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Shamanism and Shinto

Shamanism and Shinto

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Published by JOSEPH
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Published by: JOSEPH on Nov 29, 2009
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Shamanism and Shinto – Some interesting information.Exerpt from:
Article written by Paul Watt for the
 Asia Society's Focus on Asian Studies,
Vol. II, No. 1,
 Asian Religions
, pp. 21-23, Fall 1982. Copyright
, 1996.
Shinto was the earliest Japanese religion, its obscure beginnings dating back at least tothe middle of the first millennium B.C. Until approximately the sixth century A.D., whenthe Japanese began a period of rapid adoption of continental civilization, it existed as anamorphous mix of nature worship, fertility cults, divination techniques, hero worship, andshamanism. Unlike Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam, it had no founder and it did notdevelop sacred scriptures, an explicit religious philosophy, or a specific moral code.Indeed, so unself-conscious were the early Japanese about their religious life that theyhad no single term by which they could refer to it. The word
, or "the Way of the
(gods or spirits)," came into use only after the sixth century, when the Japanesesought to distinguish their own tradition from the foreign religions of Buddhism andConfucianism that they were then encountering. Thus, in its origins, Shinto was thereligion of a pristine people who, above all, were sensitive to the spiritual forces that pervaded the world of nature in which they lived. As one ancient chronicle reports: intheir world myriad spirits shone like fireflies and every tree and bush could speak.Remarkably, neither Shinto's relatively primitive original character nor the introductionof more sophisticated religions, such as Buddhism and Confucianism, caused the religionto wane in importance. In part its continued existence can be explained by pointing tochanges that took place within Shinto, for after the sixth century, it was graduallytransformed into a religion of shrines, both grand and small, with set festivals and ritualsthat were overseen by a distinct priestly class. However, such developments have hadlittle effect on basic Shinto attitudes and values. More crucial to Shinto's survival,therefore, have been its deep roots in the daily and national life of the Japanese peopleand a strong conservative strain in Japanese culture.The Shinto world view is fundamentally bright and optimistic, as befits a religion inwhich the main deity is a sun goddess. While it is not unaware of the darker aspects of human existence, Shinto's chief 
raison d'etre
is the celebration and enrichment of life.Creation Myth showing Mood Goddess – Thought to be the Goddess of theShammanistic ways that were forgotten by the Yamato clan.
“According to the Kojiki the Kami of the Center of Heaven (Ame-no-minaka-nushi-no-kami)appeared first and then the kami of birth and growth (Taka-mimusubi-no-mikoto and Jami-musubi-no-mikoto). However, it is not until the creative couple, Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto, appears that the mythology really begins.These two, descending from the High Plain of Heaven, gave birth to the Great Eight Islands, thatis, Japan and all things, including many kami. Three of the kami where the most august: The SunGoddess (Ama-terasu-o-mikami), the kami of the High Plain of Heaven; her brother (Susa-no-o-
no-mikoto), who was in charge of the earth;
and the Moon Goddess, (Tsuki-yomi-no-mikoto),who was the kami of the realm of darkness.
The brother, however, according to the Kojiki, behaved so very badly and committed so manyoutrages that the Sun Goddess became angry and hid herself in a celestial cave, which caused theheavens and earth to become darkened. Astonished at this turn of events, the heavenly kami puton an entertainment including dancing, which brought her out of the cave; and thus light returnedto the world. For his misdemeanor the brother was banished to the lower world, where by hisgood behavior he returned to the favor of the other kami, and a descendant of his, the Kami of theIzumo (Okuni-nushi-no-kami), became a very benevolent kami, who ruled over the Great EightIslands and blessed the people.
 Little is said in the mythology of the Moon Kami.
Subsequently, the grandson of the Sun Goddess, Ninigi-no-mikoto, received instructions todescend and rule Japan. To symbolize his authority he was given three divine treasures: a mirror,a sword, and a string of jewels. Moreover, he was accompanied on his journey by the kami thathad participated in the entertainment outside the celestial cave. However, to accomplish hismission it was necessary to negotiate with the Kami of Izumo, who after some discussion agreedto hand over the visible world, while retaining the invisible. At the same time, the Kami of Izumo pledged to protect the heavenly grandson. Ninigi-no-mikoto’s great grandson, Emperor Jimmu, became the first human ruler of Japan.This, in very simple form, is the basic myth which explained for primitive Japanese their originand the basis of their social structure. In a sense, the myth amounts to something like a simpleconstitution for the country. However, in theancient records the account is not uniform.Shinto recognizes today that its beliefs are a continuation of those of this mythological age. In itsritual forms and paraphernalia, this faith fully retains much that is ancient. Shinto has outgrownmuch of its historical mythology. The buds of truth have appeared and have been refined for the people of modern Japan.”
There is a branch of creaton mythology that was the shamanisticand moon goddess sections of the religion, including Queen Pimikoor Himiko, from the Chinese account from the 3
century thatmentions she was occupied with magic and sorcery, bewitching thepeople in the kingdom of Wa.
Parts that are not spoken of orexplored that much and may pass away with the older generationsthat pass these things on by word of mouth and story.
Bibliography –
1.Ono, Sokyo, “Shinto the Kami Way”, Professor, Kokugakuin University Lecturer,Association of Shinto Shrines in collaboration with William P. Woodard, sketches bySadao Sakamoto, Priest, Yasukuni Shrine, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont& Tokyo, Japan, 1962 twenty-ninth printing.2.Nelson, John K., “A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine”, University of WashingtonPress, Seattle & London, 1996.
For Further Reference
de Bary, Wm. Theodore. "Japanese Religion" in Arthur E. Tiedemann, ed., An

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