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Kami (Japanese: 神 , [kaꜜmi] ) (often taken to mean "gods", though the concept is more involved than that) are the spirits, phenomena or "holy powers" that are venerated in the religion of Shinto. They can be elements of the landscape, forces of nature, as well as beings and the qualities that these beings express; they can also be the spirits of venerated dead people. Many kami are considered the ancient ancestors of entire clans (some ancestors became kami upon their death if they were able to embody the values and virtues of kami in life). Traditionally, great or sensational leaders like the Emperor could be or became kami. [ page needed ]
In Shinto, kami are not separate from nature, but are of nature, possessing positive and negative, and good and evil characteristics. They are manifestations of musubi (結び), the interconnecting energy of the universe, and are considered exemplary of what humanity should strive towards. Kami are believed to be "hidden" from this world, and inhabit a complementary existence that mirrors our own: shinkai (神界, "the world of the kami"). : 22 To be in harmony with the awe-inspiring aspects of nature is to be conscious of kannagara no michi (随神の道 or 惟神の道, "the way of the kami").
The word from Western philosophy that deals with the same concept is numinous, which has been variously taken to mean both a subjective sense of spiritual awe and any entity that evokes that sense.
Kami is the Japanese word for a god, deity, divinity, or spirit.It has been used to describe mind (心霊), God (ゴッド), supreme being (至上者), one of the Shinto deities, an effigy, a principle, and anything that is worshipped.
Although deity is the common interpretation of kami, some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term. [ page needed ] The wide variety of usage of the word kami can be compared to the Sanskrit Deva and the Hebrew Elohim , which also refer to God, gods, angels, or spirits.
Some etymological suggestions are:
Because Japanese does not normally distinguish grammatical number in nouns (the singular and plural forms of nouns in Japanese are the same), it is sometimes unclear whether kami refers to a single or multiple entities. When a singular concept is needed, -kami (神) is used as a suffix.[ citation needed ] The reduplicated term generally used to refer to multiple kami is kamigami. : 210–211
Gender is also not implied in the word kami, and as such, it can be used to refer to either male or female.
While Shinto has no founder, no overarching doctrine, and no religious texts, the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), written in 712 CE, and the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), written in 720 CE, contain the earliest record of Japanese creation myths. The Kojiki also includes descriptions of various kami. 39:
In the ancient traditions there were five defining characteristics of kami:
Kami are an ever-changing concept, but their presence in Japanese life has remained constant. The kami's earliest roles were as earth-based spirits, assisting the early hunter-gatherer groups in their daily lives. They were worshipped as gods of the earth (mountains) and sea. As the cultivation of rice became increasingly important and predominant in Japan, the kami's identity shifted to more sustaining roles that were directly involved in the growth of crops; roles such as rain, earth, and rice. (新嘗祭).)This relationship between early Japanese people and the kami was manifested in rituals and ceremonies meant to entreat the kami to grow and protect the harvest. These rituals also became a symbol of power and strength for the early Emperors. (See Niiname-sai
There is a strong tradition of myth-histories in the Shinto faith; one such myth details the appearance of the first emperor, grandson of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. In this myth, when Amaterasu sent her grandson to earth to rule, she gave him five rice grains, which had been grown in the fields of heaven (Takamagahara). This rice made it possible for him to transform the "wilderness".
Social and political strife have played a key role in the development of new sorts of kami, specifically the goryō-shin (the sacred spirit kami). Goryō are the vengeful spirits of the dead whose lives were cut short, but they were calmed by the devotion of Shinto followers and are now believed to punish those who do not honor the kami.
The pantheon of kami, like the kami themselves, is forever changing in definition and scope. As the needs of the people have shifted, so too have the domains and roles of the various kami. Some examples of this are related to health, such as the kami of smallpox whose role was expanded to include all contagious diseases, or the kami of boils and growths who has also come to preside over cancers and cancer treatments.
