UZUME – This daughter of the gods Izanagi and Izanami was the goddess of dancing, a skill that served her in good stead in two major Shinto myths. When the sun goddess Amaterasu had hidden herself away in a cave, Uzume danced naked as part of the plot  concocted by the god of wisdom Omoigane to lure Amaterasu back out into the world.

In the other major myth Uzume is part of the retinue of the god Ninigi when Amaterasu sends him down to rule over ancient Japan. Their descent was blocked by Sarutahiko, the god who guards Ukihashi, the floating bridge between Takamagahara (“High Plain of Heaven”, the home of the Shinto deities) and the Earth. (Sort of a Shinto version of Heimdall, who guards the Bifrost Bridge to Asgard in Norse myths) This god was taking his duties so seriously he was even barring the way of Ninigi’s divine entourage until Uzume charmed him by dancing topless.

Sarutahiko fell in “love” with Uzume and she agreed to marry him in exchange for his vow of fealty to Ninigi. A 2,000 year old shrine at Tsubaki still honors this Shinto deity power couple, who are said to be the ancestors of the clan of Japan’s female Heian court dancers called the Sarume.

Uzume’s dances were also said to have the power to raise the dead in Shinto beliefs.



Filed under Mythology

48 responses to “SHINTO DEITY: UZUME

  1. Wonderful! I really like the way the court dancers are believed to descend from Uzume and her husband!

  2. I’d love to have a potential wife lure me by dancing topless! Great myth!

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  5. Quite a novel way of getting past a guardian.

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  29. Cara

    I really like a Goddess of Dancing. The Goddesses of dancing in indian mythology have been faded out of culture over the centuries and relegated to titles like ‘dancing girls’ and ‘court dancers’.

    I was fascinated by the sheer profusion of them on the ancient temple walls and a little research for myself from what was depicted revealed to me that they were far more than just ‘dancing girls’.

    Dance was *(and is) perhaps the most powerful form of communication, self expression and worship. Beyond that, a dancer also is a healer of consciousness and I found ‘dancing girls’ also portrayed as medicine makers. It touched my heart, because I grew up learning ancient classical dances and it gave me the body awareness which helps me understand what the problem is when someone tells me they’re not feeling well.

    My understanding is that, second to the ruler of the land, the so-called ‘dancing girls’ or ‘court dancers’ were the most respected and important part of society.

    In most parts of the world, when matrilineal inheritance was abolished (the British did it in india in the early 1900s and before that they did it in Britain) the ‘dancers’ were defamed as prostitutes overnight, and there was terrible looting of their property and such. Many of them who had been politically outspoken before, or rejected the sexual advances of rulers had to run for their lives to other places or live in hiding.

    It’s a carnage whose history is completely hidden.

    Anyway, I hope you won’t mind the rant, this is a topic close to my heart and it’s nice to see the Japanese still have their Goddess of Dancing, although they really have sort of cheapened her story to fit ‘modern mindsets’ – just my opinion. Not that I’m against naked dancing or anything like that. It’s just that I think there is far more to the story than seduction and entrapment and marriage deals.

  30. Interesting post. Not so much written on the topic of Shinto mythology. Uzume is something of a paradox in the pantheon — a beautiful party-girl on one hand, rather a badass on the other. She’s sent ahead of Nigini primarily because she’s also the most fearless of the gods.

    I had circumstance to write a little about Tatsuta-hime (竜田姫), the goddess of autumn… November 5, 2018, if you’re interested in navigating my archive.


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