Tag Archives: moon

Moon Gazing At Tsukimi: Japan’s Autumn Festival

tsukimi

It is a beautiful autumn evening. As the cool breeze sweeps over rivers and mountains, a woman creates an altar outdoors in honour of the Full Moon. Offerings of autumn’s bounty – chestnuts, pumpkin, wine, potatoes, and home-made sweets – are carefully stacked upon a raised platform, and beside it is placed a vase of autumn greenery. The woman gazes at the Moon, drinking in its beauty and its mysterious power, and she may even be inspired to write poetry about the scene. Once her contemplation of the Moon is over, she and her family eat the offerings together, thankful for the gifts that Nature provides.

This may sound like a typical Full Moon ritual performed by Neopagans all over the world. But this isn’t a Neopagan ritual. This is a ritual for Tsukimi – Japan’s annual Moon Gazing Festival. [Read more…]

Leave a comment

Filed under Shinto / Japanese Religion

September 2015 Full Moon Esbat (O-tsukimi, Blood Supermoon Eclipse)

tsukimi4

Last night was a particularly special Esbat. It was the Japanese Moon Viewing festival of O-tsukimi, a “Super Moon,” and a “Blood Moon” eclipse. On top of this, it was the first Full Moon ritual I have performed at my new house.

In preparation for o-tsukimi, I had collected grasses from our garden (we have a garden now!) to display on my Inari altar. I also changed the altar cloth to one depicting a traditional o-tsukimi design of rabbits making mochi (that is what the Japanese believe they can see in the patterns on the moon’s surface).

I couldn’t have wished for better weather for an outdoors ritual – it was a mild, dry, still evening and the sky was very clear. The supermoon shone almost dazzlingly bright. I performed the ritual on the deck in front of my lawn, and it became clear to me that my garden is in many ways much better than the courtyard in our old flat. It’s much quieter, and the moon was directly overhead, which never happened during my rituals in the old place. The only disadvantages are that it’s a little more exposed (several other houses directly overlook the garden and we also have neighbouring gardens to consider) meaning that I’m more likely to be seen by the neighbours, and I no longer get to see the foxes who lived by our old flat. But I did see a bat flutter overhead!

tsukimi3

We don’t yet have any garden furniture, so I used a rolled mat on the floor instead which actually worked quite well. I started the ritual by chanting the names of Goddesses of the Moon (Artemis, Ceridwen, Diana, Hecate, Luna, Melinoe, Phoebe, Selene) and, because the Japanese kami of the Moon is male and O-tsukimi is a Japanese festival, Gods of the Moon (Aphroditus, Khonsu, Thoth, Tsukuyomi). I offered a mochi rice cake, which seemed appropriate because mochi look rather moon-like as well as their association with the moon-rabbits, and sake, which is a traditional o-tsukimi offering. I asked for the Moon deities to give healing to my relatives who need it, and since the Blood Moon is associated with conflict, prayed for peace. I spent a few moments meditating in the moonlight before partaking in the simple feast of half the mochi and a sip of sake.

I went inside and said prayers at my Inari altar, making an offering of the other half of the mochi. I was delighted to see that the moon was shining through the window.

I did stay up until gone 1am to try and catch a sight of the Blood Moon eclipse, but there wasn’t really much to see so early. I would’ve done better to have woken up at 3 to see it at its height! But to be honest, I was just happy to see the supermoon shining in her full glory.

1 Comment

Filed under Rituals & Festivals, Shinto / Japanese Religion

The Full Moon and New Moon in Japan

nozomuOne day at work, I happened to be checking alternative readings for the kanji character 望. This fairly common character, which students of Japanese language will come across at about intermediate level, is usually read “nozomi” or “bou,” and is usually translated as “wish” or “aspiration.” But then I discovered that it also means “Full Moon.”

I was really surprised that this kanji could have two such different and beautiful meanings. I asked my Japanese colleague about it, and she confirmed that it is a fairly common way to signify the Full Moon (the even more common way to write “full moon” in Japanese is 満月, pronounced “mangetsu”). She even pointed out a Japanese calendar hanging up behind her desk, in which all the days of the Full Moon were marked with 望.

So I asked her, seeing as 望 also means “wish,” do Japanese people make wishes at the Full Moon?

Her answer really surprised me. She told me that actually, the best time to make wishes is at the New Moon. This is because the night is so still and the sky so clear that your wishes are more likely to reach the heavens at the New Moon than at the Full Moon.

I’d never heard of this before. While I try to make an occasion of the Full Moon (I try to hold a solo ritual for the Esbats), I do nothing to commemorate the New Moon. But now I’ve heard that the Japanese associated the New Moon with making wishes, I’ve now decided to use the New Moon to make extra prayers and offerings to Inari Okami and the other Shinto kami. So the Full Moon will be the time I devote most to the Western Pagan deities, and the New Moon will be for the Shinto ones.

The next New Moon will be on Sunday. I’ll see how my plan goes!

(Incidentally, the character for “New Moon” is 朔, pronounced “saku.” It’s made up of the characters meaning “moon” 月 and “inverse” 屰. I really like the idea of the New Moon being an “inverted” moon!”)

3 Comments

Filed under Shinto / Japanese Religion

The Divine Masculine and Feminine in Shinto

Izanami Izanagi2

Izanami and Izanagi, Shinto’s divine creator deities

The common Pagan/Wiccan belief in the Divine Masculine and Feminine (or Great God and Great Goddess) is shared in many other faiths, and Shinto is no exception, having quite a few masculine/feminine parings in its pantheon. Shinto probably owes much of this to Chinese folk religion, in which the concept of Yin and Yang stresses the balance between Masculine and Feminine. Whenever I invoke the Great God and Goddess, I remember that I am also invoking those Masculine/Feminine deities in Shinto, and vice versa. Here’s a few of the divine Masculine/Feminine pairings that can be found in Shinto and related Japanese folk beliefs

Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto – Two of the most important deities in Shinto, Izanagi and Izanami are the divine creators, responsible for the birth of the other kami (gods and goddesses). Their story is very similar to that of Orpheus and Eurydice – after dying in childbirth, Izanami decends into the underworld and Izanagi tries to follow her. Izanami warns Izanagi not to look upon her, but he betrays her and lights a fire to see her, and shrinks back in horror to find her rotten and decaying. In rage, Izanami chases Izanagi from the Underworld. Another account tells us that Izanami eats from the food of the Underworld which binds her there forever – much like the myth of Hades and Persephone.

amaterasu Amaterasu Omikami and Tsukuyomi no Mikoto – Like many religions, Shinto recognises the Sun and Moon as a divine Masculine/Feminine pair. But unlike many religions, the Japanese see the Sun as the feminine (the goddess Amaterasu Omikami) and the Moon as the masculine (the god Tsukuyomi no Mikoto). Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi were said to be born from the eyes of Izanagi upon washing them after his journey to the Underworld. It is fairly unusual that in this pairing, Amaterasu is most definitely the dominant force. She is often considered the most important deity in the Shinto pantheon, while Tsukuyomi holds a fairly minor role – little is known about him.

joutoubaJou and Uba – A legendary old couple who have become dosojin – wayside guardian spirits. A little more positive than Izanagi and Izanami’s relationship, they represent harmony and love in marriage. The characters of the Old Man and Old Woman are very important in Japanese folklore – a large proportion of mukashi-banashi (Japanese fairy tales) begin with the words, “Once upon a time in a certain place, there lived an old man and an old woman.” [Picture: By Yanajin33 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

OrihimeHikoboshiOrihime and Hikoboshi – Originally from Chinese mythology, Orihime is the “Weaver Princess” identified with the star Vega, and Hikoboshi is the “Cowherd Star” identified with Altair. During the Tanabata festival in Japan, the two are said to meet across the Milky Way – you can read more about this festival here. [Picture: “Yoshitoshi – 100 Aspects of the Moon – 40-2” by 月岡芳年 – http://www.ukiyoart.com/img/YoshitoshiShogokuKengyoiFullSize.html. Licensed under パブリック・ドメイン via ウィキメディア・コモンズ]

CraneTurtleTsuru and Kame – Tsuru means “crane,” and kame means “turtle.” Again of Chinese origin, cranes and turtles paired together represent longevity. In Japan, the famous mukashi-banashi tells of the legend Urashima Taro, who turns into a crane after falling in love with the sea goddess Otohime in the form of a turtle. So again, the two can represent the divine masculine/feminine union.

ObinaMebinaObina and Mebina – At Hina Matsuri, Japanese households display dolls representing an Emperor and Empress, called Obina and Mebina. Although not regarded as deities, there is still a sacredness attached to these dolls, and again they can be seen as representing a divine masculine/feminine pair. [Photo: “HinaDolls-Emperor-Empress-topplatform2011” by Nesnad – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

inari3Inari Okami – Although usually regarded as a single deity, Inari Okami nevertheless represents a union between the divine masculine and feminine for me. Inari-sama is depicted equally as male and female, and his temples are always guarded by a pair of fox statues – one male, one female.

3 Comments

Filed under Shinto / Japanese Religion