Amaterasu is the Japanese sun goddess and supreme deity of the Shinto faith. Through Her descendent Ninigi, who married Konohana, or Sengen, She is the ancestress of the Imperial family. Her name means "Great Shining Goddess of Heaven", and She is the daughter of Izanami and Izanagi, the divine couple who created the lands. Her double shrine at Ise is rebuilt every twenty years, using one of the two identical buildings as a model. Thus the form of Her temple has remained consistent for two thousand years.
Like other solar deities such as Apollo, Amaterasu is an archer, Her quiver holding one thousand arrows. She is also a weaver who makes the garments of the gods.
Amaterasu's impetuous, loud, and altogether boorish younger brother Susano-o made it a habit to undo all Her good deeds, and in frustration and fear, She shut herself inside a cave and refused to come out. The other Gods could not bear to be without Her light, and finally enticed Her out by holding a raucous party outside the cave entrance, the highlight of which was the goddess Uzume performing a divine striptease. Her curiosity piqued by the Gods' roaring laughter, Amaterasu looked out and saw Her own reflection in an octagonal mirror placed there. Fascinated by Her own nearly forgotten beauty, She came out of the cave a little, which was shut fast behind Her.
Amaterasu is associated with royal power, and returning life and joy after dark times, as the sun becomes stronger and warmer after winter.
Alternate names: Ama-terasu-o-mi-kami
FROM: Amaterasu

The Japanese Shinto sun goddess, ruler of the Plain of Heaven, whose name means 'shining heaven' or 'she who shines in the heavens'. She is the central figure in the Shinto pantheon and the Japanese Imperial family claims descent from her 1. She is the eldest daughter of Izanagi. She was so bright and radiant that her parents sent her up the Celestial Ladder to heaven, where she has ruled ever since.
When her brother, the storm-god Susanowa, ravaged the earth she retreated to a cave because he was so noisy. She closed the cave with a large boulder. Her disappearance deprived the world of light and life. Demons ruled the earth. The other gods used everything in their power to lure her out, but to no avail. Finally it was Uzume who succeeded. The laughter of the gods when they watched her comical and obscene dances aroused Amaterasu's curiosity. When she emerged from her cave a streak of light escaped (a streak nowadays people call dawn). The goddess then saw her own brilliant reflection in a mirror which Uzume had hung in a nearby tree. When she drew closer for a better look, the gods grabbed her and pulled her out of the cave. She returned to the sky, and brought light back into the world.
Later, she created rice fields, called inada, where she cultivated rice. She also invented the art of weaving with the loom and taught the people how to cultivate wheat and silkworms. Amaterasu's main sanctuary is Ise-Jingue situated on Ise, on the island of Honshu. This temple is pulled down every twenty years and then rebuild in its original form. In the inner sanctum she is represented by a mirror (her body). She is also called Omikami ("illustrious goddess") and Tensho Daijan (in Sino-Japanese pronunciation).

1. She was called the 'illustrious ancestress of the Emperor' prior to 1945. At that time, the Japanese Emperor disclaimed any form of divine ancestry and polytheistic ancestor worship was no longer permitted.
FROM: Amaterasu (c)Micha F. Lindemans


1. Shinto Shrine at Ise - Contains the octagonal mirror believed to contain Amaterasu's image. The shrine is a quiet study in rhythmic form and is totally rebuilt to exact specifications every 20 years since the 3rd century. Its simplicity represents purity and dignity.
2. Waves - Amaterasu was born of water.
3. Sun and rays - The emblem of Japan and Amaterasu.
4. Carp - Love, courage, endurance, dignity, good fortune, resignation to Fate.
5. Cherry tree - Prosperity and the flower emblem of Japan.
6. Stones and rocks - Sacred objects of Shintoism.
7. Pillar (tree) - Represents the presence of deity.
8. "Three Treasures" (Mirror, sword, jewel) - The Imperial families monopolized Amaterasu's cult until Medieval times and claimed these treasures.
9. Beads in circle - Continuity, endless duration.
10. Jewel - Hidden treasures of knowledge, truth, compassion, wisdom. 11. Sword - Courage, strength.


Amaterasu was the Sun goddess according to the oldest Japanese religion called Shinto. Shinto means "the way of the gods." Amaterasu was born from the left eye of the primeval being Izanagi. When her brother Susanowo treated her badly, she hid in the cave of heaven, closing the entrance with an enormous stone.

