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Divination by Wind

The February 5th issue of Jinja Shinpō included an article reporting on the Shinto-related intangible cultural assets recognised by the most recent meeting of the relevant government committee. Such articles are frequent, and also cover the meetings dealing with tangible cultural assets. One of the intangible assets recognised this time was a ceremony from a jinja in Saga Prefecture, on Kyushu.

On July 15th, men from among the ujiko purify themselves, and then climb the sacred tree with a sacred flag attached to the end of a bamboo pole. This is fixed high up in the tree, and left there until the day after the autumn equinox, when it is taken down. While it is up, the chief priest goes out every morning and evening to see how the flag is flying, or wrapped around the pole or branches. Based on this, he makes predictions about the weather and the harvest.

According to the notes made by the committee, this is a very good example of a common practice, but it is threatened by the aging population and by people moving away from agriculture, so they recommended the government to properly record it. This is the lowest level of recognition, and I don’t think it implies any government support for sustaining it, but it does at least guarantee that it won’t be forgotten, and thus could be revived if it did fail.

Divination, particularly of the harvest, is a very common feature of traditional Shinto practices, but one that has been played down since the nineteenth century. The methods used are just as diverse as anything else in Shinto.

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