Read CHAPTER II - SHINTO: MYTHS AND RITUAL of The Religions of Japan From the Dawn of History to the Era of Meiji, free online book, by William Elliot Griffis, on

The Japanese a Young Nation.

“In the great days of old,
When o’er the land the gods held sov’reign sway,
Our fathers lov’d to say
That the bright gods with tender care enfold
The fortunes of Japan,
Blessing the land with many an holy spell:
And what they loved to tell,
We of this later age ourselves do prove;
For every living man
May feast his eyes on tokens of their love.”

Baal: “While I on towers and banging terraces,
In shaft and obelisk, behold my sign.
Creative, shape of first imperious law.”

“Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, and tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them. My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savor: and thus it was, saith the Lord GOD.”-­Ezekiel.

If it be said (as has been the case), ’Shintoism has nothing in it,’ we should be inclined to answer, ’So much the better, there is less error to counteract.’ But there is something in it, and that ... of a kind of which we may well avail ourselves when making known the second commandment, and the ’fountain of cleansing from all sin.’”-­E.W. Syle.

“If Shinto has a dogma, it is purity.”-­Kaburagi.

“I will wash my hands in innocency, O Lord: and so will I go to
thine altar.”-­Ps. xxv.

What impresses us in the study of the history of Japan is that, compared with China and Korea, she is young. Her history is as the story of yesterday. The nation is modern. The Japanese are as younger children in the great family of Asia’s historic people. Broadly speaking, Japan is no older than England, and authentic Japanese history no more ancient than British history. In Albion, as in the Honorable Country, there are traditions and mythologies that project their shadows aeons back of genuine records; but if we consider that English history begins in the fifth, and English literature in the eighth century, then there are other reasons besides those commonly given for calling Japan “the England of the East.”

No trustworthy traditions exist which carry the known history of Japan farther back than the fifth century. The means for measuring and recording time were probably not in use until the sixth century. The oldest documents in the Japanese language, excepting a few fragments of the seventh century, do not antedate the year 712, and even in these the Chinese characters are in many instances used phonetically, because the meaning of the words thus transliterated had already been forgotten. Hence their interpretation in detail is still largely a matter of conjecture.

Yet the Japanese Archipelago was inhabited long before the dawn of history. The concurrent testimony of the earliest literary monuments, of the indigenous mythology, of folk-lore, of shell-heaps and of kitchen-middens shows that the occupation by human beings of the main islands must be ascribed to times long before the Christian era. Before written records or ritual of worship, religion existed on its active or devotional side, and there were mature growths of thought preserved and expressed orally. Poems, songs, chants and norito or liturgies were kept alive in the human memory, and there was a system of worship, the name of which was given long after the introduction of Buddhism. This descriptive term, Kami no Michi in Japanese, and Shin-to in the Chinese as pronounced by Japanese, means the Way of the Gods, the to or final syllable being the same as tao in Taoism. We may say that Shinto means, literally, theoslogos, theology. The customs and practices existed centuries before contact with Chinese letters, and long previous to the Shinto literature which is now extant.

Whether Kami no Michi is wholly the product of Japanese soil, or whether its rudimentary ideas were imported from the neighboring Asian continent and more or less allied to the primitive Chinese religion, is still an open question. The preponderance of argument tends, however, to show that it was an importation as to its origin, for not a few events outlined in the Japanese mythology cast shadows of reminiscence upon Korea or the Asian mainland. In its development, however, the cultus is almost wholly Japanese. The modern forms of Shinto, as moulded by the revivalists of the eighteenth century, are at many points notably different from the ancient faith. At the World’s Parliament of Religions at Chicago, Shinto seemed to be the only one, and probably the last, of the purely provincial religions.

In order to gain a picture of life in Japan before the introduction of Chinese civilization, we must consult those photographs of the minds of the ancient islanders which still exist in their earliest literature. The fruits of the study of ethnology, anthropology and archaeology greatly assist us in picturing the day-break of human life in the Morning Land. In preparing materials for the student of the religions of Japan many laborers have wrought in various fields, but the chief literary honors have been taken by the English scholars, Messrs. Satow, Aston, and Chamberlain. These untiring workers have opened the treasures of ancient thought in the Altaic world.

Although even these archaic Japanese compositions, readable to-day only by special scholars, are more or less affected by Chinese influences, ideas and modes of expression, yet they are in the main faithful reflections of the ancient life before the primitive faith of the Japanese people was either disturbed or reduced to system in presence of an imported religion. These monuments of history, poetry and liturgies are the “Kojiki,” or Notices of Ancient Things; the “Manyoeshu” or Myriad Leaves or Poems, and the “Norito,” or Liturgies.

The Ancient Documents.

The first book, the “Kojiki,” gives us the theology, cosmogony, mythology, and very probably, in its later portions, some outlines of history of the ancient Japanese. The “Kojiki” is the real, the dogmatic exponent, or, if we may so say, the Bible, of Shinto. The “Manyoshu,” or Book of Myriad Poems, expresses the thoughts and feelings; reflects the manners and customs of the primitive generations, and, in the same sense as do the Sagas of the Scandinavians, furnishes us unchronological but interesting and more or less real narratives of events which have been glorified by the poets and artists. The ancient codes of law and of ceremonial procedure are of great value, while the “Norito” are excellent mirrors in which to see reflected the religion called Shinto on the more active side of worship.

In a critical study, either of the general body of national tradition or of the ancient documents, we must continually be on our guard against the usual assumption that Chinese civilization came in earlier than it really did. This assumption colors all modern Japanese popular ideas, art and literature. The vice of the pupil nations surrounding the Middle Kingdom is their desire to have it believed that Chinese letters and culture among them is an nearly coeval with those of China as can be made truly or falsely to appear. The Koreans, for example, would have us believe that their civilization, based on letters and introduced by Kishi, is “four thousand years old” and contemporaneous with China’s own, and that “the Koreans are among the oldest people of the world." The average modern Japanese wishes the date of authentic or official history projected as far back as possible. Yet he is a modest man compared with his mediaeval ancestor, who constructed chronology out of ink-stones. Over a thousand years ago a deliberate forgery was officially put on paper. A whole line of emperors who never lived was canonized, and clever penmen set down in ink long chapters which describe what never happened. Furthermore, even after, and only eight years after the fairly honest “Kojiki” had been compiled, the book called “Nihongi,” or Chronicles of Japan, was written. All the internal and not a little external evidence shows that the object of this book is to give the impression that Chinese ideas, culture and learning had long been domesticated in Japan. The “Nihongi” gives dates of events supposed to have happened fifteen hundred years before, with an accuracy which may be called villainous; while the “Kojiki” states that Wani, a Korean teacher, brought the “Thousand Character Classic” to Japan in A.D. 285, though that famous Chinese book was not composed until the sixth century, or A.D. 550.

Even to this day it is nearly impossible for an American to get a Korean “frog in the well" to understand why the genuine native life and history, language and learning of his own peninsular country is of greater value to the student than the pedantry borrowed from China. Why these possess any interest to a “scholar” is a mystery to the head in the horsehair net. Anything of value, he thinks, must be on the Chinese model. What is not Chinese is foolish and fit for women and children only. Furthermore, Korea “always had” Chinese learning. This is the sum of the arguments of the Korean literati, even as it used to be of the old-time hatless Yedo scholar of shaven skull and topknot.

Despite Japanese independence and even arrogance in certain other lines, the thought of the demolition of cherished notions of vast antiquity is very painful. Critical study of ancient traditions is still dangerous, even in parliamentary Nippon. Hence the unbiassed student must depend on his own reading of and judgment upon the ancient records, assisted by the thorough work done by the English scholars Aston, Satow, Chamberlain, Bramsen and others.