Thus, darkness surrounded the world, and evil spirits left their hiding places, causing destruction and grief everywhere. In despair, a conference of the gods decided to induce Amaterasu to come out of the cave by arousing her curiosity. The gods organized a cheerful party.
They put a big mirror in front of the cave and beautiful jewels on a tree. Uzume, the goddess of laughter, began an exotic dance accompanied by loud music. Hearing the music and the laughter, Amaterasu could not restrain her curiosity and gave a prudent look outside to see what was going on. As soon as she saw what was there, she was so fascinated by her own brilliant reflection in the mirror that she came out of the cave. Finally, the light covered and colored the world. The image above is a depiction of the goddess Amaterasu.

(C)from Goddesses and Heroines
Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan

Of all the religions currently practiced by significant numbers of people, the only one whose chief divinity is female is Japanese Shinto, based on the worship of the sun goddess Amaterasu ("great shining heaven").
In her simple shrines-notable for their architectural purity and unpretentiousness and for the central mirror that represents the goddess-Amaterasu is honored as the ruler of all deities, as the guardian of Japan's people, and as the symbol of Japanese cultural unity. Her emblem, the rising sun, still flies on Japan's flag. Even the inroads of patriarchal Buddhism have not destroyed the worship of the bejeweled ancestor of all humanity.
There is one central myth of Amaterasu. She quarreled with the storm god Susano-o and brought winter to the world. Two reasons are given for her annoyance with him: one, because of his murder of Amaterasu's sister, the food-giving goddess Uke-Mochi; the other, because of his deliberately provocative acts against Amaterasu herself.
The latter version has it that Amaterasu did not trust her brother Susano-o because of his excesses and his constant shouting. One day he came to heaven to see her, claiming that he meant no harm. She was wary, but he promised that he would undergo a ritual test to prove his goodwill. He said he would give birth, and that if his intentions were peaceful, the children would all be boys.
Amaterasu grabbed Susano-o's sword and broke it with her teeth, spitting out three pieces which, striking the ground, became goddesses. Susano-o asked Amaterasu for some of her jewels: she gave him five; he cracked them open and made them into gods. But then Susano-o grew wild with excitement at his creative feat and tore through the world destroying everything in his path: he even piled feces under Amaterasu's throne. As though that were not enough, he stole into her quarters and threw a flayed horse's corpse through the roof of her weaving room, so startling one of Amaterasu's companions that she pricked herself and died.
This was too much for the sun goddess. She left this mad world and shut herself up in a comfortable cave. Without the sun, the entire world was blanketed with unending blackness. The eight million gods and goddesses, desperate for their queen's light, gathered to call out pleas that she return. But in her cave the goddess stayed.
The shaman Uzume, goddess of merriment, finally took matters into her hands. She turned over a washtub, climbed on top, and began dancing and singing and screaming bawdy remarks. Soon the dance became a striptease. When she had shed all her clothes, Uzume began dancing so wildly and obscenely that the eight million gods and goddesses started to shout with delight.
Inside her cave, Amaterasu heard the noise. As it grew to a commotion, she called to ask what was going on. Someone paused to answer that they had found a better goddess than the sun. Provoked-and curious-Amaterasu opened the door of her cave just a crack.
The gods and goddesses had, with great foresight, installed a mirror directly outside of the cave. Amaterasu, who had never seen her own beauty before, was dazzled. While she stood there dazed, the other divinities grabbed the door and pulled it open. Thus the sun returned to warm the winter-weary earth. Mounted again on her heavenly throne, Amaterasu punished Susano-o by having his fingernails and toenails pulled out and by throwing him out of her heaven.
FROM: Amaterasu by Hrana Janto (pretty painting there too)


Then the Sun Goddess Amaterasu imparted unto the first emperor the myriad Magatama beads and the mirror which had been used to lure her out of the cave as well as the sword Kusa-nagi... and said, "This mirror--have it with you as my spirit, and worship it just as you would worship in my very presence."
Shinto. Kojiki 39.2-3

Amatersu - Japan
(a - MAT’- era- SU’)

At dawn, Amaterasu rises and shines Her beautiful face on us.
Slowly She begins Her dance of power across the sky, spreading Her divine brightness.
Spinning and weaving are Her inventions,
The Perfect Mirror is Her face.
Staring into it, we are reminded to expose ourselves to Her rays.
Let Her light blind us to our imperfections and shine on our true origins.
"Though I am Woman, why should I shrink?"
FROM: Sun Goddesses


Amaterasu is also credited with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat, the use of silkworms, and weaving with a loom. Her most important shrine is located in Ise, Japan on the island of Honshu. The temple is torn down and rebuilt every twenty years. In that temple she is represented as a mirror. She is celebrated every July 17 with street processions all over the country. Festivities on December 21, the winter solstice, celebrate her coming out of the cave.


Other links:
Book: O Mother Sun! A New View of the Cosmic Feminine (Interesting book with a nice section about Amaterasu)

Threads of MW: