Japan is known as the “land of the rising sun,” so it makes no wonder that it has a goddess of dawn. Her name is Ame-no-Uzume, and apart from ruling the dawn, Ame-no-Uzume was also known as the Great Persuader.
By reading her origin story, you will probably notice some similarities to other deities. This is a perfect example of how everything in this world is connected, and everything that happens in one place and time echoes into another place and time.
So, without further ado, let’s learn more about Ame-no-Uzume!
Ame-no-Uzume’s Origin Story
Ame-no-Uzume is one of those deities that are most notable for their interaction with other goddesses. Still, that doesn’t mean that her role is less important. On the contrary, if it weren’t for Ame-no-Uzume, the world would still live in eternal darkness.
Amaterasu is a powerful Shinto goddess ruling over the sun. However, she had a violent and nasty brother named Susano-o, who was a god of the storm. On one occasion, Susano-o felt overly jealous of his sister.
He decided to kill a horse (her sacred animal) and desecrate the weaving room in which Amaterasu’s attendants created precious fabrics. Horrified by his acts, Amaterasu retreated into a dark cave in the mountains.
With Amaterasu gone, the sun was also gone, and that proved to be catastrophic for the earth and its inhabitants. The crops were failing, and the famine started to decimate the population.
Other gods got so worried that they frequently visited the entrance to the cave where Amaterasu was hiding. They tried to lure Amaterasu out but to no avail. That is, until Ame-no-Uzume arrived…
Ame-no-Uzume’s Foolproof Strategy
After all of the great and powerful deities took their turns luring Amaterasu out of her cave, it was time for Ame-no-Uzume to try her luck. No one believed she would be successful. After all, she was a lesser deity.
Without paying too much attention to the lack of support from other gods, Ame-no-Uzume put her plan into motion. First, she found a bathtub and turned it over. The gods placed a large bronze mirror in front of the cave entrance.
Ame-no-Uzume started to dance frantically, slowly removing her clothes. Her feet made drum-like sounds on the tub, and the gods were laughing hysterically at Ame-no-Uzume and her wild and lewd dance.
All that commotion outside made Amaterasu curious, and as she tried to peek out of her cave, she was blinded by the reflection in the mirror. She made several more steps out of the cave to regain her clear vision.
The gods quickly sealed the cave’s entrance so that Amaterasu couldn’t go back in. However, there was no need for that, as Amaterasu’s grief quickly dissipated once she saw Ame-no-Uzume half-naked, dancing like a lunatic.
Ame-no-Uzume Meets Her Husband
In one instance, Amaterasu decides to send her grandson, Ninigi, on a journey to earth. She ordered Ame-no-Uzume to accompany Ninigi. As Ame-no-Uzume and Ninigi were crossing the bridge between heaven and the earth, they encountered Sarutahiko, the leader of the earthly kami (deities).
Sarutahiko tried to block their way, but thanks to Ame-no-Uzime’s interference, he eventually let them cross the bridge. Most versions of this story claim that Ame-no-Uzime persuaded Sarutahiko to let them pass by flirting with him.
Apart from this being completely in line with Ame-no-Uzime’s personality, this version of the story is further supported by the fact that Ame-no-Uzime and Sarutahiko later become husband and wife. Out of this marriage, the Sarume clan was born.
Ame-no-Uzume’s Role In Shinto Religion
Primarily, Ame-no-Uzume was the goddess of dawn, but her role was much deeper and complex. Of course, as the goddess of dawn, her role was to bring a new day after each night.
This role of hers was in perfect accordance with Shinto belief in the cyclic nature of life. Night and day, darkness and light, and death and life were all a part of a cycle of life, and one couldn’t exist without its opposite.
As her frantic dance motivated Amaterasu to leave the cave, Ame-no-Uzume is also credited with creating Kagura, a ritual Shinto dance. Kagura is a form of dance that enables dancers to reach a higher state of mind, and it is an important part of various Shinto rituals.
For Shinto believers, Ame-no-Uzume was also a mediation figure. She was able to quickly resolve any strife through her unique sense of humor and lack of inhibitions.
Above all, Ame-no-Uzume was the protector of revelry, humor, laughter, fun, dance, music, and other arts. She brought joy and merriment wherever she went and helped people (and gods) overcome darkness and despair.
Shinto Rituals for Appeasing Ame-no-Uzume
I couldn’t find any particular Shinto ritual that was dedicated to Ame-no-Uzume. Still, given that the Kagura dance is so closely associated with Ame-no-Uzume, it is safe to say that this dance is one way to appease her.
Shinto religion has several different rituals, varying depending on the location, occasion, and several other factors. They can be dedicated to one particular kami (deity), or they can be performed in order to appease several kamis.
Music and dance are an important part of each Shinto ritual, and as such, every Shinto ritual is some sort of hommage to Ame-no-Uzume, even when it is not directed at appeasing her. Other aspects of the rituals involve praying and showing adoration in front of the kami shrine.
The Emotional and Spiritual Symbolism of Ame-no-Uzume’s Story
It is no coincidence that the goddess of the dawn, Ame-no-Uzume, was the one to bring the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, out of the cave. Or did she become the goddess of the dawn after she lured Amaterasu out of the cave?