In the ancient animistic religions, kami were understood as simply the divine forces of nature. Worshippers in ancient Japan revered creations of nature which exhibited a particular beauty and power such as waterfalls, mountains, boulders, animals, trees, grasses, and even rice paddies. They strongly believed the spirits or resident kami deserved respect.
In 927 CE, the Engi-shiki (延喜式, literally, Procedures of the Engi Era) was promulgated in fifty volumes. This, the first formal codification of Shinto rites and norito (liturgies and prayers) to survive, became the basis for all subsequent Shinto liturgical practice and efforts. It listed all of the 2,861 Shinto shrines existing at the time, and the 3,131 official-recognized and enshrined kami. The number of kami has grown and far exceeded this figure through the following generations as there are over 2,446,000 individual kami enshrined in Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine alone.
Kami are the central objects of worship for the Shinto belief. The ancient animistic spirituality of Japan was the beginning of modern Shinto, which became a formal spiritual institution later, in an effort to preserve the traditional beliefs from the encroachment of imported religious ideas. As a result, the nature of what can be called kami is very general and encompasses many different concepts and phenomena.
Some of the objects or phenomena designated as kami are qualities of growth, fertility, and production; natural phenomena like wind and thunder; natural objects like the sun, mountains, rivers, trees, and rocks; some animals; and ancestral spirits. Included within the designation of ancestral spirits are spirits of the ancestors of the Imperial House of Japan, but also ancestors of noble families as well as the spirits of the ancestors of all people, which when they died were believed to be the guardians of their descendants. 150:
There are other spirits designated as kami as well. For example, the guardian spirits of the land, occupations, and skills; spirits of Japanese heroes, men of outstanding deeds or virtues, and those who have contributed to civilization, culture, and human welfare; those who have died for the state or the community;[ citation needed ] and the pitiable dead. Not only spirits superior to man can be considered kami; spirits that are considered pitiable or weak have also been considered kami in Shinto.
The concept of kami has been changed and refined since ancient times, although anything that was considered to be kami by ancient people will still be considered kami in modern Shinto. Even within modern Shinto, there are no clearly defined criteria for what should or should not be worshipped as kami. The difference between modern Shinto and the ancient animistic religions is mainly a refinement of the kami-concept, rather than a difference in definitions.[ citation needed ]
Although the ancient designations are still adhered to, in modern Shinto many priests also consider kami to be anthropomorphic spirits, with nobility and authority. One such example is the mythological figure Amaterasu-ōmikami, the sun goddess of the Shinto pantheon. Although these kami can be considered deities, they are not necessarily considered omnipotent or omniscient, and like the Greek Gods, they had flawed personalities and were quite capable of ignoble acts. In the myths of Amaterasu, for example, she could see the events of the human world, but had to use divination rituals to see the future.
There are considered to be three main variations of kami: Amatsukami (天津神, the heavenly deities), Kunitsukami (国津神, the gods of the earthly realm), and ya-o-yorozu no kami (八百万の神, countless kami). ("八百万" literally means eight million, but idiomatically it expresses "uncountably many" and "all-around"—like many East Asian cultures, the Japanese often use the number 8, representing the cardinal and ordinal directions, to symbolize ubiquity.) These classifications of kami are not considered strictly divided, due to the fluid and shifting nature of kami, but are instead held as guidelines for grouping them. : 56
The ancestors of a particular family can also be worshipped as kami. In this sense, these kami are worshipped not because of their godly powers, but because of a distinctive quality or virtue. These kami are celebrated regionally, and several miniature shrines ( hokora ) have been built in their honor. In many cases, people who once lived are thus revered; an example of this is Tenjin, who was Sugawara no Michizane (845–903 CE) in life.
Within Shinto it is believed that the nature of life is sacred because the kami began human life. Yet people cannot perceive this divine nature, which the kami created, on their own; therefore, magokoro, or purification, is necessary in order to see the divine nature. [ unreliable source ] This purification can only be granted by the kami. In order to please the kami and earn magokoro, Shinto followers are taught to uphold the four affirmations of Shinto.
