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Amaterasu:  kami fluidity in ancient, medieval, and early modern Ise


Mark Teeuwen (Oslo University)


In his book chapter, Bernard Faure appraises various perspectives on the fluidity of divine beings: in terms of structure (symbolical systems), history (human agency), and existential reality (“real drama, not just ideas and beliefs”). In this talk, I will seek to apply these various perspectives on the transformations of Amaterasu in three periods, roughly around 700, 1200-1300, and 1600. I will argue that while fluidity itself is a constant, it takes on very different guises as the historical setting changes. Rather than sketching the specifics of Amaterasu’s various makeovers, I will reflect on the particular characteristics of the “logic” (structural, historical, and “real”) that generated fluidity, or imposed limits on it, in these different periods. Faure’s three perspectives will be helpful in analysing the dynamics of fluidity in these distinct historical contexts, pointing beyond medieval esoteric discourse.

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