If you know anything much about my work, you know it’s focused on changing the world through individual transformation and development; kinda just my job, what can I say. I’m encouraging a world of wise guys- and ladies. Currently I am working on a manuscript about changing our relationship with food, for earth element physicality is our interface with Mother, and by association with the planet we reside upon. It’s a sort of trinity; we can enter at any point on the web of body, food, Mother, and affect change through positive connection with the feminine principle, the feminine archetype, with Gaia.
Revisiting one of my all time favorite books, Hallie Igleheart Austen’s The Heart of the Goddess, I met again with this myth, of the Great Goddess Amaterasu. In Austen’s words:
Amaterasu Omikami, the Great-Goddess-Spirit-Shining-in-Heaven, Creatrix Goddess of the sun, weaving, and agriculture, is the most ancient Japanese deity… In the myth…her brother Susanoo has disrupted the natural and social orders of heaven through physical violence, particularly violence among women. Eventually, one of the goddess’s weaving women dies of a wound to her vulva. Amaterasu is so enraged that she closes herself into a cave and refuses to come out. As in the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, without the Goddess all life begins to wither and die.
The other Goddesses and Gods try to lure Amaterasu out. Since celebration is an integral part of worship, they decide to have a party. Eight hundred of the deities gather in front of the cave, and their music and song can be heard throughout the world. Knowing that Amaterasu had never seen herself, they set up a mirror opposite the cave’s entrance. At the high point of their revelries, the Goddess Ame no Uzume, sometimes represented as elderly, performs a particularly erotic dance. The spectators become so vocal in their appreciation that Amaterasu is overcome by curiosity. She emerges from her cave and for the first time sees her own radiance and glory. Enticed by the erotic play of the Crone, the Sun Goddess returns, and life is renewed.
I am glad I have Austen’s version, for the word “vulva” is nowhere to be found in the versions on line. Not surprisingly. But let’s look at the beginning.
Amaterasu is not only a sun goddess (unusual in world mythology), but also goddess of harmony; meaning, the feminine divine order that is embodied in Gaia’s domain and therefore in women. And in men; but in general, most obviously in women. Goddess-harmony refers to Gaia’s sacred design, basically. It means the power to get the whole world functioning smoothly, for the highest good of all and in accord with overarching divine principles, so that all beings have a place in the choir, as it were. This is one way to view the Mother Earth principle; the way that the individual natures of all beings here relate, on multiple levels or dimensions. Meaning physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, for example.
Weaving is a common feminine archetype that’s associated with the same; it refers to the countless webs of relationship that integrate and synchronize life. ‘Web’ is Dutch for “weave”. From the micro to the macro, from spinning electrons to ocean tides, everything here proceeds in and as relationship. Movements along the web affect the whole dance, as in the butterfly effect, a metaphor from chaos theory.
And then isn’t it interesting that this myth gives us a sweet example of the same? Harmony vs. chaos, I mean. Austen doesn’t go into it, but Amaterasu’s brother is pissed off at his sister because he lost a creation contest with her.
Actually, Amaterasu refused to say that one or the other had won; she wanted a draw, as the feminine is egalitarian by nature. So he’s basically throwing a fit because he imagines that if he doesn’t win, he lost; he does not want to be lesser than. Like many of us, he won’t allow himself to feel worthy unless others accede in some obvious manner that he is, and being worthy in archetypally masculine competition requires being better than others: winning. So, Susanoo goes on a rampage. The common story feature I found in several versions was throwing a pony or horse (an animal sacred to Amaterasu) into her loom. Since the loom is significant of her weaving together the Earth’s many systems, his violence hurts, ruins, that weaving function. The harmony of nature’s system is broken.
Austen’s wounded vulva reference is easily interpreted as sexual aggression, sexual violence, right? Every woman in the world may not be physically raped, yet the overall out of control competitive masculine has a blanket effect of wounding the feminine. We are all affected because all of us are witnesses; watching and learning from day one. In this myth, as in many, female sexuality symbolically represents the feminine, period, because sexuality is the most blatant way to represent the masculine or feminine.
Take home is this: over-the-top competitive masculine destroys Gaia’s web of life.
Alright, well we pretty much know all this about the unwise masculine. But I love the mythic weaving metaphor, which is way prehistoric, as far as I know. Meaning, perhaps, as old as humanity, and Shinto surely goes back into the mists of time. When attacked by the masculine, the divine feminine withdraws into hiding, for she can’t and/or won’t play the aggression game. Aggression is archetypally masculine, whether it’s acted out by a man or a woman. A cave is archetypal feminine/female, earth element space, the womb, the inner retreat. In Amaterasu’s retreat, as in the European Demeter myth, nature’s birthing, growing, and dying functions are halted, for they are governed by the feminine principle: without the Goddess all life begins to wither and die.
It’s not only the cultivated fields that die; for the feminine functions within humanity in our ability to love and connect, to create, to share, to blossom and develop as unique creatures, to thrive. When the feminine has retreated all these wither and die, too.
Personally, I feel like this situation of Amaterasu’s retreat is happening in the world now; I certainly relate to her experience. Of course we can still get the grain to grow and all, using our pushy masculine methods in a lot of cases, but strangely it’s making people sick. It’s the gluten sensitivity deal, y’all. Those rampant gluten-free labels might as well be saying “No respect for earth mother power here! She’s dangerous. We messed her up with our archetypally masculine chemicals and genetic modification, our technology. So that you wouldn’t have to be bothered with her. She’s an irritating pain in the ass. She insists on doing things her way.” Harmful industrial agriculture is indeed a horse thrown into Gaia’s loom. I have written about this gluten thing before.
