FOLK RELIGION DOCUMENT GROUP 3 Reyna Burruel (Editor) Siera Knight Tim Salomon Nona Patrick
Folk religion can be difficult to define because of its adaptive nature to mix in with other religions and to assimilate into cultural norms. The four articles within this document relate collectively about the concerns and motivations for individuals to want to participate in a folk religion. The different practitioners within these folk religions contribute aspects that reveal qualitative information about how people behave, think, and live within their environment. Folk religion is able to enrich the individual by providing a spiritual renewal, a feeling of belonging, and the ability to contribute to the community with a unique skill. The culture within Japan itself is a homogenous society that promotes conformity. Folk religion can contort to fit in within a Japanese community by offering an acceptable way to develop a meaningful relationship with the environment, the community, the spirits, and with the ancestral spirits. The social connections between the individual, the environment, and the spirits cannot be scientifically measured. However, the use of documentation in empirical observation can offer insights and understanding about the importance folk religion exhibit in daily Japanese life. A person's ideology forms from their family, neighbors, gender, economics, politics, personal experience, occupation, and religion to flesh out their identity within the social context of society. People within Japan are able to express their identity and cultural beliefs through Folk Religion by engaging in behaviors like Shugendo, shamans, paying reverence to a mountain god/spirit, and Zen archery to reinforce an ideological understanding of spirituality within the material world.
[Nona Patrick] Hitoshi, M. "Religious Rituals in Shugendo." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 16.2-3 (1989):101-116. In this article Hitoshi focuses on the religion of Shugendo in three aspects. The practice of Shugendo, rituals of the Shugenja (Shugendo practitioners) and world view is in accordance to Shugendo's ideology. The author's method for research is a combination of document examination and analyzing ‘on-the-spot’ religious rituals. Hitoshi describes Shugendo as the belief that there are two realms of existence. The first is the supernatural spiritual realm in which deities and spirits are in control of the daily lives of humans. The second realm is where humans exist. There are three types of entities in the supernatural realm. The various types of Buddhas, Kami (guardian deities, tutelary deities, etc) and evil spirits. Shugendo teaches that all things have the same nature as the divine. Thus, manipulation of the universe can happen from either realm equally. According to Hitoshi, mountains are a sacred space that is apart of both realms. Hitoshi explains that a Shugenja first enters the mountains to achieve recognition from Fudō Myōō, the destroyer of delusion and the protector of Buddhism, in order to gain the ability to control Fudō Myōō’s spiritual powers. Once the Shugenja achieves identification from Fudō Myōō, he is able to manipulate deities from the human realm. Esoteric Buddhism influences the Shugendo movement. Historically, Shugenjas traveled through the mountains and plains of Japan during the medieval period and eventually settled down in local communities. Hitoshi states that Shugenjas are suppose to respond to the needs of common people like disease, daily life problems, and religious services. Shugendo intention with rituals is to make contact with a deity and gain their ability to control the power of the universe. Those powers are for the benefit of the Shugenja’s followers by maintaining communication with deities and averting bad happenings via manipulation of the supernatural spiritual realm. The rituals include: practices in the mountains (nyubū shugyō), consecration ceremonies (shōkanjō), demonstration of magicospiritual powers (genjutsu), commemoration rites (kuyōhō), participation in matsurei for the kami and small shrines (hi-tsuki-hoshi no matsuri, shōshi no matsuri), fortunetelling and divination (bokusen), art of obtaining oracles through mediums (fujutsu), prayers of possession (yori kitō), fire ceremonies for averting misfortunes (sokusai goma), rituals centered on varies deities (shosonbō), incantation (kaji), exorcism (tsukimono otoshi), spells (fuju) and charms (majinai). In conclusion Hitoshi describes Shugendo's ideology through identification, manipulation, and exorcism. Shugendo's identification comes from Fudō Myōō in a mountain. The manipulation comes from the use of Fudō Myōō’s powers to contact deities which makes the exorcism of evil spirits possible by a Shugenja in the human realm. The article is concise with a thorough description of the religious beliefs and purpose for each ritual.
[Siera Knight] Kunimitsu, Kawmura. "A Female Shaman's Mind and Body, and Possession." Asian Folklore Studies 62.2 (2003): 257-289. In this article Kunimitsu focuses on Yanagita’s conclusion that there exist three types of female shamans (fujo). The categories divide into the shrine shamans, the kuchiyose, and the kami uba. The shrine shamans dress in white kimonos and red hakamas. They dance while holding round bells and take part in Yudate (tea ceremony) rituals. The kuchiyose shamans are considered to be professional in calling on the spirits of the dead and the living. Kuchiyose shamans allow the spirits to speak by going through a physical possession. They undergo a traditional ascetic training. The kami uba rely on omens, spiritual powers, and divine possession. They are given honor and leadership during religious activities because of an ancient belief that women are able to communicate with deities. According to the author the Yanagita reveals a woman’s physiological disposition and emotional character as the standard for being a shaman. The author creates two categorizes for female shamans. The first is blind (partial sight or fully blind). These female shamans are called Ogamisama. The women once had the classification of “mekura” (dark eyes) a low status in Japanese society because of the inability to work like other women. However, by becoming an Ogamisama, they are able to work, and receive an honorable status. When a mekura girl is around ten years old she can become an apprentice for a master ogamisama. It is important for the girl not to enter womanhood because of the need for purity. The young girl must go through an initiation ritual called the Kami Tsuke. This process can last for one hundred days. The process consists of repeating sutras, the rituals, fasting (giving up salt, fire, and cereal), being isolated, and submerging herself in coldwater three times a day. On the day of the graduation ceremony the young girl becomes possessed by a kami (spirit). The kami reveals its name and the girl loses consciousness. Her spontaneous and autonomous movements are visible proof to the witnesses that she is going through a possession. The second is sighted female shamans. They are called Kamisama. They are usually at least twenty years of age and have some form of personal crisis or illness prompting them to become a shaman. In Japan, many patients rely on physicians who practice modern Western medicine. If a woman does not feel like her health is improving. The woman may visit a religious practitioner and want to become a shaman herself. Her devotion allows her to neglect her gender role expectations in society. These actions may cause the community and her family to look down causing her to be ostracized.
