My child, when thou lookest upon the mirror, let it be as if thou wert looking on me; let it be with thee on thy couch and thy hall, and let it be to thee a holy mirror.
~ Amaterasu (Yamakage Shinto teachings)
The Great Goddess (or kami) Amaterasu, is the beautiful and compassionate One who rules both the Sun and the heavenly fields of rice that feed the people. She is the daughter of the supreme Japanese Creator, Izanagi, and the divine ancestor of the Japanese imperial family.
She and Her brothers, the storm God, Susanowa, and the Moon God, Tsuki-yomi, govern the universe.
As the Sun Goddess, She is responsible for illuminating the world and for insuring the fertility of the rice fields, and, indeed, all life forms. She brings health, beauty, happiness, and abundance to all.
Uzume is a lesser kami (Goddess), associated with drumming, laughter, and revelry. The relationship between Uzume and Amaterasu is nearly identical to that of Demeter and Her maidservant Baubo, in Greek mythology.
As we celebrate the first weekend of Spring, let’s look at this parallel story of Amaterasu.
Among Her many talents, Amaterasu was an accomplished weaver, with many attendants who joined Her in weaving the stunning satins, silks, and brocades for which Japan is famous.
Her brutish brother Susanowa, God of storms became very jealous of the beautiful Amaterasu’s power and popularity. Going on a rampage, He blasted fierce winds and torrential rains, destroying Amaterasu’s carefully tended rice fields, wiping out Her irrigation ditches, and depositing mud and excrement in Her temples.
At first, She made excuses for Him.
“Well, He just can’t help Himself,” she mused. After all, it was His nature to be excitable and create chaos.
But Her forgiveness just made Him worse. In a final act of rage, He slaughtered a young horse (horses are sacred to Amaterasu) and threw its bloody carcass into the weaving room, defiling it as a sacred space. He wrecked the looms, ruined the beautiful fabrics, and terrified the women who were working there.
In fact, one of Amaterasu’s most beloved attendants was stricken dead with horror and fell at the Goddess’ feet. In another version of this story, Amaterasu Herself is wounded when Her brother attacks Her with a shuttle.
Amaterasu, in shock and despair over this extreme violation, fled to a dark cave on the outskirts of the Heavenly Lands, slamming a boulder across the entrance way, and refusing to ever return.
She brooded in misery, blaming Herself for the destruction, for failing Her brother in some important way, even doubting whether Love and Light mattered after all.
In this dark night of Her soul, Her Sun failed, too, and the world of the living began to die. Her rice fields shriveled in the endless night, and the people began to starve.
Hundreds of the kami came to the entrance of Her cave and begged for Amaterasu to come out. But Her grief was so great that Amaterasu would not be moved by their pleas. One after the other, they tried poetry, logic, pleading, even tricks to coax Her back to the world, so that life might continue.
To no avail.
Finally, Uzume, the Goddess of mirth, had an idea. The Gods rolled a large bronze mirror in front of the entrance to the cave while Uzume began to dance on a large, overturned tub. Bare-breasted, Her dance was wild and very bawdy!
Increasingly frenzied and ecstatic, Her feet drumming on the tub, Uzume hoisted up Her kimono and, exactly like Her Greek counterpart Baubo did for Demeter, She danced the Divine Hootchy-Cootchy. The crowd of Goddesses and Gods roared and laughed with delight.
Amaterasu could hear all the laughter and drumming and became curious. After all, for quite a while, countless kami had been tearfully begging Her to come out. Now what could they be whooping and laughing about?
Thinking She would just take a tiny peek out of the cave’s entrance, She was momentarily dazzled by Her own reflection in the bronze mirror.
Taking advantage of Her confusion, the Divine Ones quickly seized Amaterasu, and sealed the entrance to the cave.
The revelry and laughter were contagious, and Uzume continued Her drumming and dancing, dispelling the last of Amaterasu’s grief.
Amaterasu returned to Her heavenly home, Her Sunlight once more shining upon the Earth, renewing all living things with vitality and beauty again.
And so it is that Spring returns every year after Winter’s storms and darkness.
May Amaterasu’s light always return to chase away our shadows. And may Uzume’s wise, sexy mirth awaken our Springtime exuberance, body and soul!