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Silver Wind
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PostSubject: Purification   Mon Oct 22, 2007 10:09 pm

The Shinto elements that provide purification are water, salt, fire, sand and sake (rice wine). Before praying to the Shinto deity, worshippers and casual visitors are asked to purify themselves (Harai ) of impurity. The act of cleansing is called Misogi, and the actual washing of hands and mouth with water is called Temizu. An associated term is Imi, meaning "abstention from defilement." Most large shrines have a stone wash basin where worshippers and casual visitors rinse their mouth and hands before approaching the deity (most people no longer rinse their mouth). Sometimes a fire is burning in the shrine compound, and people will waft the smoke over their heads (to catch the blessings of the deity? to burn away their impurities?). Some Japanese still practice the old tradition of sprinkling water at the gate of their home in the morning and evening to purify the family environs.

The Misogi (also called Misogi Harai) concept traces its origin to the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters.

The Kojiki presents numerous tales about Japan's creation. One is about Izanagi-no-Mikoto, the primordial ancestral kami who purifies himself with water and thereby rids himself of the impurities of the temporal world. The verb form of harai is harau (literally "to brush off dust" or "pay off one's debts."

In Japan, purification ceremonies precede the commencement of all important events and functions. When a new building or home is to be constructed, a groundbreaking ceremony called jichinsai is performed to pacify the earth kami and to purify the spot where construction will take place. New airplanes are purified before their maiden flight. Many car owners take their vehicles to shrines to be purified.

Another important concept is IMI, which means "avoidance." Shinto abhors impurity, and thus all impurity should be avoided -- "imi" is the name given to all things to avoid. In Shinto, the period of mourning following death is also referred to as "imi." Imikotoba literally means "words to be avoided." Imina originally referred to the name of the deceased while still alive, but now it refers to the posthumous name. Misogi Shuho means to conduct one's own purification ritual by bathing in the sea, the river, or by standing underneath a waterfall cascading at freezing temperatures.

Purification Using Salt -- Mori Shio, Maki Shio
Salt is another major element of purification. In Shinto ceremonies, salt is often sprinkled to remove impurities -- this act is usually called shubatsu. Salt is sometimes placed outside homes in little piles called Mori Shio (piles of salt), usually near the entrance, so people who enter the home are purified. Mori-shio may also be put at the four corners of a plot to purify the area (especially before one moves in ?? ). Elsewhere, Japanese sometimes sprinkle salt over themselves after attending a funeral (although funerals are typically Buddhist affairs).

Restaurants may place small piles of salt at the entrance to their eateries. The origin of placing salt piles outside restaurants, some say, was to encourage wealthy clients to enter the establishment -- they rode horseback in the old days, and horses love salt. But this tradition may have originated elsewhere. According to one Chinese story, the Chinese emperor had many wives, who he would visit in turns. One of the wives, hoping to encourage the emperor to visit more often, spread salt outside her house, and the beasts pulling the emperor's carriage would stop in front of her home to lick up the salt.

Maki Shio (scattered salt) is throw around the boundaries of the house to stop impurities from entering the home area. Before buildings are erected, salt is scattered on the empty plot to pacify the earth kami. Salt is also offered to the spirits on the household altar (kamidana) and at shrines, and in both cases, it is usually gathered together into small or large conical piles. In Shinto mythology, the first land mass (Onogoro Shima, or "self-congealing island") was formed when Izugaki stirred the primordial oceans, causing salt to separate from the brine.

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

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