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O-shogatsu 2015


Our daruma dolls with one eye filled in for our New Year’s wishes/resolutions

明けましておめでとうございます!Akemashite Omedeto gozaimasu – Happy New Year, the Year of the Sheep!

New Year’s Day, or O-shogatsu as it’s known in Japan, is the most important festival in the Shinto calendar; a time for celebrating renewal (you can read more about what happens at Japanese New Year here). This is my first time to celebrate New Year’s Day as a practising Shintoist, and living in Britain I have of course had to adapt it to fit in with British traditions surrounding New Year.

On New Year’s Eve, I did the less “fun” aspect of Shinto – cleaning. Cleanliness is one of the most important values within Shinto, and traditionally the house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day to get rid of old impurities. I’m not really a stickler for tidiness so I’ve never found this aspect of Shinto very easy! But I gave the house a quick tidy and a hoover, and cleaned my outdoors Inari altar, including the statues and offering dishes.


My homemade gohei

I also made a primative gohei – one of the many kinds of Japanese “wand” used into Shinto mainly for purification. A gohei is basically a stick with two shide attached to it. Usually they are made with especially carved and polished sticks, but I used my old wand (before I made the new one from a Japanese camphor chopstick) instead.

In Japan, one would traditionally go to a temple on New Year’s Eve to hear the bell ring 108 times to banish the 108 human desires, but this isn’t really an option in Kent. Instead, I did the usual New Year’s Eve celebration of visiting family and friends to drink and to see in the New Year. It was a lot of fun – we ate with my parents, went to a friend’s house gathering, and finally met up with other friends at the pub before returning to my parents’ house to stay the night. It was similar to the old tradition of “first-footing,” which still crops up around the north of Britain.

On the morning of New Year’s Day itself, we started off with a bit of a Japanese tradition – drinking some hot sake that I had brought! I was glad to be able to do something a little Shinto-related with my family on this important Shinto day.

When we all got home, I waved the gohei over the outside Inari altar while intoning a Shinto prayer of purification, and then made new offerings (including a celementine, chestnuts and leftover Christmas cookie) at the shrine, in addition to burning some Japanese cedarwood incense. I made my own silent prayers to Inari-sama thanking her for all her blessings on me and my family this year, as well as for inspiring me to follow the Shinto path in the first place. With my eyes closed, the evening wind blowing the scent of incense towards me, and roosting crows calling, it did feel a little like being at a small Japanese shrine. I finally said a special prayer to Inari-sama from my Shinto Norito book.


My New Year offerings to Inari-sama

When I’d finished this, my husband and I filled in one eye of our daruma dolls to make our New Year’s Resolutions. His resolution is to eat more healthily; mine is to try and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. I hope the kami will help us to keep our resolutions!


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Filed under Rituals & Festivals, Shinto / Japanese Religion

The Athame Debates

There’s a range of daggers suitable for use as athames at my Dad’s shop: http://www.spiral.org.uk/acatalog/Daggers.html  

Out of all the numerous tools that Wiccans may use in their rituals, the athame seems to be one of the most important – and the most controversial. Below I’ve listed my thoughts on two unresolved issues regarding the use of the athame. Of course, these are just my own personal opinions and I wouldn’t for one second say that my way is the “right” way – I just wanted to share what I think about it! [Read more]

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My new indoor altar


After a lot of thought about the benefits of having an indoor altar as well as my outdoor Inari altar, I finally decided to set one up in our living room. And here it is! It’s on the top shelf of our large wall-shelves (surrounded by DVDs!). The “permanent” features include:

  •  My re-painted Hina Matsuri dolls as representatives of the God and Goddess at the centre, on a large shelf mirror (mimicking the Shinto tradition of the sacred mirror), with my pentagram tied with handfasting cords above.
  • My collection of Pagan and folklore-related  books on the left side, and Shinto/Japanese spiritual books on the right
  • My book of shadows
  • Two tea-light holders
  • A pentacle dish (that’s also an incense stick holder) with a crystal ball on top, representing Earth.
  • A lovely chalice I found at a charity shop (that I haven’t consecrated yet) representing Water
  • My athame, representing Fire
  • My wand, representing Air
  • A bell, for summoning the spirits and snuffing candles

The skulls, tombstone angel statue, and Fukurokuju wood carving are just there for Samhain, representing Death and old age.

