Inspiration, Philosophy, Syncretism, Uncategorized

Shinto Kami and Kamidana



“…it is not only the divinities of Japanese sacred texts and myths that are considered as kami, for anything — humans, animals, trees, plants, rocks, mountains, seas — which appears impressive, inspires a sense of awe, or exhibits a life-force, may be a kami.” – From Essays in Idleness

  • Amaterasu – Goddess of the sun and associated with the Imperial family, who traditionally claims descent from this Kami.
  • Hachiman – God of war, originally thought to have derived from the legendary Emperor Ōjin. Absorbed by Buddhism in medieval times as a bodhisattva (frequent references in the Tales of the Heike, for example).
  • Ebisu – A Kami associated with small business and commerce. Particularly popular in the Osaka area.
  • Inari – Kami of rice and harvest originally, but grew in popularity as a guardian of Buddhism and separately of business. The famous Shiseido cosmetic company has a shrine devoted to Inari on top of its headquarters called Seidō Shrine.
  • Benten or Benzaiten – Kami associated with music and the arts. Originally thought to be imported from India, as the goddess Saraswati. More on that later.
  • Tenjin – Kami of education. Originally a famous Heian Period nobleman named Sugawara no Michizane, who was wrongfully slandered and whose death was thought to have triggered natural disasters at the time. Worshiped as a Kami to placate his restless spirit, as well as for his excellent poetry and writings.
  • Konpira – Kami associated with seafaring, and with sea commerce. A popular patron for sailors, fishermen and other such groups.
  • Susanoo – Amaterasu’s brother, and Kami of wind. While legendary as a trouble-maker, he is also revered for protection against natural forces such as typhoons.
  • Izanami and Izanagi – The original female and male pair of Kami believed to have created Japan according to traditional myth.

I came across a bag of black rice at my local drug store and I realize I need to put a bit out for my family shrine. Since Uncle David passed away I finally cleaned out my spirit house and set it up with the odds and ends I have for the past two generations of family members. I have every intention of purchasing at least one and hopefully two omamori from the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in the next month. Not only do they have the best prices online, they also don’t jack up the price! Now, I have no idea if there is any deeper symbolism in the fact that the rice was black, but to me it’s a novelty either way and the only thing I am missing at this point is a special salt. I do have black lava salt but I want pink Himalayan salt for this purpose. At the moment, I have the uncooked black rice on the back row closest to the shrine, water to the left and salt to the right. I need to double check to make sure that is ‘right’ and also a bowl of pine nuts. Of course, the ancestors will let me know if I need to change something in the meantime. I have granddaddy’s medals that were awarded him by King George, Great grandmother Towndrows porcelain bird container, odds and ends that David brought back from different places and an item or two of Nanas.  

I recommend the word press blog Essays in Idleness for more information on Shinto and Buddhism as practiced in Japan.

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