Shinto Goddess Amaterasu Omikami
The stories and myths about Amaterasu come from the Kojiki, the oldest book in Japan that was completed in 712 and means ‘Record of Ancient Things’. Before the written form came into existence, the Kojiki was transmitted orally and contains myths, legends, songs, genealogies and statements, and historical narratives about the Imperial Court of Japan, families, and their origins.
According to Kojiki, Amaterasu was born when Izanagi, a primordial male deity washed his left eye during a purification process. Izanagi entrusted her his necklace and was given power over the heavens. His brother, the storm god Susanowo, was born when Izanagi washed his nose and was given the power of the oceans.
You will find several symbols in depictions of Amaterasu, here are some of them explained:
Mirror: The original mirror that reflected Amaterasu was made by the blacksmith of the gods. It is kept in the Great Shrine in Ise in central Japan and it’s called Yata no Kagami. To this day, the sanctuary accepts visitors, and you can see the building where the mirror is stored, although the mirror itself has been hidden for 1,500 years. It is said that the mirror has eight sides since eight represents the number of perfection in Shinto. All mirrors are considered sacred to Amaterasu and it is a way to connect with her and reflect the state of the viewer’s soul. A Japanese proverb says: “When the mirror is dark, the soul is not pure.”
Necklace: As mentioned earlier, at the time of her birth, Amaterasu received a sacred necklace from Izanagi. It is also said that a jewel of this necklace is consecrated in the Great Sanctuary of Ise.
Solar Sword: Amaterasu is the guardian of the Japanese people and in her role as protector, the solar sword represents her martial attributes. It is also an indication of her ability to take her people to war when necessary.
The mirror, the necklace, and the sword are considered the three emblems of the Imperial Japanese Royalty and the three symbols of Shinto.
Shinto is the pre-Buddhist indigenous religion of Japan and is the most important religion today. It is worth noting that Japanese Shinto that focuses on honoring nature and the concerns of everyday life is frequently practiced together with Buddhism, which focuses on the concerns of future life. It is considered that many Buddhist deities are also Shinto Kami (gods).