The first affirmation is to hold fast to tradition and the family. Family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. For instance, in marriage or birth, tradition is potentially observed and passed onto future generations. The second affirmation is to have a love of nature. Nature objects are worshipped as sacred because the kami inhabit them. Therefore, to be in contact with nature means to be in contact with the gods. The third affirmation is to maintain physical cleanliness. Followers of Shinto take baths, wash their hands, and rinse out their mouths often. The last affirmation is to practice matsuri, which is the worship and honor given to the kami and ancestral spirits.
Shinto followers also believe that the kami are the ones who can either grant blessings or curses to a person. Shinto believers desire to appease the evil kami to "stay on their good side", and also to please the good kami. In addition to practicing the four affirmations daily, Shinto believers also wear omamori to aid them in remaining pure and protected. Mamori are charms that keep the evil kami from striking a human with sickness or causing disaster to befall them.
The kami are both worshipped and respected within the religion of Shinto. The goal of life to Shinto believers is to obtain magokoro, a pure sincere heart, which can only be granted by the kami. [ page needed ]As a result, Shinto followers are taught that humankind should venerate both the living and the nonliving, because both possess a divine superior spirit within: the kami.
One of the first recorded rituals we know of is Niiname-sai (新嘗祭), the ceremony in which the Emperor offers newly harvested rice to the kami to secure their blessing for a bountiful harvest. A yearly festival, Niiname-sai is also performed when a new Emperor comes to power, in which case it is called Daijō-sai (大嘗祭). In the ceremony, the Emperor offers crops from the new harvest to the kami, including rice, fish, fruits, soup, and stew. The Emperor first feasts with the deities, then the guests. The feast could go on for some time; for example, Emperor Shōwa's feast spanned two days.
Visitors to a Shinto shrine follow a purification ritual before presenting themselves to the kami. This ritual begins with hand washing and swallowing and later spitting a small amount of water in front of the shrine to purify the body, heart, and mind. Once this is complete they turn their focus to gaining the kami's attention. The traditional method of doing this is to bow twice, clap twice and bow again, alerting the kami to their presence and desire to commune with them. During the last bow, the supplicant offers words of gratitude and praise to the kami; if they are offering a prayer for aid they will also state their name and address. After the prayer and/or worship they repeat the two bows, two claps and a final bow in conclusion. 197:
Shinto practitioners also worship at home. This is done at a kamidana (household shrine), on which an ofuda with the name of their protector or ancestral kami is positioned. Their protector kami is determined by their or their ancestors' relationship to the kami. 28, 84:
Ascetic practices, shrine rituals and ceremonies, and Japanese festivals are the most public ways that Shinto devotees celebrate and offer adoration for the kami. Kami are celebrated during their distinct festivals that usually take place at the shrines dedicated to their worship. Many festivals involve believers, who are usually intoxicated, parading, sometimes running, toward the shrine while carrying mikoshi (portable shrines) as the community gathers for the festival ceremony. Yamamoto Guji, the high priest at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine, explains that this practice honors the kami because "it is in the festival, the matsuri, the greatest celebration of life can be seen in the world of Shinto and it is the people of the community who attend festivals as groups, as a whole village who are seeking to unlock the human potential as children of kami." [ citation needed ]During the New Year Festival, families purify and clean their houses in preparation for the upcoming year. Offerings are also made to the ancestors so that they will bless the family in the future year.
Shinto ceremonies are so long and complex that in some shrines it can take ten years for the priests to learn them. [ citation needed ] The priesthood was traditionally hereditary. Some shrines have drawn their priests from the same families for over a hundred generations. It is not uncommon for the clergy to be female priestesses. The priests ( kannushi ) may be assisted by miko , young unmarried women acting as shrine maidens. Neither priests nor priestesses live as ascetics; in fact, it is common for them to be married, and they are not traditionally expected to meditate. Rather, they are considered specialists in the arts of maintaining the connection between the kami and the people.
