Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto (Japanese: 天宇受売命, 天鈿女命) is the goddess of dawn, mirth and revelry in the Shinto religion of Japan, and the wife of fellow-god Sarutahiko Ōkami. She famously relates to the tale of the missing sun deity, Amaterasu Omikami. Her name can also be pronounced as Ama-no-Uzume. She is also known as Ōmiyanome-no-ōkami, an inari kami possibly due to her relationship with her husband.
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Amaterasu's brother, the storm god Susano'o, had vandalized her rice fields, threw a flayed horse at her loom, and brutally killed one of her maidens due to a quarrel between them. In turn, Amaterasu became furious with him and retreated into the Heavenly Rock Cave, Amano-Iwato. The world, without the illumination of the sun, became dark and the gods could not lure Amaterasu out of her hiding place.
The clever Uzume overturned a tub near the cave entrance and began to dance on it, tearing off her clothing in front of the other deities. They considered this so comical that they laughed heartily at the sight. This dance is said to have founded the Japanese ritual dance, Kagura.
Uzume had hung a bronze mirror and a beautiful jewel of polished jade. Amaterasu heard them, and peered out to see what the commotion was about. When she opened the cave, she saw the jewel and her glorious reflection in a mirror which Uzume had placed on a tree, and slowly came out from her clever hiding spot.
At that moment, the god Ame-no-Tajikarawo-no-mikoto dashed forth and closed the cave behind her, refusing to budge so that she could no longer retreat. Another god tied a magic shimenawa across the entrance. The deities Ame-no-Koyane-no-mikoto and Ame-no-Futodama-no-mikoto then asked Amaterasu to rejoin the divine. She agreed, and light was restored to the earth.
Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto is still worshiped today as a Shinto kami, spirits indigenous to Japan. She is also known as Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, The Great Persuader, and The Heavenly Alarming Female. She is depicted in kyōgen farce as Okame, a woman who revels in her sensuality.
Similarities with Vedic religion
According to Michael Witzel, Uzume is most closely related to the Vedic goddess Ushas (uṣás), a descendant of the Proto-Indo-European goddess Hausos (*h₂éwsōs). Both goddesses share many similarities such as the cave (Vala/Iwato) and the exposure of breasts as a sign of friendship. Witzel proposed that the Japanese and Vedic religions are much more closely related compared to other mythologies under what he calls Laurasian mythology, and that the two myths may go back to the Indo-Iranian period, around 2000 BCE.
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- "Iwato". Hamada City. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
- Frédéric, Louis (2002). Japan Encyclopedia. Harvard University Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-674-00770-0.
- Lancashire, Terence (2004). "From Spirit Possession to Ritual Theatre: A Potential Scenario for the Development of Japanese Kagura". Yearbook for Traditional Music. International Council for Traditional Music. 36. ISSN 0740-1558. JSTOR 20058793.
- Addiss, Stephen; Groemer, Gerald; Rimer, Thomas, eds. (2006). Traditional Japanese Arts And Culture: An Illustrated Sourcebook. University of Hawai'i Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-8248-2878-3.
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- Herbert, Jean (2011). Shinto: At the Fountainhead of Japan. Taylor & Francis. p. 264. ISBN 0-203-84216-2.
- Witzel, Michael (2005). Vala and Iwato: The Myth of the Hidden Sun in India, Japan, and beyond (PDF).
- Littleton, C. Scott (2002). Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling. London: Duncan Baird Publishers. pp. 464–467.
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