In Greek mythology, Demeter, the Goddess of Cycles, the Harvest and Death went into deep despair after the kidnapping of her daughter Persephone. In Japanese mythology, the sun Goddess Amaterasu Omi Kami, also withdrew from the world after being insulted by her brother.
The retreat of both of these Goddesses from the realm of the Deities, cast an enormous shadow over the earth, humanity, and life.
The old Gods and Goddesses in both the Greek and Japanese traditions were extremely concerned for the health of the planet; after all it was a really dark time for the people living on the earth below. And the darker the world became, the more the need for light became both urgent and essential. As Demeter sat on a stone bench, head and heart heavy, the Goddess of Mirth, Baubo appeared as an old woman and came alongside her. Baubo tried smiling, she tried playfully jostling Demeter out of her heaviness, but these were desperate times and she soon realized something rather more radical was needed.
Amaterasu Omi Kami had also isolated herself from the world, by locking herself away and the Shinto Goddess of Mirth, Revelry, and Dawn, Uzume couldn’t even try and sweet-talk her out of her depression directly. Instead Uzume went straight for that radical act.
Both Goddesses disguised as old women; Baubo and Uzume began to dance.
Baubo danced directly to Demeter and Uzume to the deities stationed outside Amaterasu’s door. But this was not an orchestrated tidy dance, no; old women are done with the so-called proper ways of being in the world. They are done with politeness, dress-codes and all the ways girls are taught to wrap themselves up tight between the ages of 10 to 14, to cross their legs, cover their chest and begin folding in like a dying rose before it has fully blossomed. Old women are done with societal structures, conveniences, brushing their hair or putting on make up for the pleasure of others. If they do those things, you better know right now that those actions are for themselves and no one else. Why are old women disregarded in modern society? Because age is mistaken for weakness and it has come at humanity’s peril.
So Baubo and Uzume danced all right, a bawdy dance that would make the hurricanes dissipate and lesser men flee in horror. With skirts lifted, sagging breasts exposed, they danced. Breasts flung over shoulders as their asses swayed-the original twerk you might say. No, old women are no longer bound by the rules of polite society. They have a power that comes from knowing who they are deep in their aging bones. They also know that the only way to balance the dark times, the only way to bring light back to the world, is through laughter.
At first Demeter only smiled at Baubo’s shenanigans but the more she smiled the more Baubo was encouraged and so the more she danced and the raunchier that dance became! Uzume too knew exactly what kind of dance was needed so, she flipped open her kimono and jiggled and wiggled her breasts, buttocks, and labia until the whole pantheon was rolling on the ground laughing. When Amaterasu Omi Kami couldn’t stand the laughter outside her room any longer she poked her head out and smiled, until she finally stepped back into the world.
When we, either personally or collectively, are traversing dark and difficult times-like we all are right now, we need the balance of laughter. Laughter in this context is not there to minimize the loss or to minimize the importance and urgency of the situation at hand; it’s there to help rebalance our bodies, minds, and souls for the long haul. The old adage that laughter is good medicine is actually rooted in scientific research. Having a good laugh is known to produce naturally occurring painkillers in the body, boost our immune systems, and flood our cells with oxygen. Mythic narratives from various cultures reflect this ancient wisdom that science can now articulate.
When human beings are overwhelmed by intense emotions or prolonged trauma they cut themselves off at the neck, as a way of preserving their sanity. In other words, our brains are magnificent at self-protection. We do what is needed in order to stay alive even if that means cutting ourselves from feeling, anything. Our earlier wounds can be so painful that it creates a fear in our system of ever feeling that level of pain again. But, as Brené Brown Ph.D, LSW, and all round champion of vulnerability says, “we cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” And who isn’t feeling so overwhelmed by the intensity and immensity of our current global crisis, that we numb ourselves in order to self-preserve.
Baubo and Uzume moved their bodies in order to break the spell of pain, suffering and potential numbness. They shimmied and shook, wiggled and jiggled, essentially moving the energy in their physical beings. As a body worker (of massage, reflexology, and energy healing) of many years and as someone who has both endured and studied trauma, I know the body holds all unexpressed emotions in its system until they are safe to release, whether psychologically, physically, or emotionally. Suffering, as experienced by Demeter and Amaterasu Omi Kami needs moving. First they laughed at the movement of another, older woman, and although not written, I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually got a little movement going of their own.
Once both women were enticed back into the world, they went about doing what needed to be done for the wider good of humanity. Taking a grown-up, self-care time out is not the same as checking out. It’s a deliberate break to reset, recharge, and dissipate the overwhelming number of issues facing the planet, all sentient beings, and the future of humanity.
Anytime now and over the next six weeks (so until October 3rd) Pick out your favorite dance track, play it, get up and move. Dance as if no one is watching or dance a wild bawdy dance of your inner Baubo or Uzume to shift the pain of your inner Demeter or Amaterasu Omi Kami. Alternatively, find the funniest video you can, friend you have, or memory that’s resting deep in your bones and laugh. Laugh a lot and often.
You are of course invited to do both, dance and laugh.
Amy Sophia Marashinsky. The Goddess Oracle. Element: Boston, 1997.
Brené Brown. Absolutely anything by this amazing woman will shift your life. https://brenebrown.com