I’m quite pleased with the result! I look forward to using it in rituals and improving it over time.

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August Full Moon Esbat (Supermoon)

My new wand, which I consecrated during the ritual

My new wand, which I consecrated during the ritual

Sunday 10th August was the Full Moon, and was special for two reasons. One is that it was a Supermoon, so the moon looked even bigger and brighter than usual. Another was that it has been 1 lunar month since our wedding and handfasting, which were conducted on the last Full Moon!

I had been slobbing around the house all day in scruffy jeans and T-shirt, so to get into the mood for the ritual and to show my respect for the Great Goddess, I changed into a black velvet mini-dress and black skirt.The instant I put these on, I felt so much more in the right frame of mind for the ritual – it’s amazing what changing clothes can do! This was the first time I changed for the purpose of ritual, but knowing its effect, I will now try to change into something suitable for each ritual I perform.

Today has been a very stormy, windy day, and I could see the effects on our courtyard when I went outside to perform the ritual – much of my little shrine to Inari had been blown down, including the shimenawa rope and the two vases I use to offer plants (one had smashed, sadly). Although the most important parts of the shrine (the fox statues and offering vessels) had not been damaged, it stressed to me how much better it would be to re-home the shrine somewhere a little more sheltered (like a proper hokora with a roof, for example).

Although the rain had fortunately passed, it was still very windy so the only candle I used was a lantern (which was what one of our friends had got us for our wedding as part of a handfasting basket, so it was appropriate enough!) Moreover, the strong winds through the trees, and the faint scent of fallen rain, made for an atmospheric ritual.

What’s more, the Moon was indeed extremely impressive – I could see it from my courtyard, for once, and it rose very quickly – it appeared to be rising over the trees as I watched, which was very magical indeed. I really thought I could feel the moon’s power more strongly than I ever have done during an Esbat.

I took the opportunity to give thanks to Juno, Goddess of Marriage, who I evoked on the Esbat before my wedding to ask for her blessings. I also thanked the seven deities whom we called upon to bless our union (Diana, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Apollo) during our handfasting for making our wedding. Since I’d spent much of the day writing thank you letters to our guests, it really was a day and night of thanksgiving! I also offered some of the remaining mead we had as an offering to the deities, and incorporated my pentagram strung with our handfasting cords as an altar piece.

I also took the opportunity to consecrate some tools. First was a new wand I’d recently made. This wand is actually made from a chopstick that was part of a set a colleague had given me when I was in Japan – it’s made from very special wood from the Yakushima forest, a very spiritual place. It seemed too special to eat with, so making it into a wand instead seemed perfect. I wrapped it with a piece of green leather cord I had taken during our arts & crafts session of the May Moot with Medway Pagans, as well as some leaves and paper roses from a floral headdress of mine which had snapped, and together they make a lovely, fae-looking wand. It’s much smaller than my previous wand (which I made from a piece of sycamore sapling that was growing as a weed in the courtyard) and is a little more handy to carry around, but I’m sure I’ll find use for the former wand too.

I also consecrated two items that I’d never intended to ritualise, but which I have been using for so long since becoming Pagan that it seemed right to do so. One was my Book of Shadows. This is really just a cheap notebook from Wilko with a black cover decorated with a white skull; I really just meant to use it as a notebook and copy the rituals into a “proper” Book of Shadows later, but I’ve just been using it on its own for so long its become a Book of Shadows in its own right.

The second item was my robe. It’s a very simple dressing-gown style robe, made of thin black velvet with a fake-fur collar, that I’ve had since my days as a university student – I bought it very cheaply from a charity shop! Again, I never meant for it to become my ritual robe, but I’ve worn it so often for rituals (it keeps me warm and definitely looks the part) that it seems right to consecrate it properly.

As the nights grow darker and colder, I realise that it might be difficult to keep on holding the Full Moon Esbats outdoors. But I’m going to keep trying for as long as I can, and I really think ritual is full of so much more energy when we are surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of Nature.


Filed under Rituals & Festivals