The Japanese word for sun is "hikari" and literally means "shining light." Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, was said to descend from heaven with her mother. She symbolizes wisdom and is known as the ancestress of all gods. In some legends it is suggested that she fell from heaven on her brother who had also stolen fire from their father and gave him a handful to hold on to.
1. Mother, Father, and Son
2. Death of Her Brother
3. Coming Into Power
4. Bringer of Light and Wisdom
Origin of Amaterasu
Her story begins in the Kojiki, a collection of myths written in 607 CE. At that time, the world was still young and inhabited by a race of giants known as the Oni (demons). Because she was a daughter of Heaven, The Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu could not live on Earth with her father whom the gods feared. Instead she traveled to Earth where her father entrusted her with guarding the mirror which could reflect sunlight into the underworld.
Amaterasu was originally the sister of Susanoo, an active deity who used the bow and arrow to fight battles on earth. As a result of his actions he was banished to the island Iware, which brings bad luck.
Amaterasu decided that all things should be created by means of creating fire and this included her brother and his wife who were considered evil for stealing fire from their father Izanagi. She had a hard time convincing her father to create fire for them.
Mother, Father, and Son
The earth had been desolate and lifeless. One day, Izanagi and his wife, Izanami, decided to create the Japanese islands by walking around pulling up tufts of grass. When they arrived back at their home, Amaterasu came out from behind the rock where she had been hiding. She had not been invited to join them as they wandered because she was still considered a child at this time.
Her parents were angry with her for being rude and ignoring them. They began to yell at her until she disappeared back behind the rock. When she came back out, Amaterasu apologized for disrespecting her parents by not inviting them to have a share of the creation of the islands.
Regarding her son, Tsuki-yomi, and his wife, Yomotsu-shikome, she was less forgiving. She loved her brother and sister-in-law dearly, but was concerned about their evil tendencies. She decided to consult with her father about their behavior. First she went to see him on the eastern side of the palace. When he wasn't home she went to see him at the western side of the palace where he lived with Izanami.
Death of Her Brother
Amaterasu became angry when her parents decided to return fire to the underworld and her brother, Susanoo, stole the pot of fire. As punishment he was banished to earth. As he left the palace along with his wife Kushinadahime, they suggested that they would descend from heaven every day. This made Amaterasu angry as she believed that the sun belonged in heaven and not on Earth.
His death is said to have been caused by a god named Takemikazuchi.
Coming Into Power
Amaterasu chided her brother for his misbehavior and sent him away to the island of Iware. Years later Amaterasu heard that Susanoo was abusing his authority and decided to go see him. She made it just in time to stop him from killing a child named Kushinadahime, who was the daughter of an old woman who gave Susanoo shelter from the rain. Amaterasu helped Susanoo and placed Kushinadahime in the heavens. In return, Amaterasu became Susanoo's wife. This made Amaterasu happy since she was lonely and wanted companionship.
Unfortunately, not every man wanted to marry her so she sent them all to Iware where they had previously lived.
Bringer of Light and Wisdom
Amaterasu decided that the people needed to have a name so she asked her father why people didn't have names when he created them. He explained that if she wanted people to have names she would have to create the "word." She then decided to create two islands and an island in the middle. This created the land of Japan where Amaterasu could rule as god.
Amaterasu ordered Ninigi, her son, to create a mirror out of gold. This was so that she could see her son whenever she wanted to. Her first cousin produced a mirror from silver and then another one from copper which Amaterasu thought was not strong enough. At the last minute her son decided to produce a mirror from bronze and she praised him for doing so.
The Kojiki tells a story about Amaterasu and her brother Susanoo, who was married to Amaterasu. After their father Izanagi and his wife Izanami had parted, the world remained lifeless. People didn't have names or houses, and no one lived in the earth. They preferred to live with their parents on lands that were above the sea like Amaterasu's island in Japan where she ruled over everything.
In the end, Amaterasu took her place as the sun and has remained there ever since. She is the goddess of the universe and earth, and is said to have produced islands from her necklace.
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