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Weaving and BindingImmigrant Gods and Female Immortals in Ancient Japan$
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Michael Como

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780824829575

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824829575.001.0001

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Silkworm Cults in the Heavenly Grotto

Silkworm Cults in the Heavenly Grotto

Amaterasu and the Children of Ama no Hoakari

(p.155) Chapter 7 Silkworm Cults in the Heavenly Grotto
Weaving and Binding

Michael Como

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter explores the role played by rites of sericulture and resurrection in the formation of the cult of Amaterasu no Ōmikami, the founding ancestor of the royal lineage. It focuses on one version of the myth of the Heavenly Grotto, in which Amaterasu is called back from the land of the dead after she has impaled herself with a shuttle while weaving in a ritual chamber. Because this legend served as the mythic basis for the Rite of Spirit-quieting (Mitama Shizume Matsuri), one of the main pillars of court ritual, it was of enormous importance for the royal cult. The chapter reads the myth against a series of narratives from the third and fifth months of the Chinese festival calendar that call attention to a broader network of sericulture rites and legends centering upon the violent death of young maidens and the subsequent propitiation of their spirits. These legends so influenced the construction of Amaterasu as a royal ancestor that she is represented not only as a weaving maiden but also as a silkworm goddess spinning silk from cocoons in her mouth.

Keywords:   sericulture, Amaterasu no Ōmikami, royal lineage, Heavenly Grotto, court ritual, royal cult, Chinese festival calendar

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