The White Moon Gallery Presents....
The islands of Japan were isolated from outside influences, in much the same way as the old world islands of Crete or Malta. Due to this separation, the indigenous people of Japan have retained their polytheistic, nature based, Goddess centered beliefs well into modern times. This belief system is called Shinto, which translates as "The way of the Gods". Within Shinto mythology, the most revered deity is Goddess...... the Sun Goddess and supreme deity of all Kami, the elemental forces of nature. She is..... Amaterasu-o-mi-kami.
Born of the primeval forces of the universe, Izanagi and Izanami; Amaterasu reigned over the heavens and brought life into the world. Her name literally means she who illuminates the heavens. "The Goddess of the beginnings is thus not only the mother of the world, but also the nurturer of living beings, animal as well as vegetable and humans. She is the protectress of all life, the unfailing one.", writes Jean Markale in her book The Great Goddess. Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, is associated with royal power and with the returning of life and joy after dark-times.
For the story of Amaterasu and her brother Susano-O, both in audio and written form, entitled "Out of the Cave and into the Light" click on the following:
Amaterasu ruled over weaving and agriculture. She taught her people how to grow rice, their sacred food, and grains and how to cultivate the silkworm. She invented the art of weaving with the loom and was known to make the garments of the Gods. Like other solar deities, she is an archer, her quiver holding 1000 arrows. Her emblem, the rising sun, still appears on the flag of Japan today. Associated symbols from her myth are the mirror (truth), the necklace (compassion) and the sword (courage and strength) and they represent the Imperial Regalia which are kept at the Great Shrine of Ise. Her gift to the people as their guardian was to show them their own beauty and potential and to develop a cultural unity. As Patricia Monaghan writes "even the inroads of patriarchal Buddhism have not destroyed the worship of the bejeweled ancestor of all humanity".
The Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, is still worshiped today in the Shinto Temples of Japan. The Japanese Imperial family traces their heritage back to her lineage. Emperor Akihito, the current Emperor, is said to be the 125th direct descendant of Jinmu, the great great grandson of Amaterasu, and is revered as a living God.The Japanese calendar starts from 660 BC and was the year of her accession. There are other scholars who believe it is possible that the indigenous religion of Japan (Shinto) may date back 5000 years. However, there is no official sacred scripture or dogma to validate this.
Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century and it maintained a peaceful coexistence with Shintoism. However, by the end of the 19th century Shintoism was to lose its status and recognition as a religion to become known as a cult of the Imperial family in the eyes of our western culture. At the end of WW2 the Imperial cult was abolished by the allies. The teaching of Shinto was forbidden along with the Japanese State financial support of it's temples. Fortunately, this was but a temporary state, as today it again flourishes as a primary religion.
The major festival of Amaterasu, according to Patricia Monaghan, "is not tied to an annual cycle; it is held every twenty years when the sacred mirror is ceremoniously carried to a newly built shrine, identical in all respects to the shrine that has preceded it. Thus Amaterasu's major ritual, like the myth of her return from the cave, emphasizes renewal."
~Sacred pilgrimages to the Great Shrine of Ise occur in mid-February and again in mid-June.
~On May 3rd the Hakata festival takes place in Japan and is a national holiday with special celebrations for children and parades to honor their deities. Wear gold colored items today to honor Amaterasu. (365Goddess)
~Another celebration is on February 5th and is known as Sebutsen, the feast of "closing the door on winter".
~On July 17th, the Great Festival of the Sun Goddess is held and street processions go on all day in honor of the queen of all Kami (Gods).
~And on December 21st, the winter solstice, she is honored for her creativity and the birth of light to the world.
The following is a guided meditation from Celestial Goddesses by Lisa Hunt.
Imagine standing within a damp, chilly tunnel. Darkness feeds your fears as you try to discern a means of escape. Focus hard on a crack in the rock ahead and see a flicker of light. A stream of light expands and permeates the dark cavern. Feel the light beam warm your fingertips and travel up your arms as you begin to move forward. As you lengthen your strides, feel the light continue to travel though your body until it fills your being completely and dissolves the fortress of claustrophobic darkness. You see an image in the light, and as you squint you can make out your own countenance. It is a smiling reflection of yourself. You look confident, bold, empowered, and beautiful. Walk into your reflection and feel yourself absorbed by the positive solar energy. You feel alive, energetic, brazen. With this new outlook, continue to walk forward into a beautiful, fertile landscape that unfolds before your eyes. You have left the tunnel behind and are now breathing in the fresh, balmy air. Stretch out your arms and breathe deeply; as you breath out, lower your arms and feel yourself emerge, feeling more confident and alive. Allow yourself to return to your conscious body.
