The Way of the Kami
Shinto Then & Now
 
Shinto Prayer
Norito for the Festival of the Sixth Month
This prayer was offered in the sixth month by a priest of the Nakatomi clan to pray for the well-being of the emperor and imperial house. It is similar to one offered at Ise for the success of the grain-growing season. Although much of it is addressed to the Sovereign Deities in general, the following excerpts focus on a prayer to Amaterasu on behalf of the reigning emperor, spoken of here as the Sovereign Grandchild.
 
Hear me, all of you assembled priests (kamu-nusi) and exorcists (hafuri). Thus I speak.
 
I humbly speak before you,
   The Sovereign Deities whose praises are fulfilled as
      Heavenly Shrines and Earthly Shrines
   By the command of the Sovereign Ancestral Gods and Goddesses
      Who divinely remain in the High Heavenly Plain ...
 
I humbly speak with special words in the solemn presence
   Of the deity Ama-terasu-oho-mi-kami,
      Who dwells at Ise:
The lands of the four quarters, upon which you gaze out,
   As far as the heavens stand as partitions,
   As far as the land extends in the distance,
   As far as the bluish clouds trail across the sky,
   As far as the white clouds hang down on the horizon ...
 
The narrow land is made wide,
   The steep land is made level;
And you entrust the distant lands [to the Sovereign Grandchild]
   As if casting myriad ropes about them and drawing them hither.
[If you vouchsafe to do all this], then in your presence
   The first fruits of the tribute will be piled up
   Like a mountain range,
   And of the rest [the Sovereign Grandchild] will partake tranquilly.
Also because you bless the reign of the Sovereign Grandchild. ... (SJT, 31-2)


Purification Rituals
The Great Exorcism of the Last Day of the Sixth Month
This norito is of special interest because it details the sins to be exorcised, some of them in the nature of moral faults but others simply baneful occurrences — misfortuntes or things that have just gone wrong and need to be remedied. Notice again that the gods act in concert; also notice the means of purification that they use: washing away, blowing away, and ‘losing’ them (keeping away).
 
By the command of the Sovereign Ancestral Gods and Goddesses,
   Who divinely remain in the High Heavenly Plain,
The eight myriad deities were convoked in a divine consultation, 
  Consulted in a divine consultation,
   And spoke these words of entrusting:
      “Our sovereign Grandchild is to rule
      “The Land of the Plentiful Reed Plains of the Fresh Ears of Grain
      “Tranquilly as a peaceful land.”
Having entrusted the land,
   They inquired with a divine inquirey
   Of the unruly deities in the land,
   And expelled them with a divine expulsion ...
 
The various sins perpetrated and committed
   By the heavenly ever-increasing people to come into existence.
   In this land which he is to rule tranquilly as a peaceful land.
First the heavenly sins:
   Breaking down the ridges,
   Covering up the ditches,
   Releasing the irrigation ditches,
   Double Planting,
Setting up stakes.
   Skinning alive, skinning backwards,
   Defecation —
   Many sins [such as these] are distinguished and called the heavenly sins.
The earthly sins:
   Cutting living flesh, cutting dead flesh,
   White leprosy, skin excrescences,
   The sin of violating one’s own mother,
   The sinf of violating one’s own child,
   The sin of violating a mother and her child.
   The sin of transgression with animals.
   Woes from creeping insects,
   Woes from the birds on high,
   Killing animals, the sin of witchcraft —
   Many sins [such as these] shall appear.
 
When they thus appear,
By the heavenly shrine usage ....
   Pronounce the heavenly ritual, the solemn ritual words.
When he thus pronounces them ... the heavenly deities
   Will hear and receive [these words].
 
When they thus hear and receive,
Then, beginning with the court of the Sovereign Grandchild,
   In the lands of the four quarteres under the heavens,
Each and every sin will be gone.
As the gusty wind blows apart the myriad layers of heavenly clouds ...
They will be taken into the great ocean ...
They will be swallowed with a gulp ...
When she thus loses them, ...
   Each and every sin will be gone.
(SJT, 31-2)

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