Goddess of the Dawn, meditation, and the arts
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Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto (Japanese: 天宇受売命, 天鈿女命) is the goddess of dawn, mirth, meditation, revelry and the arts in the Shinto religion of Japan, and the wife of fellow-god Sarutahiko Ōkami. She famously helped draw out the missing sun deity, Amaterasu Omikami, when she had hid herself in a cave. Her name can also be pronounced as Ama-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto. She is also known as Ōmiyanome-no-Ōkami, an inari kami possibly due to her relationship with her husband. 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.
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 (compare the Nuristani myth of a chaff attaching itself to the thread around a house near heaven) 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.
Amaterasu orders Uzume to accompany her grandson Ninigi on his journey to earth. They head to Ame-no-ukihashi ("floating bridge of heaven") so they could head to earth but they are blocked by Sarutahiko. Uzume comes and persuades Sarutahiko to let Ninigi pass, in other versions of the story Uzume flirts with Sarutahiko. During this journey, she cut the mouth of the sea cucumber with her dagger, causing it to fall permanently silent.
Later, Uzume and Sarutahiko fall in love and get married. Together, they found the Sarume clan.
Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto is still worshiped today as a Shinto kami. There are many shrines dedicated to the goddess including Chiyo shrine, Tsubaki America Shrine and Tsubaki Grand Shrine. In some, she is worshiped as a patroness of dancers and performers.
Along with her husband, she is addressed during the November festival of Tori-no-ichi in which masks or pictures of the pair are sold.
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), and the Nuristani goddess Disani. 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, Vedic, and Nuristani religions are much more closely related compared to other mythologies under what he calls Laurasian mythology, and that the three myths, may go back to the Indo-Iranian period, around 2000 BCE. This would make Uzume analogous to the Greek goddess Eos and the Roman goddess Aurora.