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Mitama - discussion and history

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Mitama - discussion and history

Postby Francis Takahashi » Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:48 pm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Japanese word mitama (御魂・御霊・神霊 honorable spirit?) refers to the spirit of a kami or the soul of a dead person.

1] It is composed of two characters, the first of which, mi (御 honorable?), is a simply a honorific. The second, tama (魂・霊?) means "spirit". The character pair 神霊, also read mitama, is used exclusively to refer to a kami's spirit.

[2] Significantly, a synonym of shintai, the object which in a Shinto shrine houses the enshrined kami, is mitamashiro (御魂代 mitama representative?).[3] British Japanologist William George Aston (1841-1911) believed the mitama to be comparable as a concept to the Jewish Shekhinah.[4]

Early Japanese definitions of the mitama, developed later by many thinkers like Motoori Norinaga, maintain it consists of several "souls", relatively independent one from the other.

[3] The most developed is the ichirei shikon, a Shinto theory according to which the spirit (霊魂 reikon?) of both kami and human beings consists of one spirit and four souls.[5] The four souls are the ara-mitama, the nigi-mitama, the saki-mitama (幸御魂 happy soul?) and the kushi-mitama (奇御霊・奇[/b[b]]御魂 wondrous soul?).

According to the theory, each of the souls making up the spirit has a character and a function of its own; they all exist at the same time, complementing each other.

[5] In the Nihon Shoki, kami Ōnamuchi actually meets his kushi-mitama and shiki-mitama, but does not even recognize them. The four seem moreover to have a different importance, and different thinkers have described their interaction differently.[3]

Ise Shrine's Aramatsuri-no-miya enshrines Amaterasu's ara-mitama

The ara-mitama is the rough and violent side of a spirit.[6][7] A kami's first appearance is as an ara-mitama, which must be pacified with appropriate pacification rites and worship so that the nigi-mitama can appear.[7][6]

The nigi-mitama is the normal state of the kami, its functional side, while the ara-mitama appears in times of war or natural disasters. These two souls are usually considered opposites, and Motoori Norinaga believed the other two to be no more than aspects of the nigimitama.[3]

Ara-mitama and nigi-mitama are in any case independent agents, so much so that they can sometimes be enshrined separately in different locations and different shintai. For example, Sumiyoshi Shrine in Shimonoseki enshrines the ara-mitama of the Sumiyoshi kami, while Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka enshrines its nigi-mitama.[6] Ise Shrine has a sub-shrine called Aramatsuri-no-miya enshrining Amaterasu's ara-mitama. Atsuta-jingū has a sessha called Ichi-no-misaki Jinja for her ara-mitama and a massha called Toosu-no-yashiro for her nigi-mitama. No separate enshrinement of the mitama of a kami has taken place since the rationalization and systematization of Shinto actuated by the Meiji restoration.[3]


This is the soul of blessing and prosperity. In a scene of the Nihon Shoki, kami Ōnamuchi is described in conversation with his own saki-mitama and kushi-mitama. Within Shinto also exists the idea that this the soul which brings good harvests and catches. Motoori Norinaga and others however believe this to be no more than a function of the nigi-mitama.[8]


The "wondrous soul" which appears together with the saki-mitama, the providing soul, which is the power behind the harvest. It is believed to be have mysterious powers, to cause transformations and to be able to cure illnesses.[9]

Mitama Festival

A widely celebrated Shinto festival to the dead in Japan, particularly at the Yasukuni Shrine. Typically in mid-July.


^ Iwanami Kōjien (広辞苑?) Japanese dictionary, 6th Edition (2008), DVD version
^ Yonei Teruyoshi: "Tama". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011
^ a b c d e Smyers, Karen Ann (1999). The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 118–119. ISBN 0-8248-2102-5. OCLC 231775156.
^ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. XI, entry "Shinto"
^ a b * Yonei Teruyoshi: "Ichirei shikon". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011
^ a b c Yonei, Teruyoshi. "Aramitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto. Kokugakuin University. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
^ a b Yonei, Teruyoshi. "Nigimitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto. Kokugakuin University. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
^ Yonei Teruyoshi: "Sakimitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011
^ Yonei Teruyoshi: "Kushimitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011
Francis Takahashi
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Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:51 pm

Re: Mitama - discussion and history

Postby Carina Rei » Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:30 am

Thanks Francis Sensei for sharing this interesting topic, I found some more information in the website

Specially this part is interesting:

Shared practices can also be found in the spiritual system espoused (for taught would be overstating the case) by Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the art of Aikido. At the age of seven, Ueshiba was sent to Jizodera, a Shingon temple near Tanabe, in Wakayama prefecture, "to study the Confucian classics and Buddhist scriptures. He was enthralled by the miracle tales....of Kobo Daishi (the posthumous name give to Kukai, the progenitor of Shingon Buddhism in Japan)"

The lingering influence of these early studies can be observed in his mature formulation: ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki [one rule, four souls, three fundamentals, eight powers] which he represented in the form of a square, a circle, and a triangle. The associations of these "three fundamentals" are mineral, liquid, and fire respectively, which corresponds closely to earth, liquid and fire associated with the same three geometric elements in stupas such as that of Kobo Daishi on Mount Koya. Admittedly, there are two additional signifying elements in such stupas: the half-circle/lunar disc and the teardrop, associated with the wind/sky and space/void, respectively. But although he does not use the standard esoteric icongraphy, the complete sequence of associations if found in the "four souls" and "one-spirit" formulation: sachi-mitama, nigi-mitama, ara-mitama, kushi- mitama, and ichirei [ ] associated with earth, water, fire, heaven, and primordial void, in that order. {see appendix C}. Additionally, there are several ways in which the eight powers (represented graphically by the eight "sides" of the square, circle, and triangle) can be easily mapped into the buddhas and bodhisattvas at the heart of the Diamond and Matrix Mandala.

I found some more information about shintoism: Life after death
Carina Rei
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Location: Gran Canaria - Spain

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