Love.Eat.Shine: Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun

Characters:

Kami: a Sacred Guardian/deity

Uke Mochi, also known as Ōgetsu-hime:

Sometimes male, often female, and intimately associated with foxes, she is a child of Izanagi and Izanami, making her a sibling of Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess.

Uke Mochi is the Goddess of food, which will play a part in the separation of Sun and Moon, Day and Night.

Amaterasu: Goddess of the Sun, born of Izanagi‘s left eye after his ritual cleansing.

Tsukuyomi: God of the Moon, born of Izanagi‘s right eye after his ritual cleansing.

Susanoo: God of the Seas and Storms, born of Izanagi‘s nostrils after his ritual cleansing

Uzume: Goddess of the Dawn, known for her sensual charms.

Inari: a Kami who often appears as a fox; in some accounts, Uzume’s husband

*

Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi were inseparable, spending their time whirling around each other in the heavens.

However, at some point, Tsukuyomi departed to visit their sister, Uke Mochi, Kami of Food.

Uke Mochi was delighted to see her brother, and decided to prepare him a feast:

Facing towards the ocean, she started spitting out fish. She turned to the forest, and wild game came tumbling from her mouth.

She faced a a rice paddy, and spat out a bowl of rice.

However, this was just the beginning:

Uke Mochi produced food from every orifice, not just her mouth.

She pulled food from her nose…

Tsukuyomi was disgusted.

She pulled food from her ears.

Tsukuyomi was offended.

She turned around, spread her buttocks, and…

She pulled food from there as well.

Tsukuyomi’s distaste turned into a blind rage.

Without thinking, he killed his sister.

Still, her body kept producing food: millet, grains, beans, even silkworms.

To Tsukuyomi’s surprise, these food items were indestructible.

As a recourse, he gave guardianship of the food to Inari, a Kami who manifests as a fox, tying Uke Mochi symbolically to the animal.

*

Was there retribution?

Oh, yes.

Tsukuyomi’s sister-wife and best friend, Amaterasu, divorced him.

This is why the Sun and Moon don’t dance together anymore.

This is why there is Day and Night.

Does this mark the end of Amaterasu’s sibling problems?

Not at all…

 *

Susanoo was born from Izanagi’s nostrils during his ritual cleansing, along with his siblings the Sun and the Moon.

However, he was bound to the Earth, and resented it.

After a battle of magical wits left Amaterasu the victor, Susanoo literally stormed off.

In his rage he destroyed much of Heaven and Earth. He killed one of Amaterasu’s beloved attendants, and desecrated her sacred loom.

In rage and grief, Amaterasu hid inside a sacred cave, and so the Sun set on the World, plunging everything into darkness.

Seeing the state of things, the Kamis sought out Amaterasu. First, they threw a lavish party outside the cave.

Amaterasu was nonplussed; she stayed inside.

Then came Uzume, Goddess of the Dawn.

*

When Demeter mourned for her kidnapped daughter Persephone, it was the sensual dance of the aged Baubo that ‘woke’ Demeter up.

In this tale, it was the erotic dance of the much younger appearing Uzume.

How alluring was the Kami Uzume?

Names for her include The Great Persuader, and The Heavenly Alarming Female.

Stripping of her clothes to a bawdy tune, the Sun Goddess was eventually lured out by the commotion of the Gods, at which point they ‘persuaded’* her to return to the Heavens, which she did.

*[‘persuaded’ as in magically sealing the cave behind her]

Susanoo was banished, though in time he reconciled with his sister.

And that’s how a little striptease saved the day, literally…

*

Ritual purity. Ritual impurity.

Sensual spirituality.

These are topics that resonate through world mythology.

These are all themes operating in these tales of Amaterasu.

Counting the origin story, Amaterasu’s tale has everything:

  • Birth
  • Death
  • Ritual Cleansing
  • Food Taboos
  • Sacred Sexuality

*

Love. Sex. Food. Death.

And Magic…

And despite everything (or maybe because of it),

The Sun still shines…

Amaterasu_cave_crop
Amaterasu emerges from the cave, public domain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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