It was the coming of Buddhism in the sixth century, and the implanting on the soil of Japan of a system of religion in which were temples with all that was attractive to the eye, gorgeous ritual, scriptures, priesthood, codes of morals, rigid discipline, a system of dogmatics in which all was made positive and clear, that made the variant myths and legends somewhat uniform. The faith of Shaka, by winning adherents both at the court and among the leading men of intelligence, reacted upon the national traditions so as to compel their collection and arrangemeut into definite formulas. In due time the mythology, poetry and ritual was, as we have seen, committed to writing and the whole system called Shinto, in distinction from Butsudo, the Way of the Gods from the Way of the Buddhas. Thus we can see more clearly the outward and visible manifestations of Shinto. In forming our judgment, however, we must put aside those descriptions which are found in the works of European writers, from Marco Polo and Mendez Pinto down to the year 1870. Though these were good observers, they were often necessarily mistaken in their deductions. For, as we shall see in our lecture on Riyobu or Mixed Buddhism, Shinto was, from the ninth century until late into the nineteenth century, absorbed in Buddhism so as to be next to invisible.

Origins of the Japanese People.

Without detailing processes, but giving only results, our view of the origin of the Japanese people and of their religion is in the main as follows:

The oldest seats of human habitation in the Japanese Archipelago lie between the thirtieth and thirty-eighth parallels of north latitude. South of the thirty-fourth parallel, it seems, though without proof of writing or from tradition, that the Malay type and blood from the far south probably predominated, with, however, much infusion from the northern Asian mainland.

Between the thirty-fourth and thirty-sixth parallels, and west of the one hundred and thirty-eighth meridian of longitude, may be found what is still the choicest, richest and most populous part of The Country Between Heaven and Earth. Here the prevailing element was Korean and Tartar.

To the north and east of this fair country lay the Emishi savages, or Ainos.

In “the world” within the ken of the prehistoric dwellers in what is now the three islands, Hondo, Kiushiu and Shikoku, there was no island of Yezu and no China; while Korea was but slightly known, and the lands farther westward were unheard of except as the home of distant tribes.

Three distinct lines of tradition point to the near peninsula or the west coast of Japan as the “Heaven” whence descended the tribe which finally grew to be dominant. The islands of Tsushima and Iki were the stepping-stones of the migration out of which rose what may be called the southern or Tsukushi cycle of legend, Tsukushi being the ancient name of Kiushiu.

Idzumo is the holy land whence issued the second stream of tradition.

The third course of myth and legend leads us into Yamato, whence we behold the conquest of the Mikado’s home-land and the extension of his name and influence into the regions east of the Hakone Mountains, including the great plain of Yedo, where modern Tokio now stands.

We shall take the term “Yamato” as the synonym of the prehistoric but discernible beginnings of national life. It represents the seat of the tribe whose valor and genius ultimately produced the Mikado system. It was through this house or tribe that Japanese history took form. The reverence for the ruler long afterward entitled “Son of Heaven” is the strongest force in the national history. The spirit and prowess of these early conquerors have left an indelible impress upon the language and the mind of the nation in the phrase Yamato Damashi-­the spirit of (Divine and unconquerable) Japan.

The story of the conquest of the land, in its many phases, recalls that of the Aryans in India, of the Hebrews in Canaan, of the Romans in Europe and of the Germanic races in North America. The Yamato men gradually advanced to conquest under the impulse, as they believed, of a divine command. They were sent from Takama-no-hara, the High Plain of Heaven. Theirs was the war, of men with a nobler creed, having agriculture and a feudal system of organization which furnished resources for long campaigns, against hunters and fishermen. They had improved artillery and used iron against stone. Yet they conquered and pacified not only by superior strategy, tactics, weapons and valor, but also by advanced fétiches and dogma. They captured the religion of their enemies as well as their bodies, lands and resources. They claimed that their ancestors were from Heaven, that the Sun was their kinswoman and that their chief, or Mikado, was vicegerent of the Heavenly gods, but that those whom they conquered were earth-born or sprung from the terrestrial divinities.

Mikadoism the Heart of Shinto.

As success came to their arms and their chief’s power was made more sure, they developed further the dogma of the Mikado’s divinity and made worship centre in him as the earthly representative of the Sun and Heaven. His fellow-conquerors and ministers, as fast as they were put in lordship over conquered provinces, or indigenous chieftains who submitted obediently to his sway or yielded graciously to his prowess, were named as founders of temples and in later generations worshipped and became gods. One of the motives for, and one of the guiding principles in the selections of the floating myths, was that the ancestry of the chieftains loyal to the Mikado might be shown to be from the heavenly gods. Both the narratives of the “Kojiki” and the liturgies show this clearly.

