Amaterasu’s Light

January 2, 2021


Amaterasu. Sun Goddess and one of the major Shinto deities, she is a major presence in Japan’s earliest literary texts and mythological stories. Stories passed down through the ages. Wisdom for shining and sharing the Light we hold, even as we navigate the dark times. Sometimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes a hoard.

       When her golden rays streamed down to touch the earth, the birds sang, the lakes glistened, and the flowers bloomed. Every day Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, brought beauty and bounty to the land and was much beloved by the people.     
       However, as much as Amaterasu was the light, her younger brother, Susanowo, was the dark. His jealously for his sister seethed in him, and in his hatred he stormed across the land leaving a wake of destruction. When Amaterasu saw this she flashed her brilliant swords of light to burn away the storm clouds. So Susanowo became still during the day. But at night he would again unleash his raging storms to demolish the aqueducts and flood the rice fields. Each day Amaterasu restored the fields and each night Susanowo destroyed them again.  As his wrath grew, he churned up the ocean waters sending great waves through the villages. Homes were devastated and people were swept out to sea.

       Amaterasu was heartbroken and instead of restoring the land, she retreated to a cave where she placed a great boulder in the entrance and refused to come out. Without her light the world was plunged into darkness. The plants stopped growing, the birds stopped singing, and the people were in despair.

      Desperate for her return, eight hundred gods and goddesses gathered outside the cave to persuade her to come out. She refused. Then one of the wiser gods proposed a plan. Opposite the mouth of the cave they hung a mirror in the branches of a tree. Then they began singing and dancing with great joy and laughter. Amaterasu heard the noise and, curious to see what was going on, moved the boulder ever so slightly to peek out. The first thing she saw was her own reflection in the mirror. Not realizing it was her own image, she stepped out of the cave to admire the brilliant light. At that moment, the gods pushed the boulder behind her closing the cave entrance. They gathered around her to welcome her back, and there was joyous celebration when she agreed to return with them to her heavenly home.

       Once again the birds sang, the water glistened, and the flowers bloomed. And the people rejoiced. For despite Susanowo’s jealous antics, every morning Amaterasu sends her golden rays down to touch the earth, bringing beauty and bounty to the land.

Sometimes it takes a hoard. May we be that for each other.

Judith –