Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More About Goddesses: Amaterasu

More About Goddesses: Amaterasu by Tim Kavi

Amaterasu is considered a major deity in the Shinto religion and is frequently depicted in Japanese myths. In some writings she is also referred to as Amateru which translates to “shining in heaven.” Her full name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, translates to “the great august kami who shines in heaven.”

In myths, Amaterasu is known as the sun goddess. She is the sister of Tshkuyomi, the god of the moon and Susanoo, the goddess of the sea and storms. These siblings are descendants of Izanami with Tsukuyomi being washed out of the right eye, Susanoo being washed out of the nose and Amaterasu being washed out of the left eye. Legend has it that anyone who may sit as an Emperor of Japan must be a direct descendant of this goddess.

In writings, Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi rule over the heavens with her reigning over the sun and him ruling over the night. But one day Tsukuyomi killed Uke Mochi, the goddess of food because he became disgusted as she pulled food from her nose, mouth and rectum. Amaterasu was disgusted by this murder and labeled her brother as evil, resulting in the split between night and day.

Amaterasu is typically worshipped in the Ise Shrine in Honshu. The Naiku or inner shrine is dedicated to her, holding the Yata no Kagami, the sacred mirror that is said to be one of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. Her followers are typically referred to as “the cult of the sun,” though this is occasionally referred to as a worship of the sun that stems from pre-archipelagoan culture rather than a worship of the goddess herself.

The Shikinen Sengu ceremony is held in this shrine every 20 years as a dedication to the goddess. During this ceremony the main buildings that make up the shrine are destroyed and rebuilt in a new location. Then the goddess will be offered new food and clothing. It is said that this ceremony has been carried out at this location since 690 AD.

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