World Mythology
Compare or contrast two major female fertility deities as to character,
activities and role in the myth. In the myths of the ancient world, a great deal
of importance is placed on the rhythmical cycle of birth, maturity, death and
rebirth. Ancient agrarian people observed the world around them, and from this
observation they realized that their lives as well as every other living thing
on this planet was a part of an intricate continuing cycle. Everything withered
and died, but not before reproducing and continuing the cycle of life. Since
female plants and animals were directly responsible for the birth of new life,
people worshipped female deities to ensure that the earthly cycle of life was
maintained in proper balance. One such goddess can be found in Japanese
mythology. The most ancient of Japanese deities, Amaterasu is the goddess of the
sun. She is also the ruler of the gods and the universe. She is revered and
given considerable praise, evidenced by the fact the Japanese imperial family
traces its lineage directly to the Goddess Amaterasu. This reverence is
understandable, given the sun’s extreme importance in the cycle of life.

Without the sun, there would be no warmth, no plants, and certainly no humans.

It also represents the important role that women played in early Japanese
culture, where they occupied the same social roles as men. In the myth of

Amaterasu, her brother Susano-o-no-Mikoto has offended her by defiling her home
and not respecting her. He has also committed an act of physical violence
against one of her servants. In one version of the myth, one of Amaterasu’s
weaving women dies as a result of a wound to her vulva caused by

Susano-o-no-Mikoto. This so enrages Amaterasu that she closes herself into a
cave and refuses to come out. Without her life giving rays of sunshine the world
begins to wither and die. Other Gods and Goddesses attempt to lure her out of
the cave by throwing a celebration. They also set up a large mirror in a hope
that when Amaterasu sees how brilliant she looks, she will want to come out and
spread her radiance and glory. One of the Goddesses, Ame no Uzume, performs a
dance in front of the entrance to the cave. The other Gods and Goddesses cheer
so loudly in appreciation that Amaterasu becomes curious about why everybody is
so happy. After all, they should all be depressed since she and her sunshine are
gone. She comes out to satisfy her curiosity, and upon seeing herself in the
mirror is so impressed that she returns to her position in the sky and life is
renewed. Another similar fertility story is that of Demeter and Persephone from

Greek mythology. Demeter and Persephone are two Goddesses, mother and daughter,
who live together in a state of eternal abundance. Hades, God of the Underworld,
wants Persephone for his bride and kidnaps her and takes her down to the

Underworld. Demeter is so mournful over the loss of her daughter that the world
begins to die. Persephone is finally allowed to return to her mother, but
because Hades tricked her into eating a couple of pomegranate seeds she must go
back to the Underworld for part of the year. The time when she is in the

Underworld represents the barren winter, and the when she is with her mother on

Earth represents abundant spring and summer. Despite originating at opposite
ends of the globe, these two stories have a lot in common. In both stories, it
is female deities who are responsible for perpetuating the cycle of life,
causing plants to grow flowers to bloom and newborns to be born. In both myths
men plead and make appeals for these women to return fertility to the Earth.

Both deities are indispensable, and men in the myths do not realize how much
they need these women in their lives until they are gone. In both myths it is
also a women who is responsible for the return of the female fertility Goddesses
to the world, Ame no Uzume in Amaterasu and Demeter in Persephone and Demeter.

Another similarity lies in the fact that the catalyst for the destruction of the
cycle of life was sexual violence perpetrated against women. I think that this
represents the fact female Goddesses, and women as a whole, need to be treated
with respect and not simply as a means to an end. In both of these stories,
especially in the latter, we see that a woman’s sexuality and fertility is
something to be nurtured and respected, not plundered and exploited.