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New Book: Shinto on Ethics and Death

I have released a new book on Amazon collecting two of my Patreon essays: Shinto on Ethics and Death. These essays have been available separately on Gumroad for some time (Ethics and Death), and will remain available there. These essays cover topics that are often considered to be central to “religion”, but which are not at all central to Shinto. Indeed, for much of its history Shinto avoided having anything to do with death, and it has never been entirely clear on what, if anything, it thinks happens to you… Read More »New Book: Shinto on Ethics and Death

Some-Kami-Or-Other Jinja

Recently, I’ve been reading a book about Yahiko Jinja, a very important jinja in Niigata Prefecture. (彌彦神社、学生者、2003) I may well write an essay about the jinja for my Patreon, in part because I have already visited it, but in this blog post I just want to talk about one of the massha — subsidiary jinja for kami that do not have a close association with the main kami. This jinja is called “Bō Jinja (某神社)”. “Bō” means “some-or-other”, and is used to refer indefinitely to someone or something. (Strictly speaking,… Read More »Some-Kami-Or-Other Jinja

Avian Fortune-Telling

The February 6th issue of Jinja Shinpō carried a tantalising article about a study group held in Hiroshima Prefecture. This group had several presentations on Shinto ceremonies that involved making offerings to karasu, the corvids native to Japan. (On looking this up, it seems that the term normally refers to two species, one of which is the carrion crow, and the other the jungle crow. The former is found in Europe, the latter is not.) There were two kinds of ceremony reported. The first are conducted at jinja, and involve… Read More »Avian Fortune-Telling

Visiting a Shinto Jinja: Attitude and Etiquette

Jinja Honchō has recently published three new videos on the etiquette for visiting a jinja. They aren’t really three videos, though, because the two short ones are just extracts from the full-length one. I will link to the full one first; it’s about four minutes long. As you can see, it not only has English on-screen captions, but it has an English narration. I did the English adaptation, but Jinja Honchō hired a professional to do the voice-over. She was really good; we had to do one retake because she… Read More »Visiting a Shinto Jinja: Attitude and Etiquette

Sacred Forests as OECMs

The February 6th issue of Jinja Shinpō had another article about OECMs. These are, to recap, areas of land that are not set aside as nature reserves but, because of the way they are used, serve as a significant refuge for biodiversity. The article reported on two meetings: the latest meeting of the government working group, and a meeting at Jinja Honchō. The government meeting discussed the details of the proposed system for registering OECM areas in Japan. The trial period is coming to an end, and the system will… Read More »Sacred Forests as OECMs

The Priest’s Knees

The last new year article I want to write about was in the January 16th issue. The author is the chief priest of a jinja in rural Shimanë Prefecture. He starts by drawing a distinction between two words for a Shinto priest: shinshoku (“kami job”) and kan’nushi (“kami master”). He says that he feels that the second is somewhat higher status, and indicates someone who can properly call and dismiss the kami at prayers, and who works without holidays. A rural kan’nushi adds the ability to play the drum and… Read More »The Priest’s Knees

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