6/20/2008

Goddess of the week - Amaterasu

Name: Amaterasu (天照) or Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神)
Location: Japan
Sphere of influence: The sun and accredited with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat, among other things.
Famous portraits: She is one of the most both important and popular Japanese gods and therefor a common motif.

The sun-goddess Amaterasu in Japanese Shinto-religion is one of the most important figures of this mythology. She is the sun and without her life cannot exist.

She was born from the left eye of the god Izanagi, when he washed it with some holy water, and she had two siblings from this washing-process, the moon-god Tsukuyomi came from the right eye and the storm-god Susanoo from his nose.

In the beginning the three gods could live together peacefully, but there was a rivalry between the goddess and her brother Susanoo. In a try to settle the matter once and for all they had a competition which all ended very bad - Susanoo got drunk and went on a rampage where he destroyed the sister's rice fields, threw excrements at her shrines and actually killed one of her hand-maidens. Amaterasu got both angry and sad and hid herself in a cave. The result of this was that the world did not see any sun and things withered and died and things got rather desperate. 8000 kamis gathered outside the cave to persuade her to come out. She was stubborn but in the end she was lured out when another one of the goddesses - Ame-no-Uzume, the goddess of dawn and revelry - made all the other gods laugh and Amaterasu wanted to see what all the merriment was about. Once she was out the others closed the cave behind her so that she could not return. The others persuaded her to return to the celestial plains, which she did and life could return to normal. And Susanoo was banned from heaven.

Amaterasu was attributed with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat. She found out how to use silkworms in order to make silk and to weave with a loom. Her great-grandson was emperor Jimmu - according to legend - the first emperor of Japan.

Her most important shrine is that in Ise on Honshu, but it is not open to the public. The shrine is torn down every twenty years and rebuilt again. In that shrine she is represented by a mirror. She has two major festive days, one being on June 17 and the other being on December 21, the winter solstice, when her emerging from the cave is commemorated.

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