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Silver Wind
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PostSubject: Spirits   Mon Sep 17, 2007 3:21 pm

Ancestral Spirits

Shinto asserts that all people are endowed with a soul or spirit (tama, reikon), and upon death, these souls may or may not find peace. Those who die happily among their family become revered ancestors. Ancestral spirits thereafter protect the family, and every summer they are welcomed back to the family home during Japan's Obon festival (click photo for more Obon images). Those who die unhappily, or violently, or without a family to care for their departed spirit, or without the correct funeral and post-funeral rites, become ghosts who wander about causing trouble; they are typically called yurei (tormented ghosts), and they must be appeased. This concept is akin to "hungry ghosts" in Buddhist philosophy -- the second lowest state in the Six Realms of Existence; Curiously, in Japan, funerals and graveyards are handled entirely by the Buddhist temples, not by the shrines.

Animal Spirits

Most shrines are guarded by the Koma-inu (Shishi), a pair of magical lion-dogs who stand watch outside the Shinto compound to ward off evil spirits. Inari shrines, however, are typically guarded by the fox. The Fox, Tanuki, and powerful birdman Tengu are well-known Shinto tricksters. Collectively they are called Henge, or shape-shifters, for they can transform into human or inanimate shapes to trick humans. Over the centuries, they have taken on both Shinto and Buddhist attributes. There are hundreds of legends and stories about human encounters with these magical creatures, who can do both good or evil. The stories are so varied and voluminous that Lafcadio Hearn referred to such legends as "Ghostly Zoology." Other well-known animal kami are the Kappa (evil blood-sucking river imp) and Dragon (Serpent). For more details on Shinto animal protectors

Nature Spirits
Earth Elements
and Powerful Forces


Sun, wind, rivers, lakes, trees, rocks, mountains, agriculture, war. The most important kami is the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. To the Japanese, Mt. Fuji is the nation's most sacred mountain, wherein lives a powerful kami. Tour groups and individuals climb it regularly as an act of worship. Agriculture itself is deemed a powerful force. Inari, the god of agriculture, has shrines all over Japan. Inari's messenger is the magical and mischievous fox. Hachiman, the god of war, is also highly revered at Hachimangu shrines throughout Japan. One of the most predominant is Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, located in Kamakura. It was founded by the military lord Minamoto Yoritomo, who established the Kamakura shogunate, and a sub-shrine dedicated to the Minamoto clan is within its compound.

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/shinto-concepts.shtml

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