The Perils of Research

One of the problems with continuing to research a topic that you have written about in the past is that sometimes you discover that you had misinterpreted something. For example, when I wrote about Miho Jinja, I noted that the jinja claims that Jinmu Tennō’s empress was a daughter of Kotoshironushi, the main kami at Miho Jinja. I also noted that the Kojiki says that she was a daughter of Ōmononushi, the main kami at Miwa Jinja, and I speculated on where Miho Jinja’s legend might have come from. However, I am now re-reading the relevant portion of the Nihonshoki for another essay, and I have found that the Nihonshoki says, in passing, that the empress was the daughter of Kotoshironushi. It is safe to say that the Nihonshoki is almost certainly the source for Miho Jinja’s legend, so that mystery is cleared up.

This is, of course, inevitable. You should learn more about a topic as you continue to research it, and you should speculate about points you find that you cannot explain, as long as you mark the speculation as such. (And I certainly try to do that.) Sometimes, the speculation will turn out to be right, and sometimes it will turn out to be wrong.

A bigger problem is that sometimes something that you were sure was true turns out not to be. In Shinto, this is particularly common if you form the belief that a particular way of doing something is “the right way”; there is so much diversity, that no one practice can ever be more than “a right way”. It can also happen if you come across bad source early on. This has also happened to me: I thought that the Three Sacred Treasures were a mirror, a sword, and a curved jewel, but it turns out that there are actually eight curved jewels, and that it is not entirely clear what counts as “one jewel” — it may be eight strings of jewels.

This is, I assume, going to keep happening, and I will simply have to keep acknowledging it when it does, and updating published material as necessary. (I have updated the Miho Jinja essay on Amazon now.)

I have a Patreon, where people subscribe to receive in-depth essays on various aspects of Shinto, about once per month. If that sounds interesting to you, please take a look.

2 thoughts on “The Perils of Research”

  1. I deeply apologize as I’m sure this isn’t the place you’d like to be bothered with such things, but I’d been reading through your blogs (and even bought a book!) and I developed a few questions I hoped I could ask through email or something similar?

    I’m sorry if this request is inappropriate but I don’t know of anywhere else to go to get such questions answered.

    Thank you so very much for your time

    1. If you look at the top right of the web page, you should see a “Contact” link. The reason you couldn’t see it yesterday is that it wasn’t there yesterday; I’ve just added it. I’ve been meaning to for a while, and this was the necessary push.

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