Of course the contemporary sun still shines on the land (though not a ton where I live) but people are also stressed, anxious, depressed, enslaved within and without, and lost in the dark without any Mother-power to encourage trust, patience, peace, and connection. To help us love ourselves, and thus our world, by seeing through her eyes. Divine Mother does not view humans as a bunch of f-ups. She views them as in the process of learning, otherwise she’s not a very great mother.
The mythic healing begins with a celebration, because celebration is a godly vibration! Hah there’s a bumper sticker for ya. In myth and other symbolic story the energies of joy, peace, gratitude, compassion, and all that good flowing stuff are states of being that our divinely connected self, our unified self, experiences. The healing of the dysfunctional human situation begins with the knowledge that the personal or individual feminine is caught in a dualistic, disconnected trap (unwise competition is surely that). Therefore, healing requires bringing in the unified energies of love and light.
The story also informs us that “the gods”, loving ethereal powers both physical and non, are waiting to assist. If you knew that choirs of angels, generations of ancestors, 3,000 year old trees, and the very mountains were waiting for you to reclaim your wild, unashamed, glorious self, would you finally give up living the small life you were taught to live? That’s the big question this scene is asking of us.
We get some pointers on healing the feminine experience specifically, for Ame no Uzume sometimes represented as elderly, as crone (can’t find any examples), performs a particularly erotic dance. The crone is the wise feminine, and the crone is free of sexual obligations to the masculine. The crone can therefore look back and see where and how the wound was inflicted, and with the time and space that age brings, can process and understand and apply the understandings.
If we don’t LOOK at the wound, we won’t heal the wound, and that looking is what’s happening on the planet now. In my world, looking at female parts often means looking at a wound- not glory. And so both feminine wound and lady parts are cloaked. Experiences of sexual violence are often hidden in shame and guilt, on both sides of the event. The erotic dance is telling us that exposure is necessary; shame keeps evil in place.
The feminine wound may be literally to our lady parts. On the other end of the spectrum the wound may also be subtle as hell, and carried by a woman who never had sexual intercourse with a man in her life. After all, in Christianized society, woman carries responsibility for original sin. Men often carry the wound, ruining their ability to have joy and satisfaction and connectedness in primary relationships; with father, mother, sibling, or significant other. The wound keeps us apart. This suffering on the part of the masculine is part of the Our Mother prayer by Valentin Tomberg; more here.
White men specifically, in my children’s generation, are being faulted for generations of masculine cruelty and oppression, and lifting this hopeless burden from their hearts and minds can be a challenge for them. They may be ashamed to approach a woman, never mind having a relationship with one. They are afraid they will perpetuate the wound, and on line relationships are then safe and attractive. Healing/wholing will never occur through shame and blame. Those are the oppressor’s tactics. In my unenlightened society, the masculine carries wounds, too, for masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti, are constant dance partners.
The crucial element to this healing story is that Amaterasu had never seen herself. Of course we’re talking a more complex way of seeing herself than just looking in a physical mirror, and mirrors in symbolic story typically mean self-reflection. The moon is usually feminine and reflects the light of the sun, but as I said Shinto has a different shtick going. In any case, Amaterasu is not looking in a mirror to see the body, but looking into the mirror to see her GLORY: She emerges from her cave and for the first time sees her own radiance and glory. As Austen’s version points out.
And what happens when we see our glory? Why, we love and celebrate ourselves! We see our magnificence, splendor, majesty, grandeur, and petty games of shame and blame no longer hold the least bit of attraction. And in this case, we love our femininity! Our self love expands multidimensionally, and we move into the bigger picture, and love Gaia, the most comprehensive feminine body in our human experience. In that love, our perspective shifts, and we shift back into our feminine cocreative power whether we identify as man or woman.
In Christianized society we have been shamed in early years if we do appear to love ourselves, yeah. Because learning how to do that in a healthy manner is one way to configure the path of wisdom, or maturation! Self love is not an either-or situation, nor a simple one, since we are complex beings and part of the web.
But if we shame self and other concerning self love before this learning process has a chance to proceed, we will die in old age as ignorant on the matter as when we were like 12 years old, in some cases. The age where self love was yet untested, and childish.
Nowadays there is a lot of shaming and blaming going on with the whole psychological idea of narcissism. So-called narcissists are the bad guys, and those who self identify as the victims of narcissists would be horrified to think they could be that. And thus might slink around, squashing any urges to feel more powerful than another. But “narcissism” and its victims are actually part of the wisdom development game around self love. Both parties involved in the interaction are learning- if they pay attention and self reflect, as Amaterasu does! I have something to say on the subject here. The subject of narcissism, I mean.
Interesting that Disney’s latest greatest blockbuster success is Moana; a story of redeeming feminine earth element power. My three granddaughters, ages 2-6, are all pretty obsessed with it. The youngest is currently donning her Moana costume when she gets home from daycare, complete with a heart-of-Te Fiti pseudo shell necklace containing a stone heart that glows green when opened.
Moana’s main cast includes a goofy rooster named Hei Hei, played by Alan Tudyk. And of course, a masculine god, the trickster Maui, who has harmed Earth goddess Te Fiti in the past. I hope Disney’s upcoming Mulan is good. It is, however, different from Moana, as it’s a story of the feminine taking on the masculine warrior archetype. Though Moana does learn some masculine skills from Maui, who is also an oceanic god. Balance…
So yeah- healing the big picture feminine wound requires understanding both masculine and feminine traits, tools, and powers- and celebrating ourselves! Can I get an “amen”? Yeah!!!!!!
If you’d like to see the transformation of Te Fiti, here’s a clip. It’s the end of the film, so, spoiler alert! Time for us to learn our true names…
I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are
Sounds like Amaterasu, right? 🙂 😉 Moana functions as Te Fiti’s mirror.