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Silver Wind
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PostSubject: Shinto practices   Tue Jul 24, 2007 10:03 pm

Shinto recognizes many sacred places: mountains, springs, etc.

Each shrine is dedicated to a specific Kami who has a divine personality and responds to sincere prayers of the faithful. When entering a shrine, one passes through a Tori a special gateway for the Gods. It marks the demarcation between the finite world and the infinite world of the Gods.

In the past, believers practiced "misogi,", the washing of their bodies in a river near the shrine. In recent years they only wash their hands and wash out their mouths in a wash basin provided within the shrine grounds.

Believers respect animals as messengers of the Gods. A pair of statues of "Koma-inu" (guard dogs) face each other within the temple grounds.

Shrine ceremonies, which include cleansing, offerings, prayers, and dances are directed to the Kami.

Kagura are ritual dances accompanied by ancient musical instruments. The dances are performed by skilled and trained dancers. They consist of young virgin girls, a group of men, or a single man.

Mamori are charms worn as an aid in healing and protection. They come in many different forms for various purposes.

An altar, the "Kami-dana" (Shelf of Gods), is given a central place in many homes.

Seasonal celebrations are held at spring planting, fall harvest, and special anniversaries of the history of a shrine or of a local patron spirit. A secular, country-wide National Founding Day is held on FEB-11 to commemorate the founding of Japan; this is the traditional date on which the first (mythical) emperor Jinmu ascended the throne in 660 BCE. Some shrines are believed to hold festivities on that day. Other festivals include: JAN 1-3 Shogatsu (New Year); MAR-3 Hinamatsuri (Girls' festival); MAY-5 Tango no Sekku (Boys' festival); JUL-7 Hoshi Matsuri (Star festival).

Followers are expected to visit Shinto shrines at the times of various life passages. For example, the Shichigosan Matsuri involves a blessing by the shrine Priest of girls aged three and seven and boys aged five. It is held on NOV-15.

Many followers are involved in the "offer a meal movement," in which each individual bypasses a breakfast (or another meal) once per month and donates the money saved to their religious organization for international relief and similar activity.

Origami ("Paper of the spirits"): This is a Japanese folk art in which paper is folded into beautiful shapes. They are often seen around Shinto shrines. Out of respect for the tree spirit that gave its life to make the paper, origami paper is never cut.

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