Over the weekend I celebrated my 30th birthday. This milestone has become a rather ambiguous one in Britain; although it symbolises reaching a certain level of maturity, and therefore status, many young people dread this birthday as it also represents the closure of youth and the approach of middle age and all those things that come with it – weight gain, failing health, lower energy levels and so on. People who are turning 30 may also feel like they have somehow failed if they haven’t reached other milestones by this age, such as getting married, owning a house or progressing in their career. And for women, turning 30 is a big reminder of the tick of the biological clock. It’s no wonder so many people have mixed feelings about this birthday!
But really, it should be treated as a celebration. Not everyone is privileged enough to reach this age. And attaining maturity is a good thing – it means you are wiser and more experienced, and probably more knowing of yourself than you were in your twenties. If only we could get Western culture to celebrate maturity again! Aware that I should be feeling grateful for the 30 wonderful years of my life I’ve been blessed with, I made a prayer and an offering of mochi (rice cake) to Inari Okami to thank her for my life.
This year’s birthday however was tinged with a different sort of sadness. The day before my birthday, our family dog had to be put down. He was 15 years old and had a lot of health problems (arthritis, digestive problems, neurological problems, you name it) and after months of different treatments and very strong painkillers, my parents and the vets mutually agreed that the kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep.
It’s very poignant that at the same time I was celebrating a milestone in my life, a member of my family had come to the end of his.
I made a prayer to Inari-sama for my dog as well. Some Shintoists hold that because foxes and dogs are natural enemies, Inari-sama finds dogs offensive, but I see both foxes and dogs as members of the canine family, and therefore brothers. It therefore seemed natural for me to ask for Inari-sama’s blessings on my dog and to guide him safely to wherever he is destined to be now. I also wanted to express my gratitude as well, for the years of joy and love that our dog had brought us, and for easing his passing into the next world.
Next Full Moon, I think it would be appropriate to make offerings to some of the other deities associated with dogs – such as Anubis or Diana – in honour of my dog.