Featuring Mythologies Pt. 4: The Kami-Amaterasu

In Japan two major faiths are practiced, one is more heard of than the other, Buddhism and Shinto. However, Buddhism is non-theistic and focuses primarily on nature, and since this is series based upon polytheism, Buddhism does not fit that criterion. That leaves the indigenous faith of Shinto, just as old as Japan and just as practiced as Buddhism.

   The Shinto gods don’t go by the terminology “gods”, but instead are called kami. Not only do they have a different name, they aren’t really deities, but sacred spirits that represent different aspects of life. For example, there are sacred spirits of wind, fire, rain, trees, and many more facets of nature. Other Kamis are the ones humans become after they pass away, which are dubbed ancestral Kamis by their families. Important people will at times be in shrines as important kami.

  The polytheistic, Shinto, contrast to many monotheistic religions in that there are no absolutes in Shinto. Shinto is purely an optimistic faith, meaning that humans are thought to be entirely good and any bad they do is influenced by evil spirits. Therefore the main reason for Shinto rituals and shrines are performed is to keep away the evil spirits. This can be seen in present-day Shinto, too. For example, weddings which are thought of happiness and goodness are done in Shinto style, whereas Death, which has a negative connotation, is not done in Shinto style, but in a Buddhist one.

  Now onto the main event, on the topic of optimism and with the sun leaving us behind, let us discuss the Kami… Amaterasu, the Sun Kami. This Kami is considered the most important of the Shinto. Amaterasu was born from the left eye of her father, Izanagi, and was thereafter given a necklace of jewels. She was also placed in charge of the Takamagahara, “The High Celestial Plain”,  the home of all kami. After the rude acts of one of her brothers, Susanoo, Amaterasu withdrew herself into a cave. Her departure left the world in darkness. With the world in obscurity, the other kami schemed up a way to get Amaterasu to leave the cave, and once she had, they prevented her from going into hiding once again.