Her story begins within the birth of the islands known as Japan.
From chaos, the realms of heaven and earth emerged. Within the heavenly energies great Gods were birthed and they looked down upon the Earth and saw that there was no order within the powers of that dominion. Two gods were assigned to oversee the grand task of creating structure for the mortal world. They were named Izanami, a goddess and Izanagi, a god.
The great originals handed them a spear to help them with their duty. At first the pair looked down upon the formless mass of energy and did not know what to do. Then they poked and prodded upon the realm with the spear, and when they lifted the spike out a drop fell from the tip of the spear and became an island. So once more they did the same, creating another island. They continued on until there were thousands of islands beneath them.
Izanami and Izanagi then made their home upon the very first island they had formed. They were so delighted with this wonderful new world, they then decided to create a family of gods to oversee all the wonders of nature that would now fill the lands.
The goddess Izanami would now birth children to watch over the waters, the mountains, the grass and the wind. However as she birthed the one who would govern over fire, his energy was so fierce that as he left her body he scorched her flesh and Izanami died.
Izanagi was overcome with grief at losing his beloved partner. He could not bear to even look upon the newborn son who had caused her death. With his grief turning to rage, Izanagi took a sword and beheaded the child. Then he cut the body into eight pieces, flinging them across the land and where each part landed they became a volcano.
Even after much time had passed Izanagi’s grief would not abate. So he decided to head to Yomi, the land of the dead, to find Izanami. He knew it would be a difficult journey but such was his longing he was willing to risk the darkness within Yomi to find her.
Treacherous and arduous it was, but soon he looked once more upon the body of Izanami. However it was not the woman he remembered as now her corpse lay being eaten by maggots as her energies were returned to the spirit world. Izanagi could feel the guardians of Yomi begin to pull him deeper into their world, but he knew he still had much to do before his life should end. He rushed back to his beloved islands.
Izanagi sat by a river and wept; the tears that flowed reminded him to wash himself to cleanse his energies lest some of the darkness had travelled with him from Yomi. He leant towards the babbling waters of the river and caught some water in his hands. With this first handful of water he cleansed his left eye and as he did so he created Amaterasu, a goddess of unparalleled beauty who would be the guardian of light and protector of the sun. With a second scoop of water, Izanagi splashed his right eye and Tsukuyomi sprang forth becoming the god of the moon. A third gathering of water was used to cleanse his nose and this movement birthed Susanoo, the god of storms.
Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi fell into their duties with grace and honour. Amaterasu sent light to the world and nurtured all beings and nature. When she rested her brother, Tsukuyomi would bathe the lands in his silver tones.
However the tempestuous energies assigned to Susanoo did not make him feel compelled to act with any such dignity. Susanoo summoned storms with ferocity which tore through both the celestial and mortal plains, flattening forests, crushing rice fields and causing grief to all. Fearing that he would tear the universe asunder, the Gods decreed that he be banished to the mortal world where his powers would be tempered and contained.
Susanoo seemed to accept his judgement but underneath his resignation there seethed a jealousy of his siblings who were revered and honoured. Ever the trickster, he now decided he would have some fun before his banishment.
Susanoo breathed in deep then released his breath over Amaterasu’s rice fields, destroying the walls and letting the plants be washed away. Under the pretence of making an apology to his sister he made way to her palace, then snuck into her throne room to defecate under her royal chair.
Amaterasu weathered such tomfoolery with grace knowing his behaviour would soon be far from her. However Susanoo now took his misbehaviour to a level that broke her resolve. The delinquent brother stole one of her divine horses and skinned it. Then he threw the flayed pony into her celestial weaving hall.
The hall was filled with divine looms where their youngest sister, Wakahirume spent her days weaving the silks to dress the gods and goddesses. When the carcass of the tortured animal was thrown into her workroom it landed with a great noise and the very sight of it shocked Wakahirume so that she fell upon her weaving shuttle, piercing her lower abdomen and into her womb, causing her to bleed to death.
Amaterasu’s cries of grief could be heard across the universe. To destroy a harvest and defile her palace were all things that could be reversed, but the loss of her sister was no such small act. She sat upon the floor of the weaving hall, holding her dead sister to her heart and wept.
Amaterasu wept so much that her tears flowed into the blood around her sister. Even when Wakahirume’s body was called away to Yomi, Amaterasu’s tears continued. It felt as though the ache in her heart would never heal. She walked the palace, wringing her hands and wondering what she might have changed to have stopped Susanoo, but she knew there was no answer to that question.
The darkness of her anguish washed over her each day when she woke and dragged her into its embrace with a stronger grip as time passed. Soon Amaterasu could no longer bear to be in the presence of others. All she wanted was for quiet and stillness to live out her days with no reminders of her brother’s scourge or her sister’s fate.
Amaterasu went to a nearby mountain and found a cave that would surround her with its solid walls and tranquility. As she stepped into the cavern the world grew dark. For Amaterasu was the source of all light and without her there could be no brightness.
But the world could not continue without this goddess of light. Without Amaterasu the plants could not grow, the people became weak and the very rhythm of life began to come undone. The other gods and goddesses grew both concerned and then alarmed with good reason for they knew the power of Amaterasu’s gift and how it kept all connected. If they did not call their sister from the cave soon, the world would fall apart.
Many went to the cave entrance to call to Amaterasu but she would not leave. Her grief was still so strong, that sometimes she could not even hear their pleas. So they sought counsel with Omoikane, the god of wisdom to create a plan to save their sister and return light to the world.
Omoikane knew that to lure his sister from her solitude it would take the combined love of their entire pantheon of deities. So he set about creating the grandest ritual that they had ever taken in part in. Omoikane called all eight hundred of their celestial family to gather upon the mountainside.
The ritual began as Omoikane placed a sacred mirror that he had created just outside the cave’s entrance. He then summoned Ame-No-Uzume, the goddess of the dawn and celebrations to dance.
This she did, beginning with slow, flowing movements. Her silk robes woven by Wakahirume rippled and billowed with each step of her feet and every gesture of her arms.
Then Ame-No-Uzume began to move quicker, replacing the graceful sweeps of her limbs with strong, forceful movements that quickened each second. She pulled at the belt that held her robes in place and the garment opened up, revealing her breasts and womanhood for all to see.
The rest of the deities cheered and hollered as this happened. To see Ame-No-Uzume this way reminded them all of the beauty and sacred feminine energy they were trying to save. Ame-No-Uzume feeling her actions to be endorsed became even more frenetic, in turn causing the heavenly family to cheer and laugh even louder.
Such was the noise that not even Amaterasu’s grief could hide it. She looked to the opening of the cave, wondering who was making such a commotion….and why.
Amaterasu slowly walked along the edge of the cave, keeping one hand upon the stone wall as though to ask her hermitage to keep her safe. When she was near the opening she cried out,
“Who is there? What is happening?”
Omoikane smiled as he heard her voice. “Oh dear sister, you must come and see. There is the most beautiful and powerful goddess that has ever existed.”
Amaterasu’s curiosity overcame all else she was feeling. She stepped from the cave and, just as Omoikane had planned, the first thing she saw was herself in the sacred mirror that he placed there. Amaterasu stood in awe, for as she looked at herself, she did indeed see the most beautiful and powerful goddess who existed.
While she stood transfixed, her light once more grew strong and pulsed out to the world, waking the plants and beings back into their natural rhythms.
Omoikane nodded to two of his brothers. One stepped forward and gently wrapped his arm about Amaterasu’s waist guiding her to step clear of the cave entrance. Whilst behind them another brother pushed a stone across the cave entrance closing it forever.
Amaterasu was now returned to the world and here she would stay.
She slowly turned to see her family gathered upon the mountainside. Ame-No-Uzume was still dancing and now twirled before her. The warmth of the light now returning to the world danced with her sister and the shadows upon the ground made it seem as though there was another being dancing. Another being that would not have existed without her light.
Ame-No-Uzume held her hand out to Amaterasu, inviting her to join her frolic. As their hands embraced, Ame-No-Uzume slowed her movements so that Amaterasu could ease into her own flow.
Together they bent and straightened, turned and stepped; their arms rising and falling. Slowly Amaterasu began to smile.
Light and shadow.
Day and night.
Tranquillity and turmoil.
Life and death.
Celebration and grief.
Such was the dance of life and she was grateful to be called back into its rhythm.
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