What is the ancient Japanese religion Shinto

Shintoism 神道

Kami literally means "superior to people" and is mostly translated as "deity" or "spirit". The origins of the religion are unclear. According to mythology, the Japanese island kingdom owes its birth to the heavenly couple Izanami and Izanagi. Amaterasu, the sun goddess, is the direct ancestor of the emperor. Beyond the myth, the strives Shintoism (or Shinto) thereafter, human relationships with nature and with the kami to harmonize.

Traditionally there are “eight hundred myriads” of deities, an infinite number. Even if ancestors or deserving heroes are sometimes considered to be kami were worshiped, this cult primarily deified them Forces of nature. These heavenly or earthly deities are omnipresent. The latter usually act as guardians of a certain place and live e.g. B. on a mountain, protect a forest, live under a waterfall or hide under a ledge ...

Political Shintoism - an interlude

Between 1868 and 1945 Shintoism became the official state religion raised and instrumentalized for nationalist and militarist goals. Far from the ancient worship of kami removed, at that time it had little in common with the original popular belief. The political intention behind this was to push back the widespread Buddhism of foreign origin by reviving the darkest racial theories.

Rites and religious practices

A Shinto priest can be recognized by his black headgear and his long white robe. His office consists in the mastery and exercise of the rites with the help of which one can invoke supernatural forces.

Shinto has neither a founder nor is there a dogma or a uniform moral code. There is no clear separation between the sacred and the worldly. Since this belief is hardly codified and has no theory of its own, it does not explain the world context.

There is, however Kojiki (Record of Ancient Stories), a mythological chronicle of the origins of Japan that forms one of the cornerstones of Shintoism.

This ancient text from 712 tells of the divine descent of the ruler and makes reference to the religion and history of the country.

Religion in everyday life

With a number of practices and rites, Shintoism shapes numerous aspects of everyday life. Both in the city and in the country, one assures oneself of the favor of one kami "Owner of the soil”, by erecting a kind of altar for it. It is by no means uncommon to see a small sacred structure in a large Japanese company kami is consecrated. On the front of a building one often comes across a sacred cord (shimenawa), which, according to the Shinto cult, materializes the purity of the place and protects the interior.

During a Shinto wedding ceremony, the bride and groom solemnly drink Saké, the divine drink, which is served in three red lacquer bowls and refilled three times. This act seals their union.

As an offering to the kami rice wine is also made in the Shinto shrines with their characteristic sacred portals (torii) put down.

Honoring the kami is more important to the Japanese than their worship. When the believers enter the grounds of a Shinto shrine, they first wash their hands at a fountain and rinse their mouths with long-handled wooden spoons. Standing in front of the shrine, they clap their hands three times, then fold them in front of their faces and bow three times again before giving prayer. Running water has a very important meaning in the cult. Before entering a bath or a thermal spring, holy ablutions are essential as an ancient expression of purification.

Here you can deepen your knowledge:

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