Tag Archives: norito

Celebrating Japanese New Year in the UK

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Kagami-mochi (Japanese New Year decoration) at Japan Centre, London

Shogatsu, or New Year’s Day, is probably the most important day in the Shinto calendar. But celebrating it in the Japanese way in the UK can be rather challenging, partly because there are no Shinto shrines to visit and food and goods associated with Shogatsu are hard to come by, and partly because the British was of celebrating the New Year can be difficult to mix with the Japanese customs. In Japan, New Year’s Day is a time for getting up early and celebrating with the family by eating a large meal and visiting the local shrine. [Read more...]

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October 2015 New Moon Chinkon-gyo

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Last night was the New Moon, and so I held chinkon-gyo meditation in front of my Inari altar for the second time, after deciding to do this every New Moon back in September.

Before meditation, I took a shower. This functioned as a kind of o-misogi purification, although admittedly I didn’t do it with cold water as you’re supposed to do. The days are getting colder, and a warm shower is all I want. Eventually, I hope I can pluck up the courage to drench myself in cold water – perhaps then I’ll truly understand what o-misogi is all about.

Following this, I turned off the lights and lit candles in my Inari altar room. I also put on some traditional Japanese koto music, which has the dual function of putting me in the right frame of mind as well as making me feel less self-conscious about chanting; my husband was in the bedroom not far away and he’d be able to hear me chanting if it wasn’t for the music, which I still feel a bit self-conscious about (silly I know, but…).

My local supermarket is now stocking persimmon, a traditional autumn fruit in Japan, so I bought one to offer to Inari-sama before beginning. I also refreshed the other offerings, something I admittedly don’t do often enough. Although the offerings of water, rice and salt will be fine to leave out for a week, the sake goes mouldy very quickly because the altar gets a lot of light. I really need to be a little more mindful and refresh the offerings more often. I can’t imagine Inari-sama appreciates mouldy sake on His altar…

Finally I performed the furitama, prayers and gestures of the chinkon-gyo as prescribed in Llewellyn Evans’ Shinto Norito book. The main change I made was to substitute one of the longer prayers with the Inari Okami Norito, which naturally seems more appropriate. I feel I am getting better at Norito – I can recite the HI FU MI by heart easily now, and although I have not memorised the Inari Okami Norito, I can read it a lot more fluently than when I first started and I have parts of it memorised.

Once again, this felt more like learning a new skill than a real spiritual experience, but I know that as I get better and more practised at chinkon, the spiritual aspect will come. As some consolation, when I finished and came to join my husband in the bedroom, his mobile phone was randomly playing a track by BABYMETAL – a band whose members are all devotees of Inari Okami. I can only take that as a sign that Inari-sama was listening after all!

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New Moon September 2015

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My Inari altar. The picture behind was painted for me by the art teacher at the school I used to work at in Nagasaki. It’s a view from the school window, which overlooks Mount Inasa (in the centre of the painting). At the foot of this mountain is Fuchi Shrine, which includes an Inari shrine on its grounds.

As mentioned in a recent entry, I have decided to start commemorating the New Moon by offering extra dedications to Inari Okami, and to ask Him and the other kami for help with specific things (as the New Moon is associated with wishing in Japan). And tonight I did so by practising chinkon-gyo meditation for the first time before my altar. Chinkon gyo is a form of Shinto meditation that involves both chants of norito (prayers) and gestures as a form of purification and a way of honouring the kami.

I followed the instructions for chinkon-gyo in Shinto Norito. I have to admit that looking up the instructions (and then looking up the corresponding norito) meant that I could not fully immerse myself in the spirituality of the experience, but it was my first time. I know now from previous experience that the first times you hold a new ritual or say a new prayer, you never quite feel spiritually “in tune” – it takes considerable practise before you are comfortable enough with the ritual in order to let yourself be absorbed by it, rather than focussing on simply getting it right. I therefore felt really pleased to be starting something new, and the New Moon seemed to be the perfect time to do it!

In the period of silent meditation that closes the ritual, I offered my prayers and wishes to Inari Okami. I asked Her to heal and watch over particular members of my family who are suffering health problems, as well as to aid and protect the many, many refugees and migrants who are experiencing such difficult times throughout Europe and the Middle East at the moment. I also asked Him to grant our leaders the wisdom to give appropriate help, and to give me such wisdom too.

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After my prayers to Inari-sama were over, I took the opportunity to offer some incense to my statue of Hypnos, who sits atop a wardrobe in my bedroom to promote peaceful sleep. Both my husband and I have had some troubles sleeping lately, so I asked Hypnos to make us sleep better so we could awaken refreshed the next day. The incense I offered was “Opium” scented, which seems appropriate as the classical deities related to sleep are associated with poppies.

I hope my wishes and prayers will be granted!

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Lammas Moot with Medway Pagans 2015 (My first group ritual!)

Lammas2015 Last night, I had the honour of leading my first ever group ritual for Lammas/Lughnasadh with Medway Pagans. It was such a hugely significant event for me and I’m so glad I did it!

Preparation

As with all rituals, it began with writing it. I’d never written my own group ritual before (my handfasting one was a combination of the one pre-written by Dode with additions from my friend Phoenix Rose), so I felt intimidated the task at first and it took me a long time to actually get down to writing anything! But after reading up on rites for Lammas in my books and online, I got an idea in mind for what to do. I decided to focus on the Golden Bough-esque theme of the Corn Spirit sacrificing himself for our food, and additionally I adapted an old Anglo-Saxon spell in which the Lammas loaf was cut into quarters and each quarter placed at the four corners of a barn to protect the grain. I also incorporated the words from the song “Corn King” by Inkubus Sukkubus and the poem “John Barleycorn” by Robert Burns!

While writing the ritual, it occurred to me that Lammas was a really suitable Sabbat for me to hold my first ever group rite. I was assigned Lammas because it’s perceived as fairly “minor” by several members and it’d therefore be a good one for a beginner, but I actually thought it was perfect for me for several other reasons:

  • It’s the Sabbat closest to my anniversary, which is a very spiritually significant event for me
  • It’s a festival of grain, a key attribute of my patron deity Inari Okami
  • An awful lot of the Lammas concepts, such as the sacredness of bread, and the idea of the God sacrificing himself (and “eating the God” in the form of bread), are shared in Catholicism – and I’m a former Catholic. Indeed, Lammas is one of those Sabbats that is syncretic between Paganism and Christianity.

In fact, once I’d finished writing it, I was struck with how similar so many of the elements of my ritual happened to resemble those of a Catholic mass. One day I shall have to write a post exploring the similarities between Catholicism and Paganism – despite their history of antagonism, there’s a lot they have in common.

I found myself in two minds about whether to begin the ritual with the HI-FU-MI Shinto norito, which is generally what I do at the beginning of my own solo rituals these days. On the one hand, I felt that I wanted to share Shinto with other members…but on the other, the Shinto norito is quite removed from anything in Western Paganism that I thought it might be a little weird, or that people would think I was trying to push Shinto too much. Because I was so undecided about it, I decided to leave it off the ritual script that I printed for participants.

Before leaving for the moot, I did offer norito to Inari-sama at the shrine I’ve now set up for him in the new house (I’ll do a post about this sometime soon). I asked her for guidance and to give me confidence. It also seemed appropriate as I’d included him under the many deities to be invoked at the ritual.

The Ritual

On the day of the moot itself, I was predictably pretty nervous. I had hoped to hold it outside, but the news had forecast rain so rather than take the risk I thought we’d have it inside (actually it turned out to be a very clear night, but never mind!). I had asked everyone to bring something as an offering from the altar, and was overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm and generosity. People brought bread, home-made cakes, biscuits, fruit and flowers, to name but a few. The photo above shows just a small portion of what people brought. It made for a very impressive altar to the Gods and Goddesses!

I’d said on previous occasions that if I ever led a Medway Pagans ritual, I would incorporate a little Shinto somewhere. So people were a little surprised that the altar I’d set up was very traditionally Western Pagan with not much in the way of Japanese things. I took this as an indication that people would be be open to me beginning the ritual with the Shinto norito, so I did!

And I’m really glad I did. Not only was it really well-received, but I think it actually did help to build up the right kind of atmosphere – it certainly helped me to calm my nerves and to feel more in tune with the ritual’s energies, and I hope it made other people feel that way. I do think that norito, when chanted well, really does exert a strange kind of power.

The rest of the ritual went pretty well for my first time – largely thanks to everyone’s support. I’d picked four members to play the roles of North, South, East and West, as they were integral to the Lammas loaf spell, and they were really good at their role. Moreover, Abi Normal (one of the founding members), who has many years’ experience doing this, was really supportive and helped the ritual along by carefully directing people where necessary and reminding me of things I might have forgotten!

After the Lammas ritual, Abi Normal also held a cleansing-charging spell, as the energies of the upcoming Blue Moon made it the perfect occasion for this. In a similar way to our cleansing ritual last year, we purified our crystals, wands, talismans and other tools (I took the opportunity to cleanse my athame) in Earth, Water, Fire, Air (incense) and anointing oils, ready to set out before the Full Moon.

We ended by closing our circle as usual! Everyone was so nice afterwards and gave me some really nice comments on how the ritual went.

