MythBits: Amaterasuon September 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm
As you may know by now, if you’ve looked elsewhere on the Princesses of Myth website, April of 2012 will see the publication of the first book about my newest princess, Himiko of Japan.
In honor of Himiko and SPIRIT’S PRINCESS, I thought I’d post a Myth Bit about one of the most important goddesses of Japanese mythology, Amaterasu. Amaterasu is the goddess of the sun and is considered to be the divine ancestress of the Japanese Imperial family.
One important myth about Amaterasu involves her stormy relationship with her brother, Sunsanoo. (Since Sunsanoo is the god of storms, what other type of relationship could they have?) I’m an only child, but I have two children of my own–a son and a duaghter–so I have seen how quickly and how often brother-sister quarrels can get out of hand. Sunsanoo finally went too far, throwing a dead horse into his sister’s weaving hall, and Amaterasu decided she had had enough. She plunged into a deep cave and refused to come out.
When the sun goddess goes into a cave, she takes the sunlight with her. The world was steeped in complete darkness and cold. The other gods and goddesses tried everything they could think of to lure Amaterasu back out of the cave, but nothing worked.
Enter Uzume. Uzume is one of my favorite goddesses because she is the goddess of mirth and merriment. Her solution was to tempt Amaterasu out of the cave by arousing the sun goddess’ curiosity. To do this, she hung a bronze mirror on a tree just outside the cave and then began to do a comic dance, using an overturned wooden tub for her stage.
Her antics soon had the other gods laughing uproariously. Deep in the cave, Amaterasu heard the laughter and wanted to find out what was going on. I like to imagine that she thought “Is that a party? It sounds like a party. In fact, in sounds like a really good party. Maybe I’ll just take a little peek at what’s going on out there to find out what everyone’s laughing at.”
Curiosity is a powerful thing. Amaterasu stepped out of her cave, bringing light back into the world. She might have ducked right back inside the cave, but as soon as she emerged, she saw her reflection in the mirror and wondered who that beautiful young woman was. While she stood fascinated by her own image, one of the gods pulled her all the way out of the cave and steps were taken to block the entrance. The sun was back to stay.
I am a very cheerful person and love comedies, jokes, reading and writing funny books and stories, and even puns. I have known many people who had to face great tragedies in their lives, but who came through all of their hardship with a sense of humor. In fact, I think that having a strong, healthy sense of humor gave them the power to endure some terrible ordeals. So is it any wonder that the story of how Uzume, goddess of merriment, saved the world from eternal darkness is one that will always be a personal favorite?