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 couldnt 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, Amas pity only made things worse.
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
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.
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
gods clothes in her sacred chamber, taking a momentary, peaceful
respite from her worries. Thats 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 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."
frightening event caused one of Amaterasus
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.
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
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
Amaterasus 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.
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 couldnt 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 Amas hand
and drag her all the way out when she appeared, but, as it turned
out, Force really wasnt 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.
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.
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.
As for Susa, he heard of Amas 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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