After the Ritual

It’s become something of a tradition that when we hold indoor rituals, we take a little of the cakes and ale outside to offer to the trees (there’s some lovely oak trees outside the club). When we went out this time, something amazing happened – we spotted a fox! This is the first time I have ever seen a fox by the club post-ritual and it was incredible – not only are foxes the messengers of my patron Inari-sama, but we had specifically called upon Inari-sama during the ritual. This fox was really bold, and watched us with an unusual intent; he was sat bolt upright on his haunches, rather like a cat. This is in fact the post that many fox statues at Inari shrines take. I took this as a very significant sign that Inari-sama was happy with how the ritual went and was pleased that I had included the norito and mentioned her.

Once we all went indoors, there followed the rather long task of dismantling the altar and tidying up.

Reflections

As I said, I was so, so happy to have led a ritual for the first time. It’s really hard work – holding a ritual, including research, writing, getting materials, setting up the altar, and tidying up, takes hours. But it was so rewarding, I would very gladly do it again. Yes it was nerve-wracking, and it’s certainly much calmer and more relaxed to have someone else take the lead, but I am so proud to have done it. And it certainly made me appreciate the level of dedication and enthusiasm that other people put into their rituals – I realise now that they only made it look easy, when in fact it’s not so easy at all! When the circle closes around you and you’re the centre of attention beside your altar, it’s easy to get stage-fright. It’s also made me realised the importance of a kind, supportive and enthusiastic group – without everyone’s encouragement and guidance, it definitely wouldn’t have been as successful.I have learned a lot from the experience and I can’t wait to do lead my next one!

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The “HI FU MI” Norito – A Shinto prayer for beginners

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The HI FU MI Norito can be found in “Shinto Norito: A Book of Prayers.”

An important part of Shinto worship within the home is the offering of Shinto prayers, or norito, to the kami. But this can be tricky for non-Japanese Shintoists, as norito are, naturally, written in Japanese. Moreover, the norito use rather archaic and poetic Japanese that’s even trickier, and they’re also intoned in a particular rhythmic, sing-song style that can be hard to imitate, even for proficient Japanese speakers. [Read more]

 

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November 2014 Full Moon Esbat

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My November Esbat Altar (still decorated for Samhain)

This month’s Full Moon rite had quite a few firsts for me.

For one thing, I actually had a cleansing bath beforehand. Actually, this was in part due to the fact that I have to get to work earlier tomorrow so I thought and evening bath would make things quicker than a morning one, and partly due to the fact that I have a bit of a chesty cough and cold at the moment so I thought a nice warm bath would help. And it did! I added some tea tree oil to the water both to help my chest and to purify me, which was really nice – tea tree oil has a pure, almost salty smell that’s very good for a ritual cleansing. As both a Shintoist and Pagan, bathing before a ritual is something I very much approve of, but often don’t seem to find the time – perhaps I should make more of an effort.

For another I decided to perform my Full Moon ritual indoors for the first time. As I’ve got a bit of a cold at the moment and as the weather’s turned very cold and wet, I thought this would be the most sensible.

Actually, performing the ritual indoors, at my new altar, turned out to be more spiritually fulfilling than I imagined. I created a sacred space with my besom and by intoning a Shinto purification prayer, and filled the ritual area with candles – including a big round candle on my altar to represent the Moon. Unlike performing the ritual outdoors, doing it indoors proved to be a lot more comfortable – both in terms of being out of the cold and being in a private place where nothing could interrupt me. Additionally, I could see the Moon right outside the window – often I can’t see it when I perform the ritual outdoors! The disadvantage is, of course, that indoors you do not feel so much in touch with nature, and I missed the presence of my Inari shrine.

As for the ritual itself, it was very similar to the one I performed for the October Full Moon. I still feel that Samhain is currently reigning the Wheel of the Year, and so I once more honoured Hecate in my rite. It’s coming up to the 100 year anniversary of the First World War, so it felt once again like an appropriate time to pray to Luna for peace for both the living and the dead. And finally, my sister still hasn’t given birth although she is due any day now, so once again I prayed to Diana for the safety and health of her and her child.

After my dedications to the lunar aspects of the Great Goddess, I attempted to scry with my newly-consecrated DIY scrying mirror. This was actually quite an eerie experience; I sat down and placed the mirror in front of me, with a single candle in the middle. The mirror is so dark that the prospect of seeing an apparition is rather scary! Perhaps that is why I didn’t seem to see anything concrete, although I did get the distinct feeling that the mirror was somehow showing a “gateway” to somewhere. For some reason, I don’t find scrying using crystals or water quite as eerie, but I think I’d still like to try again.

After scrying, I said a prayer to Inari Okami from my book of Shinto Norito – now my colleague has given me a charm from Fushimi Inari Shrine that I have on my indoor altar, I still a connection to Inari-sama even from my indoor altar. I then had a simple feast and closed the quarters.

I did quite enjoy doing the ritual indoors for a change, and I suspect I’ll do the same thing until the weather gets warmer. I do miss being with the foxes outside though…

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