I am the Sun and I am the Moon. I release dualistic thinking that confines my potential. I can be anything I want to be.
Beauty Bath Ritual
All you need for this ritual is a mirror and the willingness to see your beauty. Find a time and place when and where you will not be disturbed. Sit or lie comfortably with your spine straight. You may remove your clothes or do the ritual with your clothes on, whichever is appropriate for you. When you feel ready, take a deep breath and release it letting everything go . Then take four more deep breaths, focusing on the rhythm of your breathing. If at any time during this ritual you feel uncomfortable or are afraid of doing anything suggested, just take a deep breath, experience the feeling while continuing to breathe deeply, then slow down and continue at your own pace.
When you feel relaxed and ready, pick up the mirror. Look at your face. Just look. If judgments or criticisms come up acknowledge them, then let them go. Focus on the uniqueness that is you, reflected in your face. Look at your face and allow yourself to feel compassion, tenderness, acceptance, and love. Next look at your eyes. Say to yourself: "My eyes are beautiful." Look at your nose and tell yourself: "My nose is beautiful." Then your forehead, cheeks, mouth/lips, teeth, ears, skin, bone structure.
When you are finished enjoying the beauty of your face, go on to the rest of your body. When you have acknowledged your entire body, take a deep breath and look in the mirror. Tell yourself: "I (name) am beautiful." Say it over and over. Allow yourself to bathe in your appreciation of your own beauty, till you feel a tingle of appreciation and delight. Continue for as long as you wish, till you are filled with your beauty.When you feel ready, take a deep breath and exhale to the sound of "ahhhhh." Take another deep breath and bring your attention back to this time and place.
Let me share with you the secret of the mirror let me share what is known only to the Sun Goddess
|The Beauty Bath Ritual and the poem Beauty are from the book The Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marashinsky and illustrated by Hrana Janto.|
Amaterasu's Ritual from The Goddess Path by Patricia Monaghan
This ritual can be performed in a more formal way by preparing an altar with the symbols of Amaterasu upon it: a mirror, a jewel or necklace, and a sword (or knife to represent one). The mirror is the most important of these, for not only does it represent Amaterasu but, according to Shinto belief, it magically is the goddess. Following Japanese tradition, surround the mirror with fresh flowers. Lighted candles on the altar will reflect light from the mirror's surface. As always, preparation of the ritual space or altar is part of the ritual. In this case, polishing the mirror so that it shines like the sun will assist you in focusing on your own inner light.
Sitting before this altar, either alone or with companions, join your hands in prayer position and bow toward the altar. Then use the prayer from theNihongi (below) to focus your mind on the goddess.
When I look up to the royal sky I see her, a tranquil queen behind a screen of clouds. The Sun! For thousands of ages may she shine. For thousands of ages may we serve her. May we serve her with reverence. May we serve her with love.
~Nihongi, Japanese Prayer
Ask her, either aloud or in silence, for help in restoring balance and order to your life. Silently examine your life to determine where the light of the sun goddess is lacking, to find the areas where the storm god rages, It may help to imagine your life as filled with both sunlight and storm, and thus to acknowledge those areas that are most full of disturbance and pain. Then visualize the sun's generous light filling the disordered areas, driving the storms away with her brilliance and beauty.
If you have done this as part of a group ritual, you may wish to share, after this meditation, the insights that have emerged from your visualization. If you practice alone, take time to write down the information that has revealed itself to you. Finally, bow again toward the mirror as you close the ritual.
Standing on the riverbank the sun goddess asked for a sword. It was the length of ten hands and it hung by the side of her brother, the god of stormy weather. He handed it to her, and she broke it apart. It fell into jewels in her hands, jewels which she washed in a sacred well, rinsing them clean as they sang to her. Then she ate them.
She chewed them up and spat them out and from the jewels which had been a sword came a miracle: three lovely children.
~Kojiki, Japanese scriptures
Art Project: I dedicated an altar to Amaterasu, beauty (mirror) and long life (crane).
It has been written in Japanese proverbs that the Crane lives for 1,000 years and is a symbol for longevity and wisdom. Through the art of paper folding known as Origami ("Paper of the spirits") I have created several colorful Cranes to use on my Amaterasu altar. An interesting fact about this Japanese Folk art is that, out of respect for the tree spirit that gave its life to make the paper, origami paper is never cut.
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The Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marashinsky, ill. by Hrana Janto
Celestial Goddesses by Lisa Hunt Goddesses For Every Season by Nancy Blair
Goddesses In Older Women by Jean Shinoda Bolen M.D.
The Great Goddess by Jean Markale
The Goddess Path, The Goddess Companion and The Book Of Goddesses & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan
365 Goddess by Patricia Telesco