It doesn’t matter, as these are just small technicalities and details of a much larger story. The emotional and spiritual significance of Ame-no-Uzume is much deeper than it might sound at first. Her story resonates with us even in this modern age.
The Importance of Hope
We all have some bad periods in our lives, and there is so much sadness and suffering in the world. Still, most people choose to believe in a better tomorrow, and they keep pushing in an effort to leave the darkness behind.
We all sometimes become like Amaterasu, and when that happens, we need Ame-no-Uzume. The role of Ame-no-Uzume can be played by a dear person or anything else that motivates us to leave our state of depression.
Of course, one trace of positivity won’t solve our problems or erase whatever made us sad. Still, it can remind us that not everything in this life is black and that those moments of joy are certainly worth fighting for.
In most societies, laughter is associated with fun and joy (obviously), but it is also often underappreciated and underestimated. So much value is placed on acting seriously and appropriately.
Sometimes it seems like most people forget to have fun because that’s what our society expects from us. From the day that we are born, society shapes us to be submissive, subordinate, goal-focused, industrious, and well-mannered.
Some of these things do make sense. After all, such qualities built the world as we know it. However, why do we place so little value on fun, laughter, joy, and humor?
As I already said, laughter won’t heal our wounds, nor will it fix any of our issues. But there is nothing as therapeutic as enjoying some good old laughter that comes from our stomachs. It is cathartic, and it helps us retain a positive outlook on life.
So, don’t be like those gods that stood in front of the cave and underestimated the power of Ame-no-Uzume. Learn how to appreciate the power of laughter and fun.
It’s Ok To Be Inappropriate
Ame-no-Uzume isn’t afraid to act crazy and inappropriate. As a matter of fact, she often uses her craziness to achieve her goals. She doesn’t shy away from acting a bit insane for the greater good.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should behave like a lunatic. However, it means that sometimes, you need to think and act out of the box to get what you want. There is some sort of ingenuity in the madness, and you should embrace it from time to time.
After all, it is fun sometimes to go wild and act a bit crazy. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others, don’t hesitate to explore your wild side.
Exploring and Expressing Sexuality
Ame-no-Uzume’s story is also the story of being comfortable with your body and your sexuality. While Ame-no-Uzume’s dancing was frantic and a bit chaotic, the thing that made Amaterasu and other gods laugh to the point of tears was the fact that Ame-no-Uzume took off her clothes and exposed her breasts while dancing.
A first striptease, one might say, but this act is much deeper than that. Ame-no-Uzume was always comfortable with her body and sexuality, and she often used them to her advantage. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should walk around naked or use your body to get what you want.
The point is that you should accept your body and be comfortable in it. You should also accept your sexuality because it is something completely natural and an important part of you.
Ame-no-Uzume’s Relationship to Other Shinto Goddesses
The most notable relationship between Ame-no-Uzume and another Shinto goddess is definitely the one with Amaterasu. Ame-no-Uzume helped Amaterasu leave a dark cave and a state of deep depression and get back to her sacred duties.
In other stories, Ame-no-Uzume is portrayed as a humorous helper to other gods and goddesses, such as Inari. Even though she isn’t a main character in these stories, Ame-no-Uzume is still very important because she is the one that ultimately resolves arising issues.
Even though she is a lesser deity, without Ame-no-Uzume, so many greater deities would be in trouble.
Ame-no-Uzume’s Appearance and Depiction
Expectedly, Ame-no-Uzume is often depicted as a young, beautiful woman with a mischievous look on her face. Her hair is long and flowing, and she often wears a tiara that is reminiscent of the first sun rays in the morning.
Like other Shinto goddesses, Ame-no-Uzume wears traditional Japanese clothes, usually in white or pastel pink colors. However, unlike other Shinto goddesses, Ame-no-Uzume often takes off these clothes, usually to expose her breasts. In some versions of her story, Ame-no-Uzume wears a sash made of club moss on her body.
Ame-no-Uzume And Her Christian Renditions
Obviously, if you are looking for a Christian saint that saved the day by exposing her breasts, your search will be futile. Additionally, the Shinto religion is quite different from Christianity and other Abrahamic religions.
Ame-no-Uzume-Like Goddesses From All Around The World
There is a goddess so similar to Ame-no-Uzume, and the fact that it comes from Ancient Greece is really surprising. The fact that there are two goddesses with such similar stories, but they come from two different continents, never fails to amaze me.
Of course, the Greek goddess in question is Baubo. Baubo is the Greek goddess of humor, and just like Ame-no-Uzume, she had the difficult task of bringing a once powerful goddess out of depression.
In Baubo’s version of the story, goddess Demeter became depressed after her beloved daughter Persephone went to live in the Underworld. Since Demeter was the goddess of agriculture and harvest, the crops were failing, and people were hungry while she was depressed.
However, Baubo saves the day by approaching Demeter, talking to her, and making some lewd jokes. Seeing a barely visible smile in the corner of Demeter’s lips, Baubo decided to make a risky move and lifted her skirt, exposing her genitals. Demeter burst into laughter, regained the will for life, and returned back to her duties.
