Goddess of the Sun
Goddess of Mirth and Dance
Amaterasu, goddess of the sun in Japanese mythology, was a beautiful and compassionate
goddess who ruled both the sun and the heavenly fields of rice that fed the Japanese
people. Uzume was a lesser goddess, responsible for laughter and revelry.
The goddess Amaterasu, the divine ancestor of the Japanese imperial family,
and the goddess Uzume (who brought her out of her deep depression) are heroines in
Japanese myths that parallel the story of Demeter and the maidservant Baubo in Greek
Uzume, a lesser goddess than Amaterasu, is remembered largely for the role that she played
in bringing Amaterasu out of a severe depression. The goddess Uzume played an important
role in leading Amaterasu back to her heavenly responsibilities, insuring the fertility of
The goddess Uzume, because of her part in the myths of
Amaterasu, is also allied with the art of spiritual drumming. The story of the
Japanese goddesses Amaterasu and Uzume will tell you why.
Amaterasu was the daughter of the
supreme Japanese diety who, in Japanese mythology, had created the world. She and her
brothers, the storm god, Susanowa, and the moon god, Tsuki-yomi, shared the power of
governing the universe. Amaterasu, as the sun goddess, was responsible for illuminating the
world and for insuring the fertility of the rice fields.
Amaterasu was also an accomplished
weaver, with many attendants who joined her in weaving the stunning satins, silks, and
brocades for which Japan is rightfully famous.
Her brutish brother Susanowa was very jealous of the beautiful Amaterasu's power and
popularity. Going on a rampage, he slaughtered a young horse (an animal sacred to
the goddess) and threw its bloody carcass into the weaving room, wrecking the looms,
ruining the precious fabrics, and terrifying the hapless women who were working there.
In some versions of the myth, one of her
attendants was killed in the violence . . . in another version, Amaterasu herself was
wounded when her brother attacked her with a shuttle.
Amaterasu, depressed and grieving over this violation by her
brother, crept away to a dark cave in the mountains and refused to return to the heavens.
Without her there was no sun, and the rice fields
lay dying in the endless night, while the people grew hungry.
Hundreds of the gods and goddesses came to the entrance of her cave and begged for
Amaterasu to come out. But her grief was so great that Amaterasu could not be moved by
Finally, Uzume, the goddess of mirth, came up with a plan. The gods rolled a large bronze
mirror in front of the entrance to the cave while Uzume began to dance on a large
overturned tub. Her dance frenzied and ecstatic, her feet drumming on the tub, Uzume
hoisted her kimono and the crowd roared and laughed with delight.
Amaterasu could hear the feverish laughter and drumming and became curious about its
origin. Hoping to peek out of the cave's entrance, she was momentarily dazzled by
her own reflection in the bronze mirror and was unable to see what was happening.
crept further out, the gods captured Amaterasu and sealed the entrance to the cave so that
she could not return.
Her grief dissipated by the revelry and good humor she found around her, Amaterasu returned
to her home and her light once more shone upon the earth.
In another myth, Amaterasu was angered by her other brother,
the moon god Tsuki-yomi, because he killed a goddess he felt had insulted him. The sun
goddess Amaterasu told her brother that she would never see him again . . . which, in
Japanese mythology, explains why the sun and the moon appear at different times in the
The goddesses Amaterasu and Uzume teach us about the healing power of laughter and dance,
and remind us that we can often find healing and wisdom in humor.
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