A Bakezori is straw zori sandal which has been transformed into a tsukumogami, a yokai which was once a household item. It runs through the house and chants “kararin, kororin, kankororin!”. It is said that it comes to life in a household where footwear is improperly treated.
A kitsune statue, representing the messenger of the kami Inari, watches as the Japanese maple turns colors against the sunset at the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, Japan.
猿田毘古大神 (Sarutahiko Okami)
Sarutahiko Okami is a powerful guardian kami considered as the leader of all the earthly kami and was the one who greeted Ninigi when he descended from Takamagahara. He is depicted as a towering man with a large beard, jeweled spear, ruddy face, and long nose. He is seen as a symbol of strength and guidance, which is why he is considered as the patron of martial arts.
Amaterasu Shining Kami of Heaven
PE 2011, July
This is the 3rd in a four part series looking at some of the ways we can bring ourselves in tune with Gods and Goddess playing significant roles in the way we live our daily lives. Of course we can do this with any Deity speaking to us but we have chosen four revered for their places in the home and family life. Understanding the Japanese view of the world takes as much study as any of the Western paths. Influences from their neighbors, the very environment in which they live and their interrelatedness make for perception of the world that is both complex and subtle. Shinto, the indigenous animistic religion of Japan, features the worship of gods, and or kami.
Kami (神) is the Japanese word for spirits, natural forces, or “essence” in the Shinto faith. Although the word is sometimes translated as “god” or “deity,” some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term. “[A kami is] anything or phenomenon that produces the emotions of fear and awe, with no distinction between good and evil.” (Motoori Norinaga) kami are located within the human world and not outside it (non-transcendental). In fact, traditionally human beings like the Japanese Emperor could be kami and according to Shinto belief are descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.
Amaterasu (天照大神／天照大御神) Amaterasu-ōmikami, means “the great august kami who shines in the heavens” and she is considered one of the most powerful, as she is the Shinto Goddess of the Sun and rules over the Plain of High Heaven. Amaterasu provides all the light for the world via her radiant body. She also gifted the Japanese people with rice fields and taught them how to cultivate wheat and how to weave on a loom. Her Ise shrine is considered to be the equivalent of Mecca for the Shinto faith and the Japanese people.
In Shinto tradition, the souls of kami are dualistic and take on a gentle aspect (nigi-mitama) and a more aggressive aspect (ara-mitama). Powerful Kami that have risen to the God or Goddess level will also take on the aspect that reflects where they are in the universe, heaven (amatsu-kami), or here on earth (kunitsu-kami). In many ways, this was representative of nature’s sudden changes and would explain why there were kami for every meteorological event: snowfall, rain, typhoons, floods, lightning and volcanoes.
So how can Amaterasu be relevant to a western euro-centric culture? Besides fitting into the rights and actions of other Sun Deities more familiar to us she allows us to develop a greater connection to the earth and its powers through the recognition and inclusion of various other kami in our lives. In a sense worship of kami as deities is not as much the goal as revering the virtues or ideals they represent. The goal of life to follower of the Shinto path is to obtain magokoro (a pure sincere heart) which can only be granted by the kami. As a result, followers are taught that humans should venerate both the living and the nonliving, because both possess a divine Kami within.
We can accomplish this veneration by upholding the five affirmations of Shinto. The first affirmation is to hold onto tradition and the family. Family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved and traditions help to keep the family together and functioning in a way that helps ensure survival. The second affirmation is to have a love of nature. Nature objects are worshipped as sacred because the kami live within 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 the ancestral spirits.
If you feel like Amaterasu and Shinto have a lot in common with your current practices you may be right there has been a lot of cross pollination in belief systems and since Shinto is alive and well it is easier for many to learn by observation than buy searching for traces of practice from ancient texts.
Name – Amaterasu
Culture – Japanese
Worship/Ritual – Ise Shrine, festival on July 17, Winter Solstice
Associations – Sun, Winter Solstice, Harvest
Related Deities – Daughter of Izanagi, Brother to Susanowa
Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神／天照大御神) or Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神) is a sun goddess and one of the principal Shinto deities
(神 kami). The meaning of her name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is “the great august kami who shines in the heaven”. She was born from the left eye of Izanagi as he purified himself in a river and went on to become the ruler of the Higher Celestial Plain (Takamagahara).
ほしのたま (Star Ball)
The Hoshi No Tama are balls depicting the presence of a kitsune upon a mortal, or it signifies the actual living presence of the mythical creature. It may be seen near their possessed victims. A kitsune keeps it in their mouth or holds it with their tail when it is not in its human form.
Oukuninushi is a divinity in Japanese Shinto, his name literally meaning “Great Land Master”. He is believed to be the original ruler of Izumo, until he was replaced by Ninigi and for this he was made ruler of the unseen world of spirits and magic. He is the god of nation-building, farming, business, and medicine. He had eight brothers who wanted to marry the princess Yakami. The flayed Hare of Inaba asked them for help but they only caused him great pain. Being the kind person that he was, Oukuninushi told the hare the right thing to do and because of this, the princess married him.