As you can see, there are so many similarities between Ame-no-Uzume and Baubo. The fact that Ancient Greeks probably weren’t aware of the ancient Japanese Empire (and vice versa) makes these similarities even more amazing.
The stories are almost identical, yet they originated in countries that had no contact with each other. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Ame-no-Uzume teaches us that laughter and fun are often underestimated and that their power is much stronger than we think. Her story is also the story of femininity, confidence, and sexuality.
Ame-no-Uzume is unapologetic, and she doesn’t care what others think of her. She does what she wants, and in the end, it becomes obvious that her wisdom is well hidden behind her somewhat erratic behavior.
So, if you want to learn a valuable lesson from Ame-no-Uzume, embrace your crazy side, laugh more often, and let your imagination go wild when you’re in the process of problem-solving.
Don’t take everything too seriously, especially not yourself. It is ok to be silly and goofy. You don’t always have to fit other people’s expectations. If your “weird” personality and antics work in your favor without hurting anyone, why try to fit in a mold?
We often use symbols to come closer to our object of worship. This way, we can physically connect to our object worship, especially when these symbols are tangible in one way or another. Those symbols need to be somehow connected to our object of worship.
For example, if we want to connect with a goddess whose sacred animal is a horse, then riding a horse or simply surrounding yourself with horse images is one way to honor the goddess.
Of course, this is just an example, as these symbols can be much more complex and subtle. Oftentimes, they are a subtle nod to the goddesses’ personalities. In the case of Ame-no-Uzume, her symbols reflect her humorous, joyous, and somewhat obscene nature.
Dancing and music are certainly one of the best symbols of Ame-no-Uzume. Since she used dancing to cheer up Amaterasu, dance, in general, became Ame-no-Uzume’s symbol.
Additionally, drums and drum music also became symbols of this goddess. The overturned tub in front of Amaterasu’s cave made drum-like sounds while Ame-no-Uzume danced on top of it.
Japanese foxes are known for their quick wits and cunning natures, as well as their affinity towards mischief. As such, they are perfect symbols of Ame-no-Uzume.
Another animal symbol of Ame-no-Uzume might surprise you. Still, this animal is considered a symbol of laughter, fun, mischief, joy, lightness, and curiosity, and as such, it is a perfect symbol of Ame-no-Uzume. The animal in question is an otter.
Since one version of Ame-no-Uzume’s story tells that this goddess covered her body in a club moss before she started dancing for Amaterasu, the club moss plant is a great choice for Ame-no-Uzume’s symbol.
I don’t have much info about which perfume or scent note would be best to represent Ame-no-Uzume, but I assume it would be something that reminds us of joy and happiness. For example, vanilla fragrance or some fruity/floral scents would work the best as Ame-no-Uzume symbols.
Gems and Metals
In one version of her story, Ame-no-Uzume hangs a jade necklace along with the mirror near Amaterasu’s cave, so you can use this gemstone to represent her. Additionally, since the mirror was made of bronze, this metal can be used as Ame-no-Uzume’s symbol.
Finally, in many of her artistic depictions, Ame-no-Uzume is shown as wearing a shiny tiara made of gold, so this precious metal is another great symbol choice.
There are many great reasons why you might want to keep a healing crystal or stone close to you. That they can look great as jewelry only makes it so much better!
Here is a guide to crystal jewelry you hopefully will find helpful. In it is a list of 30+ crystals and links to some really great looking jewelry with that crystal or stone. Enjoy!
Pastel pink, red, green, and white are all great colors to symbolize Ame-no-Uzume.
- Oh goddess of joy, bring laughter and happiness into my life
- With your gentle touch, banish the dark out of my mind
- Be my hope and my light even in the darkest times
- Help me overcome my problems with positivity and humor
- Allow me to be free and true to myself
Want To Bring More Ame-no-Uzume Qualities Into Your Life?
- Spend more time laughing. Try to laugh wholeheartedly at least once a day. To achieve that, you can either hang out with some funny friends or you can watch comedy movies or TV shows. Alternatively, go to a stand-up comedy show.
- Try to find positivity and humor in everything. Even when things look grim, try to look at them from a brighter side.
- Don’t be afraid to act silly. If you feel like you want to behave goofy and funny, don’t worry about other people. They will always have to say something bad. Don’t let them dim your light.
- Flirt more often, even if you are in a relationship. Explore your sexuality and your body. Find out what feels good and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to express your sexuality and more sensual side of yourself.
- If someone close to you is going through a rough patch, be there for them. Try to improve their mood, not through exposing yourself as Ame-no-Uzume, but through some fun activities that will make that person forget about their problems for a while.
- If you are the one that feels sad or depressed, try to find things that make you happy and that make you laugh. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore your problems; you still need to work on their solution. Still, taking your mind off of them, even for a little bit, can do wonders.
- Dance more often, even if you are a bad dancer. Let the music lead your body. You can even take some dance classes or find some online dancing tutorials. You will feel energized and your mood will improve drastically.
Featured Image Credit: harvardartmuseums, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons