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The Ancient Myth of Amaterasu

By Yona Williams    2/23/07

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Amaterasu.jpg
Emerging from the Cave
Within Japanese mythology, there are an assortment of important gods, goddesses, and other characters throughout history. Amaterasu is one of those entities that have graced the pages of ancient Japanese myths. Amaterasu is the sun goddess, who is known for receiving a gift from Izangi: a holy necklace that enabled her to rule over the sky. It is believed that she sent her grandson, (whose name was Jimmu) to earth who later became the first ruler of Japan more than 3,000 years ago. This article will further explore one of the most well known of myths associated with this goddess of the sun.  

 

In regards to the history of mortals on earth, Amaterasu is regarded as beginning the family line of the Japanese emperors. Throughout Shinto religion, she was quite important, which is the reason an array of tales and myths are connected to her name.

 

One of these stories involved the sun goddess and her brother, whose name was Susano. At one point, the two siblings were engaging in a competition of sorts. Susano got the best of his sister, and became quite angry when Amaterasu’s pride would not allow her to admit that she had been defeated. As a consequence, Susano took out his frustrations on the heavens and earth, causing damage and destruction. Amaterasu fled during this time and took up shelter in a cave that she had located. She traveled deep into the cave and refused to remove herself from inside.

 

As a result of her actions, all of Japan was surrounded in darkness. The earth became void of light, causing the land to lose its vitality, which in turn would not allow any crops to grow. Suffering spread across the country and they needed Amaterasu to give them light with her presence.

 

An all-out effort was forged in order to bring Amaterasu out of the dark cave. Many gods joined in, as did the mortals. They set up a mirror outside of the cave, hanging it on a tree. Sacrifices took place and rituals were performed in her honor. One moment, the sun goddess took a glance outside of the cave and inquired to the goings on that was taking place. The gods told Amaterasu that they had found someone to take her place as the sun goddess. She became very curious as to who was more qualified than she to take on the title. She stepped from the cave and came in front of the mirror.

 

Since the goddess had never come in contact with her own reflection, she believed that someone indeed had taken her place. Amaterasu walked closer to the mirror and as she found herself further from the cave, one of the gods apprehended her while the others blocked the entrance to the cave. This is how the sun goddess took her intended duty as the sun goddess, allowing life as normal to return to Japan.

 

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