In addition to these festivals, ceremonies marking rites of passage are also performed within the shrines. Two such ceremonies are the birth of a child and the Shichi-Go-San. When a child is born they are brought to a shrine so that they can be initiated as a new believer and the kami can bless them and their future life. The Shichi-Go-San (the Seven-Five-Three) is a rite of passage for five-year-old boys and three- or seven-year-old girls. It is a time for these young children to personally offer thanks for the kami's protection and to pray for continued health. [ unreliable source ]
Many other rites of passage are practiced by Shinto believers, and there are also many other festivals. The main reason for these ceremonies is so that Shinto followers can appease the kami in order to reach magokoro. 205 Magokoro can only be received through the kami. Ceremonies and festivals are long and complex because they need to be perfect to satisfy the kami. If the kami are not pleased with these ceremonies, they will not grant a Shinto believer magokoro.:
In Shinto, Kotoamatsukami is the collective name for the first gods which came into existence at the time of the creation of the universe. They were born in Takamagahara, the world of Heaven at the time of the creation. Unlike the later gods, these deities were born without any procreation.
Shinto is a religion which originated in Japan. Classified as an East Asian religion by scholars of religion, its practitioners often regard it as Japan's indigenous religion and as a nature religion. Scholars sometimes call its practitioners Shintoists, although adherents rarely use that term themselves. There is no central authority in control of Shinto and much diversity exists among practitioners.
Amaterasu, also known as Amaterasu-Ōmikami or Ōhirume-no-Muchi-no-Kami (大日孁貴神) among other names, is the goddess of the sun in Japanese mythology. One of the major deities (kami) of Shinto, she is also portrayed in Japan's earliest literary texts, the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, as the ruler of the heavenly realm Takamagahara and the mythical ancestress of the Imperial House of Japan via her grandson Ninigi. Along with her siblings, the moon deity Tsukuyomi and the impetuous storm god Susanoo, she is considered to be one of the "Three Precious Children", the three most important offspring of the creator god Izanagi.
Susanoo is a kami in Japanese mythology. The younger brother of Amaterasu, goddess of the sun and mythical ancestress of the Japanese imperial line, he is a multifaceted deity with contradictory characteristics, being portrayed in various stories either as a wild, impetuous god associated with the sea and storms, as a heroic figure who killed a monstrous serpent, or as a local deity linked with the harvest and agriculture. Syncretic beliefs that arose after the introduction of Buddhism to Japan also saw Susanoo becoming conflated with deities of pestilence and disease.
In Japanese religion, Yahata formerly in Shinto and later commonly known as Hachiman is the syncretic divinity of archery and war, incorporating elements from both Shinto and Buddhism.
Japanese mythology is a collection of traditional stories, folktales, and beliefs that emerged in the islands of the Japanese archipelago. Shinto and Buddhist traditions are the cornerstones of Japanese mythology. The history of thousands of years of contact with China, Korea, Ainu, and Okinawan myths are also key influences in Japanese mythology.
Konkōkyō, or just Konkō, is a Shintō sect, being a part of the Kyoha Shintō Rengokai, and an independent faith with origins in Shinbutsu-shūgō beliefs. Konkokyo worships primarily the spirit and energy that flows through all things as Tenchi Kane No Kami, or the Golden Kami of the Heavens and Earth.
Izumo-taisha, officially Izumo Ōyashiro, is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. No record gives the date of establishment. Located in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, it is home to two major festivals. It is dedicated to the god Ōkuninushi, famous as the Shinto deity of marriage and to Kotoamatsukami, distinguishing heavenly kami. The shrine is believed by many to be the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan, even predating the Ise Grand Shrine.
