This was just the kind of behavior Ama had come to expect from her brother,
but at first she made excuses for him. "Well, he just couldn’t help himself," she thought. It was his nature to leap around causing chaos wherever he turned. Her sympathy for him had been aroused by his sad story of descending to the underworld. She could barely imagine what strength of will such a trip would require and thought that his misdeeds reflected his inner anguish. Surely, she should loan him some of her strength.

     Unfortunately, Ama’s pity only made things worse.

It was as if some inner demon drove Susa to worse and worse deeds, just to see how far he could push the radiant, oh so self-contained goddess.

Perhaps she would lose her temper and become just like him, a true sister at last! After all, how could she possibly like and understand him if she remained so distant, so superior all the time? He would knock her off her grand pedestal, once and for all!
     Ama, for her part, was beginning to lose patience with Susa, too. Resentment had taken residence in her heart. If only she could be rid of him once and for all! He was all bad, the devil himself... she could no longer remember his good points or their happy times together. 

She asked the gods why such a
troublesome brother had ever
been sent to torment her... but
no reassuring answer came to her.

 

     One day, Ama was weaving the god’s clothes in her sacred chamber, taking a momentary, peaceful respite from her worries. That’s when Susano-O decided to send a final message to his sister. Although he had tried to get Ama to loosen up and shed her pretenses, she had Do you understand the significance of a piebald horse?always resisted him. Well, this should shake her up a little! Susa flayed a piebald horse, made a hole in the roof of the house, and threw the dead horse into her circle of weaving women. On the saddle of the dead horse, was a note that read "Things are not always as black and white as they seem."
     This frightening event caused one of Amaterasu’s oldest friends to fall dead at her feet, and Ama, worn out by all the recent tempests, could only think of running away. She ran as far as she could to a rocky cave in a quiet corner of Heaven and she blocked the entrance with a boulder. No more strife!
     The world was left in darkness and no one could entice Ama out again. Susa, in disgrace (some say, in despair) began the loooonng journey to the underworld alone.
      And Amaterasu sat a very, very long time in the cave, brooding over recent events. She began to feel that it was somehow all her fault. Perhaps she had failed her brother in some important way. Perhaps she lacked the ability to love. In her headlong flight to the cave, she had lost her ability to see clearly... her light was truly dimmed.
     But the darkness within the cave was nothing compared to the darkness outside the cave. The people had lost their radiant mother and sat huddled in their homes, listless and hopeless. Without her light in the kingdom, they could not see their own strength and so had lost the will to go on. The world began to wither and die.

Darkness can be frightening, but it also heralds the dawn of a new day.

  
     When things had begun to look blacker than the very night itself, the eight hundred myriad of gods gathered together in the dry bed of a river to decide how to get Amaterasu back. They begged one of the gods to help them. Everyone knew Hoard-thoughts had good ideas if only he could be persuaded to tell. Well, even Hoard-thoughts was
Roosters are such funny heralds.worried now and so he advised the gods  to collect cocks that could be relied upon to crow just before dawn. And so, the cocks were collected. Next, he told the gods to hang a mirror with strands of jewels on the branches of a Sakaki tree, just at the entrance of Amaterasu’s cave. They did so, and then they decorated the tree with bright cloth banners. Everyone uttered ritual words.
     Next, a sister-goddess, Ama no Uzume, stepped forward with an idea all her own. She stripped herself naked and carefully dressed in various plants and bamboo leaves. Climbing onto a tub turned upside down at the entrance of the cave, she began to dance. Such a dance! She drummed her feet on the tub and swung her hips and generally got carried away by divine ecstasy. All the eight hundred myriad of gods roared with laughter and approval, hooting and hollering. By the light of a thousand torches, the cocks began crowing loudly in unison.
         Amaterasu, in her cave, was surprised. Even in her worst meetings with Susano-O, she had never before heard such a noise in her peaceable kingdom. What could she be missing? Finally, when she heard the laughter of the gods, she couldn’t resist peering outside the cave. Everyone sounded so happy without her!
     The gods, who wanted to take no more chances with their mother goddess, had made a little plan. They had asked the god of Force to hide near the entrance to the cave and to seize Ama’s hand and drag her all the way out when she appeared, but, as it turned out, Force really wasn’t necessary after all. Catching a glimpse of something in the mirror hanging in front of her, just for a moment Ama forgot her fear and pain and stood transfixed by a clear light.


What do you suppose that clear Golden Light was and where can I find it?


       Amaterasu was seeing herself for the first time in a very long time, and it gave her a stronger determination to carry on her duties in heaven. She immediately returned to her palace and vowed never again to be so frightened by any storm. Mirrors were hung in the doorways to her temples, so that all who passed in or out might look deeply into it. The elders say that the people of Japan, and the gods themselves, carried on their lives with renewed courage and joy.


It takes courage to look into the mirror.


     Although Susano-O was in disgrace with all the other gods and goddesses, Amaterasu sent him, on the wings of her truest messengers, her love and very best wishes. She knew he was a part of what she had seen and felt when she emerged from the cave. Birds are often used as symbols in literature. They fascinate us, these creatures that travel so easiily between the heavens and the earth..
     As for Susa, he heard of Ama’s return to Heaven while on his long journey to the deep…and was immeasurably glad. He knew they would meet again someday.

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   View a Japanese Painting of Amaterasu!

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