In conclusion the possession by a kami will have people consider her insane. She must influence the community that the kami is good to be accepted as a kamisama. The proof is in healing or finding lost items. If people believe her kami to be evil, she cannot become a kamisama. She will be sent to an ogamisama to undergo an exorcism.
[Reyna Burruel] Schnell, Scott. "Are Mountain Gods Vindictive? Competing images of the Japanese Alpine Landscape." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13.4 (2007): 863-880. In this article Scott Schnell focuses on Walter Weston's firsthand accounts of two communities living in the Nagano prefecture border sharing a mountain god/spirit. The empirical observational evidence is from 1896. The two communities exhibit oppositional attitudes and behaviors toward the same mountain. The Gamada and the Nakao both share the belief that the mountain is a scared place and that ancestral spirits are living there. The Gamada village was established as an agricultural community that was prospering. They viewed the mountain god/spirit as a male gender kami that was capable of great anger. The community saw the spirit as something to be feared and given reverence. The Gamada village believed in leaving the kami alone except during the spring because that's when the kani was needed for planting. The Nakao settlement was primarily a hunting/gathering community that viewed the mountain god/spirit as a female gender kami that nurtured and helped the whole community. The community believed that respect and homage should be paid routinely. They guided Weston to the top of the mountain. According to the author, the twist to the story is that the mountain climb reinforced each community's ideology of the mountain god/spirit. The Nakao people believed the kami was kind. They are now the prosperous mountain town. The Gamada believed climbing up the mountain would anger their kami and the kami would punish the village. The Gamada people made a direct relationship between a muddy rock slide destroying the village with Weston's mountain climb; even though the timing was over twenty years later. Schnell brings up the stigma of superstition which can be a negative label on a group of people. The author wrote that "superstition derives not from ignorance so much as fear of losing one's possessions" (876). In conclusion the author cites directly from Weston's observational accounts of the two communities as an impartial third party in order to focus the article toward identifying the social importance of the kami. The article's propose is to illustrate a connection between different groups of people in the same region. The article demonstrates the different relationships possible with the same kami. Social relations to the environment and how
occupation and possessions can influence the type of social relationship a community forms with the kami. Folk religion provides a way for small communities to comprehend the world, explain events, and form a united governance over a community.
[Tim Salomon] Yamada, Shoji. "The myth of Zen and in the Art of Archery." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 28.1-2 (2001): In this article Shoji Yamada attempts to critically assess the modern day perceptions of Zen and its role in Archery. Yamada centers his argument on the book, Zen in the Art of Archery, written by Eugene Herrigel. Yamada proceeds to build his argument by providing a brief history of archery and its development in Japan as well as a synopsis of the main characters lives Eugene Herrigel the author, and his archery teacher Awa Kenzo. Yamada explains that there are virtually no religious ties to archery prior to the writing of Herrigel's book. In fact the only tie Archery had to Buddhism is that one of the styles, Heki-ryรฐ Chikurin, of archery was founded by a Shingon Buddhist priest. After giving a historical perspective, Yamada establishes a line of argument that discredits any connection between archery and Zen by characterizing Kenzo as a man that has misinterpreted archery instruction manuals and carried their meaning to a plane that was never intended by the writer of the ancient texts. Furthermore, Yamada tries to explain Kenzo's attempt to establish his own style of archery as a religion by painting Kenzo as an opportunist feeding off the hype Jigoro Kano had by establishing the art of Judo. According to the author Herrigel was overly preoccupied with mysticism because of the German mystic philosopher Meister Eckhart. Herrigel's earlier writings sought to find connections between Zen and everyday life. The author establishes Herrigel as being susceptible to bias in making connections between Zen and archery. The main point of this article is that the singular mystical experiences of Kenzo combines with Herrigel's search for mysticism amounts to erroneous assumptions due to miscommunications. The language barrier and favorable interpretations became a strong argument for why Herrigel intended to superimpose his Western philosophy into Japanese culture. Herrigel attempted to categorize Japanese religious traditions into an accepted Western (more accurately a German) perception. In conclusion this article serves as a case study to highlight the evolving nature of religion in Japan. It shows how outside cultures can influence and reinterpret existing religious traditions to create new religions; that were partially grounded in the vestiges of old religions. It shows the danger of a foreign culture attempting to assimilate beliefs into a Japanese tradition. In essence the religion loses religious and cultural elements that made
the religion Japanese. The article stresses the importance of historical analysis to obtain a proper context for religious texts and religious movements.