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Unformatted text preview: and celebration: it is an occasion for entertainment and pleasure, Fig. 4 Wooden statue of a Shinto deity, 12th–13th century (Honolulu
Academy of Arts, Gift of Robert Allerton, 1964 [3311.1]) The Emergence of Japanese Civilization 11 and the young men, often well fortified with sake, take their honored
guest on an exhilarating ride, shouting and careening along.
Although most kami are benign, if not beneficent, there are also
malevolent deities and spirits (tatarigami) that must be carefully handled
and, when necessary, propitiated. The amalgam of folk beliefs about
malevolent spirits, however, cannot be ascribed solely to the native religion of Shinto. Such beliefs were also introduced in early times from the
continent, perhaps most conspicuously with shamanism. We have already
noted that the third-century Queen Himiko was probably a shaman or
mediator with the gods. But there are also shamans of a more mundane
type who have been used throughout Japanese history to deal with malevolent spirits. Such a shaman, most often a woman, typically enters into
an ecstatic state—called “kami possession” (kamigakari)—and allows an
evil spirit to enter her body, where it can be induced to reveal why it is
causing trouble and what can be done to appease it. Shamans of this
sort have appeared frequently in the historical records and in literature,
and in recent times certain of them have even become the founders of
new religious sects through the revelations they have made while in
states of kami possession.
Although Shinto may be said to lack a code of personal ethics, it has
always been associated with an idea, makoto or sincerity, that has been
probably the most important guide to behavior in Japanese history. The
three great systems of religion and belief in premodern Japan were
Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Whereas Buddhism and Confucianism were imports from China (from about the mid-sixth century),
Shinto was, of course, native. In later centuries, people tended to categorize these systems by observing, rather simplistically, that Buddhism
was “other-worldly” or “metaphysical,” Confucianism “rational,” and
Shinto “emotional.” Scholars of the...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13