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Unformatted text preview: ls a process whereby, in the face of personal affliction or
natural calamity, the deity believed to be responsible is invited to enter
the body of a medium, usually a girl or woman. Once the deity possesses
her, the medium enters into an ecstatic, sometimes frenzied state and a
voice, clearly not her own, speaks forth to indicate what must be done to
placate the aroused deity.
An excellent example of a modern shaman of this sort is Nakayama
Miki (1798–1887), founder of Tenrikyò, one of the earliest and most
successful of the new religions. A woman of peasant origins (as so many
of the founders have been), Nakayama underwent much suffering and
experienced personal tragedy in her early life: the famines of the late
Tokugawa period, an unhappy marriage, illness and death of her children. Then, in 1838, while serving as the medium for ministration to the
leg pains of one of her sons, she was seized by a deity who proclaimed
through her mouth that he was “the true and the original god who has
descended from Heaven to save all mankind.”42 The deity demanded that
Nakayama’s body thenceforth be made available to him.
In addition to becoming the instrument for transmission of divine
revelations by the “true and original god,” Nakayama developed extraordinary powers to heal, and thus entered the tradition of faith healing
that has been a powerful and recurrent feature of Japanese folk religion
Faith healing, as stressed in Tenrikyò and other new religions, is simply
one of a number of concrete promises of personal happiness, material
furfillment, and even entry into an earthly paradise that constitute the
millenarian aspect of those religions. It is also in this millenarianism that
the new religions, otherwise so much within the mainstream of the little
tradition of folk religion in Japan, reveal themselves to be products of the
modern age. Earlier utopian thinking in Japan about life in this world
focused almost invariably on the recapturing or restoration of a golden
age, and thus implicitly rejected existing conditions.43 But the new religions not only do not reject the modern world, they boast that their followers...
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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