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Saturday, June 20th, 2009

One Thing To Do With Grief

Two questions came from readers lately, that turn my face toward the face of grief and loss:

"After one has been in deeply in a love relationship, how do you let go in order to move on. I tend to linger and wallow in the pain of letting go…"

"How can couples create/maintain connection and sexual polarity during difficult times — for example: illness, trauma, grief, loss of loved one, loss of home/financial stability, or other radical changes in circumstances, etc.? Is there anything that extinguishes feminine radiance more quickly than grief?"

Grief and loss are deep, thick waters that are a personal affair to plumb. How to embrace their weighty, heavy arms? How long to hold the embrace so the grief and loss have run their course through our veins? How do we know when we've traversed into "wallowing" territory and it's time to throw off the tight bands of grieving?

I wish I had the answer for every form grief and loss takes; I wish I had a caress for every sister's cheek grief and loss leave their sad kiss upon. I don't have every answer, but I do have the beautiful story of the Japanese goddesses, Ameratsu and Ame-no-Uzume, which points a finger toward the door we must all walk through with our unique shuffling, sashaying, sauntering step.


Amaterasu is the sun goddess, associated with royal power, and returning life and joy after dark times, as the sun becomes stronger and warmer after winter. Ame-no-Uzume is the voluptuous goddess of merriment and celebration.

Amaterasu and Ame-no-Uzume

Amaterasu is the sun goddess, the goddess from which all light emanates and is often referred to as the sun goddess because of her warmth and compassion for the people who worship her.

"I am the author of order, the sun in her clockwork path. To this beloved world I have given many gifts — the plow-furrowed fields, the strands of the seasons, the celebrations joining families and neighbors — these I carefully weave, weft across warp, binding communities and ordering Time. So it goes, as I knot together the substance of civilization. However …"

Most of her myths revolve around an incident where the goddess traps herself in a cave because of her brother's actions. One day, in a drunken rampage, he trampled Amaterasu's rice fields, filled all of her irrigation ditches and threw excrement into her palace and her shrines. The people asked her brother to stop but he ignored them and even went so far as to throw the corpse of a skinned horse at her hand-maidens who were weaving at the time. The women were killed by the splintered wood from the looms piercing their wombs.

"Every older sister knows a younger sibling, troublesome and maddening; my brother, I utterly can not tolerate. Where I am quiet, he is loud; where I am calm, he is violent; where I am steady, his tempers wax and wane. My planted fields he floods, my handmaidens he frightens; my weaving he cuts in pieces. But he passed all endurance one morning when he burst through the roof of my hall like a thunderclap out of the blue sky, and into the tumult he then cast, of all things, the flayed and bloodied hide of a horse — I'm sure he found it quite witty — and bright Wakahirume, most dear to me, was killed. A little of his chaos must then have entered even into my own heart, for I put down my shuttle and turned from my loom, took myself to a quiet cave, and shut the entrance after me with a great stone."

Amaterasu was greatly angered and in protest she shut herself in the Heavenly Cave and sealed it shut with a giant rock.

"In that cool place of silence and still water, I finally had peace. I lay down in the quietude, and soon wandered into deep dreamings."

As a result, the world was consumed with darkness. Without her, everything began to wither and die. Countless people gathered in front of her cave and devised a way to lure her out. They all sat around the cave and set up a mirror across from the entrance. Ame-no-Uzume, the voluptuous goddess of merriment turned over a wash-tub and began a sensual dance, tapping the beat on the tub. She exposed her breasts and lifted her skirts as she danced a divine striptease. All of the gods made a great noise of yelling and cheering and laughing.

"But it was not to last. In time I was awakened by a din and disturbance outside the rock-cave entrance. It was quite an uproar: I made out rowdy shouts and screams, and for a moment I thought my brother had come to disturb me even here. But, no, it was not his usual crashing jumble of noise — it was, no — was it? How could it be? By the door-stone the sound was much clearer — unmistakable now, the sounds of joyous celebration: music, cheers, and merry laughter. How can this be? Without my workings, the dark chaos of winter must descend. Are all my gifts given so cheaply held? The lore and learning, the wisdom of seed and soil, are these so swiftly forgotten?"

"I am so angry that at last I shift the stone slightly, to peer out at this madness. And within the dark winter, there is a small shining. I catch a gleam of the golden light of heaven, brilliant and beautiful. Its radiance and glory thrill me; such loveliness I have never seen. Forgetting my anger, I roll the stone aside and step towards the light."

Amaterasu peeked out to see what the noise was about. She asked the nearest god what was going on and he replied that there was a new goddess. When Amaterasu asked where she was, he pointed to the mirror.

"Tied to a tree is a small mirror, and the splendor shining back at me is mine. I have never truly seen my own beauty, caught as I was in my weaving; with my relentless work and busy mind I have somehow left out my own self."

Amaterasu had never seen herself before and when she caught her reflection, she stared at the radiance of her own form. She was so surprised and fascinated by her own nearly forgotten beauty.

When she was out of the way, the people shut the rock behind her. Having lured her out of the cave, the gods convinced her to go back into the Celestial Plain and all life began to grow again and become strong in her light. Once back in the Celestial Plain, she made sure that she was ready for her brother's harsh actions again by having a bow and quiver at her side.

"All around me are the welcoming smiles of my friends and neighbors, my own woven community come together to coax me from my darkness. I must never forget that I too am one of the strands."

What do the goddesses remind us to do? Never, never forget our exquisite beauty? Be coaxed out of our cave by the merry-making, music, laughter, sensual celebration (and exposed breasts! ;-P) of others less bound by grief and loss than us? Remember our place in the warp and weft of things? Step into the plains of our life after an appropriate time of weeping, with the knowledge we are stronger now to bear the joys and pains of this crazy life?

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Posted by LiYana at 8:05 pm

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