the winter-weary Earth. She punished Susano-o by having his fingernails and toenails pulled out, and threw him out of her heaven. All the kami rejoiced in her warmth and light as life stirred and the world turned green once again.

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