Kashima Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Kashima, Ibaraki in the northern Kantō region of Japan. It is dedicated to Takemikazuchi-no-Ōkami (武甕槌大神), one of the patron deities of martial arts. Various dōjō of kenjutsu and kendō often display a hanging scroll emblazoned with the name "Takemikazuchi-no-Ōkami". Prior to World War II, the shrine was ranked as one of the three most important imperial shrines Jingū (神宮) in the Shinto hierarchy, along with Ise Grand Shrine and Katori Shrine. During the New Year period, from the first to the third of January, Kashima Shrine is visited by over 600,000 people from all over Japan. It is the second most visited shrine in Ibaraki prefecture for new year pilgrims.
Ōkuninushi, also known as Ō(a)namuchi or Ō(a)namochi among other variants, is a kami in Japanese mythology. He is one of the central deities in the cycle of myths recorded in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki alongside the sun goddess Amaterasu and her brother, the wild god Susanoo, who is reckoned to be either Ōkuninushi's distant ancestor or father. In these texts, Ōkuninushi (Ōnamuchi) is portrayed as the head of the kunitsukami, the gods of the earth, and the original ruler of the terrestrial world, named Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni. When the heavenly deities (amatsukami) headed by Amaterasu demanded that he relinquish his rule over the land, Ōkuninushi agreed to their terms and withdrew into the unseen world, which was given to him to rule over in exchange. Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi then came down from heaven to govern Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni and eventually became the ancestor of the Japanese imperial line.
Futsunushi, also known as Iwainushi, is a warrior god in Japanese mythology. Also known under the epithet Katori Daimyōjin (香取大明神) after his shrine in northern Chiba Prefecture, Katori Jingū, he is often revered alongside Takemikazuchi, with whom he is closely associated. He is regarded as a legendary ancestor of the Mononobe clan, and like Takemikazuchi is one of the tutelary deities of the Fujiwara clan.
Kagura is a specific type of Shinto ritual ceremonial dance. The phrase is a contraction of "kami no kura ", indicating the presence of god in the practice. One major function of Kagura is "Chinkon .", involving a procession-trance process. Usually a female shaman will perform the dance and obtain the oracle from the god----in the setting, the dancer herself turns into god during the performance. Once strictly a ceremonial art derived from kami'gakari, kagura has evolved in many directions over the span of more than a millennium. Today, it is very much a living tradition, with rituals tied to the rhythms of the agricultural calendar, thriving primarily in parts of Shimane Prefecture, and urban centers such as Hiroshima.
Toyouke-Ōmikami is the goddess of agriculture and industry in the Shinto religion. Originally enshrined in the Tanba region of Japan, she was called to reside at Gekū, Ise Shrine, about 1,500 years ago at the age of Emperor Yūryaku to offer sacred food to Amaterasu Ōmikami, the Sun Goddess.
Ōtoshi or Nigihayahi, commonly known: Toshigami or Ōtoshi is a Kami of the Shinto religion in Japan.
Ame-no-Minakanushi is a deity (kami) in Japanese mythology, portrayed in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki as the very first or one of the first deities that created heaven and earth came into existence.
This is the glossary of Shinto, including major terms the casual reader might find useful in understanding articles on the subject. Words followed by an asterisk (*) are illustrated by an image in one of the photo galleries. Within definitions, words set in boldface are defined elsewhere in the glossary.
Sarutahiko Ōkami, is the leader of the earthly kami, deity of the Japanese religion of Shinto. Norito also mentions him with the title Daimyōjin instead of Ōkami.
The kuni-yuzuri (国譲り) "Transfer of the land" was a mythological event in Japanese prehistory, related in sources such as the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki. It relates the story of how the rulership of Japan passed from the earthly kami (kunitsukami) to the kami of Heaven (amatsukami) and their eventual descendants, the Imperial House of Japan.
Ōmononushi is a kami in Japanese mythology associated with Mount Miwa in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture. He is closely linked in the imperial myth cycle recorded in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki with the earthly kami Ōkuninushi (Ōnamuchi); indeed, the latter text treats 'Ōmononushi' as another name for or an aspect - more precisely, the spirit or mitama - of Ōnamuchi.
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