Okame (the Lady of Happiness), Hyottoko (the Funny Man), and Ebisu (the Lucky Gods). I smile while going through Kagura masks one by one to prepare for my upcoming presentation.
Kagura means entertaining gods. The ancient Japanese believed gods were everywhere in nature: mountains, sky, rivers, sun, moon – every natural object and phenomenon carried god's spirit. They thought gods wanted to have fun and laugh like humans. They created rituals to keep gods happy so the world would stay in peace and harmony.
Kojiki, Japan's oldest chronicle of myths and oral traditions, tells us the origin of Kagura:
Amaterasu (the Goddess of the Sun) was distressed by the bad behavior of her brother, Susano-o (the God of Storm), and withdrew to the cave. The world plunged into darkness without the presence of Amaterasu. Gods in heaven discussed how they could bring her out of the cave to restore the world. They eventually came up with a scheme. They gathered right outside the cave to throw a party. A goddess danced merrily and evoked much laughter. Amaterasu, now curious about the commotion, approached outside to find out what was happening. The strongest god seized the moment and forced the cave open to reveal Amaterasu. As she stepped out of the cave, the world was bathed in light again.
I love this myth. It tells us even the divine could get distressed and withdraw to darkness. What brings a suffering soul back to the world is laughter, the infectious and hard-to-resist power of JOY. The Japanese realized the truth more than 1,300 years ago. They have been entertaining gods since then to maintain harmony and light.
We continue to live in a time of uncertainty. The virus pandemic, mass shootings, racism – when darkness descends onto the world, we get distressed and want to withdraw to the cave. What brings us back to the light is the power of joy. Hear children laughing. Seek simple enjoyment in life.
Plant the seed of joy however you feel today, harvest, and spread it around you. Joy is infectious and hard to resist. Let's bring distressed souls outside the cave one by one with the power of joy.
"Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy." – Joseph Campbell