Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ama-no-Iwato, the Heavenly Rock Cave

After heaven and earth had been separated, two married kami, Izanagi-no-kami and Izanami-no-kami, gave birth to the land of Japan and to various kami of the seas, the rivers, the mountains and the fields. Finally the two gave birth to three specially revered kami: Amaterasu Omikami, Tsukiyomi-no-kami and Susanoo-no-kami. They gave necklace of jewel beads to Amaterasu Omikami and ordered her to govern Takama-no-Hara (the Plain of Heaven), they further ordered Tsukiyomi-no-kami to govern the night and Susanoo-no-kami to govern the sea. Susanoo-no-kami, however, went against the will of the married deities and gave up governing the sea. Instead he ascended to Takama-no-Hara, and committed outrageous deeds such as destroying the paddy fields and the weaving house on the Heavenly Plain. Amaterasu Omikami angered by his behavior and hid herself in the Heavenly Rock Cave called Ama-no-Iwato. As a result, the world of both heaven and earth became dark, throwing everything into confusion. The eight million kami got together beside the river in the Plain of Heaven, debating how to induce Amaterasu Omikami to come out of the Heavenly Rock Cave. They decided first to make the divine mirror Yata-no-Kagami and hang it in front of the cave, second, to hold a joyous festival, and third, to perform the sacred dance and music called kagura. As a result of this, Amaterasu Omikami emerged from the Heavenly Rock Cave, illuminating everything with her gentle light. She made heaven and earth bright again and brought back harmony and order. Susanoo-no-kami was expelled from the Heavenly Plain to the land of Izumo. There Susanoo-no-kami, killed a giant snake, the Yamata-no-Orochi, which had been tormenting the people of Izumo. He extracted a divine sword out of the snake's tail and presented it to Amaterasu Omikami. This sword is one of the three imperial regalia.

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