The nature-worship, which was probably practised throughout the whole archipelago, became part of the system as government and society were made uniform on the Yamato model. It seems at least possible, if Buddhism had not come in so soon, that the ordinary features of a religion, dogmatic and ethical codes, would have been developed. In a word, the Kami no Michi, or religion of the islanders in prehistoric times before the rise of Mikadoism, must be carefully distinguished from the politico-ecclesiasticism which the system called Shinto reveals and demands. The early religion, first in the hands of politicians and later under the pens and voices of writers and teachers at the Imperial Court, became something very different from its original form. As surely as Kobo later captured Shinto, making material for Buddhism out of it and overlaying it in Riyobu, so the Yamato men made political capital out of their own religion and that of the subject tribes. The divine sovereign of Japan and his political church did exactly what the state churches of Europe, both pagan and Christian, have done before and since the Christian era.

Further, in studying the “Kojiki,” we must remember that the sacred writings sprang out of the religion, and that the system was not an evolution from the book. Customs, ritual, faith and prayer existed long before they were written about or recorded in ink. Moreover, the philosophy came later than the practice, the deeds before the myths, and the joy and terror of the visible universe before the cosmogony or theogony, while the book-preface was probably written last of all.

The sun was first, and then came the wonder, admiration and worship of men. The personification and pedigree of the sun were late figments. To connect their ancestors with the sun-goddess and the heavenly gods, was a still later enterprise of the “Mikado reverencers” of this earlier time. Both the god-way in its early forms and Shinto in its later development, were to them political as well as ecclesiastical institutes of dogma. Both the religion which they themselves brought and cultivated and the aboriginal religion which the Yamato men found, were used as engines in the making of Mikadoism, which is the heart of Shinto.

Not until two centuries after the coming of Buddhism and of Asiatic civilization did it occur to the Japanese to reduce to writing the floating legends and various cycles of tradition which had grown up luxuriantly in different parts of “the empire,” or to express in the Chinese character the prayers and thanksgivings which had been handed down orally through many generations. These norito had already assumed elegant literary form, rich in poetic merit, long before Chinese writing was known. They, far more than the less certain philosophy of the “Kojiki,” are of undoubted native origin. It is nearly certain that the prehistoric Japanese did not borrow the literary forms of the god-way from China, as any one familiar with the short, evenly balanced and antithetical sentences of Chinese style can see at once. The norito are expressions, in the rhythmical and rhetorical form of worship, of the articles of faith set forth in the historic summary which we have given. We propose to illustrate the dogmas by quoting from the rituals in Mr. Satow’s masterly translation. The following was addressed to the sun-goddess (Amateras[)u] no Mikami, or the From-Heaven-Shining-Great-Deity) by the priest-envoy of the priestly Nakatomi family sent annually to the temples at Ise, the Mecca of Shinto. The sevran referred to in the ritual is the Mikado. This word and all the others printed in capitals are so rendered in order to express in English the force of “an untranslatable honorific syllable, supposed to be originally identical with a root meaning ‘true,’ but no longer possessing that signification.” Instead of the word “earth,” that of “country” (Japan) is used as the correlative of Heaven.

Ritual in Praise of the Sun-goddess.

He (the priest-envoy) says: Hear all of you, ministers of the gods and sanctifiers of offerings, the great ritual, the heavenly ritual, declared in the great presence of the From-Heaven-Shining-Great-DEITY, whose praises are fulfilled by setting up the stout pillars of the great HOUSE, and exalting the cross-beams to the plain of high heaven at the sources of the Isuzu River at Uji in Watarai.

He says: It is the sovran’s great WORD. Hear all of you, ministers of the gods and sanctifiers of offerings, the fulfilling of praises on this seventeenth day of the sixth moon of this year, as the morning sun goes up in glory, of the Oho-Nakatomi, who-­having abundantly piled up like a range of hills the TRIBUTE thread and sanctified LIQUOR and FOOD presented as of usage by the people of the deity’s houses attributed to her in the three departments and in various countries and places, so that she deign to bless his [the Mikado’s] LIFE as a long LIFE, and his AGE as a luxuriant AGE eternally and unchangingly as multitudinous piles of rock; may deign to bless the CHILDREN who are born to him, and deigning to cause to flourish the five kinds of grain which the men of a hundred functions and the peasants of the countries in the four quarters of the region under heaven long and peacefully cultivate and eat, and guarding and benefiting them to deign to bless them-­is hidden by the great offering-wands.

In the Imperial City the ritual services were very imposing. Those in expectation of the harvest were held in the great hall of the Jin-Gi-Kuan, or Council of the Gods of Heaven and Earth. The description of the ceremonial is given by Mr. Satow. In the prayers offered to the sun-goddess for harvest, and in thanksgiving to her for bestowing dominion over land and sea upon her descendant the Mikado, occurs the following passage:

I declare in the great presence of the From-Heaven-Shining-Great-DEITY who sits in Ise. Because the sovran great GODDESS bestows on him the countries of the four quarters over which her glance extends, as far as the limit where heaven stands up like a wall, as far as the bounds where the country stands up distant, as far as the limit where the blue clouds spread flat, as far as the bounds where the white clouds lie away fallen-­the blue sea plain as far as the limit whither come the prows of the ships without drying poles or paddles, the ships which continuously crowd on the great sea plain, and the road which men travel by land, as far as the limit whither come the horses’ hoofs, with the baggage-cords tied tightly, treading the uneven rocks and tree-roots and standing up continuously in a long path without a break-­making the narrow countries wide and the hilly countries plain, and as it were drawing together the distant countries by throwing many tons of ropes over them-­he will pile up the first-fruits like a range of hills in the great presence of the sovran great GODDESS, and will peacefully enjoy the remainder.

Phallic Symbols.

To form one’s impression of the Kami no Michi wholly from the poetic liturgies, the austere simplicity of the miyas or shrines, or the worship at the palace or capital, would be as misleading as to gather our ideas of the status of popular education from knowing only of the scholars at court. Among the common people the real basis of the god-way was ancestor-worship. From the very first this trait and habit of the Japanese can be discerned. Their tenacity in holding to it made the Confucian ethics more welcome when they came. Furthermore, this reverence for the dead profoundly influenced and modified Buddhism, so that today the altars of both religions exist in the same house, the dead ancestors becoming both kami and buddhas.

Modern taste has removed from sight what were once the common people’s symbols of the god-way, that is of ancestor worship. The extent of the phallus cult and its close and even vital connection with the god-way, and the general and innocent use of the now prohibited emblems, tax severely the credulity of the Occidental reader. The processes of the ancient mind can hardly be understood except by vigorous power of the imagination and by sympathy with the primeval man. To the critical student, however, who has lived among the people and the temples devoted to this worship, who knows how innocent and how truly sincere and even reverent and devout in the use of these symbols the worshippers are, the matter is measurably clear. He can understand the soil, root and flower even while the most strange specimen is abhorrent to his taste, and while he is most active in destroying that mental climate in which such worship, whether native or exotic, can exist and flourish.

In none of the instances in which I have been eyewitness of the cult, of the person officiating or of the emblem, have I had any reason to doubt the sincerity of the worshipper. I have never had reason to look upon the implements or the system as anything else than the endeavor of man to solve the mystery of Being and Power. In making use of these emblems, the Japanese worshipper simply professes his faith in such solution as has seemed to him attainable.

That this cultus was quite general in pre-Buddhistic Japan, as in many other ancient countries, is certain from the proofs of language, literature, external monuments and relics which are sufficiently numerous. Its organic connection with the god-way may be clearly shown.

To go farther back in point of time than the “Kojiki,” we find that even before the development of art in very ancient Japan, the male gods were represented by a symbol which thus became an image of the deity himself. This token was usually made of stone, though often of wood, and in later times of terra-cotta, of cast and wrought iron and even of gold.

Under the direct influence of such a cult, other objects appealed to the imagination or served the temporary purpose of the worshipper as ex-voto to hang up in the shrines, such as the mushroom, awabi, various other shells and possibly the fire-drill. It is only in the decay of the cultus, in the change of view and centre of thought compelled by another religion, that representations of the old emblems ally themselves with sensualism or immorality. It is that natural degradation of one man’s god into another man’s devil, which conversion must almost of necessity bring, that makes the once revered symbol “obscene,” and talk about it become, in a descending scale, dirty, foul, filthy, nasty. That the Japanese suffer from the moral effluvia of a decayed cult which was once as the very vertebral column of the national body of religion, is evident to every one who acquaints himself with their popular speech and literature.

How closely and directly phallicism is connected with the god-way, and why there were so many Shinto temples devoted to this latter cult and furnished with symbols, is shown by study of the “Kojiki.” The two opening sections of this book treat of kami that were in the minds even of the makers of the myths little more than mud and water-­the mere bioplasm of deity. The seven divine generations are “born,” but do nothing except that they give Izanagi and Izanami a jewelled spear. With this pair come differentiation of sex. It is immediately on the apparition of the consciousness of sex that motion, action and creation begin, and the progress of things visible ensues. The details cannot be put into English, but it is enough, besides noting the conversation and union of the pair, to say that the term meaning giving birth to, refers to inanimate as well as animate things. It is used in reference to the islands which compose the archipelago as well as to the various kami which seem, in many cases, to be nothing more than the names of things or places.

Fire-myths and Ritual.

Fire is, in a sense, the foundation and first necessity of civilization, and it is interesting to study the myths as to the origin of fire, and possibly even more interesting to compare the Greek and Japanese stories. As we know, old-time popular etymology makes Prometheus the fore-thinker and brother of Epimetheus the after-thinker. He is the stealer of the fire from heaven, in order to make men share the secret of the gods. Comparative philology tells us, however, that the Sanskrit Pramantha is a stick that produces fire. The “Kojiki” does indeed contain what is probably the later form of the fire-myth about two brothers, Prince Fire-Shine and Fire-Fade, which suggests both the later Greek myth of the fore- and after-thinker and a tradition of a flood. The first, and most probably older, myth in giving the origin of fire does it in true Japanese style, with details of parturition. After numerous other deities had been born of Izanagi and Izanami, it is said “that they gave birth to the Fire-Burning-Swift-Male-Deity, another name for whom is the Deity-Fire-Shining-Prince, and another name is the Deity-Fire-Shining-Elder.” In the other ancient literature this fire-god is called Ho-musubi, the Fire-Producer.

Izanami yielded up her life upon the birth of her son, the fire-god; or, as the sacred text declares, she “divinely retired" into Hades. From her corpse sprang up the pairs of gods of clay, of metal, and other kami that possessed the potency of calming or subduing fire, for clay resists and water extinguishes. Between the mythical and the liturgical forms of the original narrative there is considerable variation.

The Norito entitled the “Quieting of Fire” gives the ritual form of the myth. It contains, like so many Norito, less the form of prayer to the Fire-Producer than a promise of offerings. Not so much by petitions as by the inducements of gifts did the ancient worshippers hope to save the palace of the Mikado from the fire-god’s wrath. We omit from the text those details which are offensive to modern and western taste.

I declare with the great ritual, the heavenly ritual, which was bestowed on him at the time when, by the WORD of the Sovran’s dear progenitor and progenitrix, who divinely remain in the plain of high heaven, they bestowed on him the region under heaven, saying:

“Let the Sovran GRANDCHILD’S augustness tranquilly rule over the
country of fresh spikes which flourishes in the midst of the
reed-moor as a peaceful region.”

When ... Izanami ... had deigned to bear the many hundred
myriads of gods, she also deigned to bear her dear youngest
child of all, the Fire-producer god, ... and said:

“My dear elder brother’s augustness shall rule the upper country; I will rule the lower country,” she deigned to hide in the rocks; and having come to the flat hills of darkness, she thought and said: “I have come hither, having borne and left a bad-hearted child in the upper country, ruled over by my illustrious elder brother’s augustness,” and going back she bore other children. Having borne the water-goddess, the gourd, the river-weed, and the clay-hill maiden, four sorts of things, she taught them with words, and made them to know, saying: “If the heart of this bad-hearted child becomes violent, let the water-goddess take the gourd, and the clay-hill maiden take the river-weed, and pacify him.”

In consequence of this I fulfil his praises, and say that for the things set up, so that he may deign not to be awfully quick of heart in the great place of the Sovran GRANDCHILD’S augustness, there are provided bright cloth, glittering cloth, soft cloth, and coarse cloth, and the five kinds of things; as to things which dwell in the blue-sea plain, there are things wide of fin and narrow of fin, down to the weeds of the shore; as to LIQUOR, raising high the beer-jars, filling and ranging in rows the bellies of the beer-jars, piling the offerings up, even to rice in grain and rice in ear, like a range of hills, I fulfil his praises with the great ritual, the heavenly ritual.

Izanagi, after shedding tears over his consort, whose death was caused by the birth of the fire-god, slays the fire-god, and follows her into the Root-land, or Hades, whereupon begins another round of wonderful stories of the birth of many gods. Among these, though evidently out of another cycle of legends, is the story of the birth of the three gods-­Fire-Shine, Fire-Climax and Fire-Fade, to which we have already referred.

The fire-drill mentioned in the “Kojiki” suggests easily the same line of thought with the myths of cosmogony and theogony, and it is interesting to note that this archaic implement is still used at the sacred temples of Ise to produce fire. After the virgin priestesses perform the sacred dances in honor of local deities the water for their bath is heated by fires kindled by heaps of old harai or amulets made from temple-wood bought at the Mecca of Japan. It is even probable that the retention of the fire-drill in the service of Shinto is but a survival of phallicism.

The liturgy for the pacification of the gods of fire is worth noticing. The full form of the ritual, when compared with a legend in the “Nihongi,” shows that a myth was “partly devised to explain the connection of an hereditary family of priests with the god whose shrine they served; it is possible that the claim to be directly descended from the god had been disputed.” The Norito first recites poetically the descent of Ninigi, the grandchild of the sun-goddess from heaven, and the quieting of the turbulent kami.

I (the diviner), declare: When by the WORD of the progenitor and progenitrix, who divinely remaining in the plain of high heaven, deigned to make the beginning of things, they divinely deigned to assemble the many hundred myriads of gods in the high city of heaven, and deigned divinely to take counsel in council, saying: “When we cause our Sovran GRANDCHILD’S augustness to leave heaven’s eternal seat, to cleave a path with might through heaven’s manifold clouds, and to descend from heaven, with orders tranquilly to rule the country of fresh spikes, which flourishes in the midst of the reed-moor as a peaceful country, what god shall we send first to divinely sweep away, sweep away and subdue the gods who are turbulent in the country of fresh spikes;” all the gods pondered and declared: “You shall send Amenohohi’s augustness, and subdue them,” declared they. Wherefore they sent him down from heaven, but he did not declare an answer; and having next sent Takemikuma’s augustness, he also, obeying his father’s words, did not declare an answer. Âme-no-waka-hiko also, whom they sent, did not declare an answer, but immediately perished by the calamity of a bird on high. Wherefore they pondered afresh by the WORD of the heavenly gods, and having deigned to send down from heaven the two pillars of gods, Futsunushi and Takemika-dzuchi’s augustness, who having deigned divinely to sweep away, and sweep away, and deigned divinely to soften, and soften the gods who were turbulent, and silenced the rocks, trees, and the least leaf of herbs likewise that had spoken, they caused the Sovran GRANDCHILD’S augustness to descend from heaven.

I fulfil your praises, saying: As to the OFFERINGS set up, so that the sovran gods who come into the heavenly HOUSE of the Sovran GRANDCHILD’S augustness, which, after he had fixed upon as a peaceful country-­the country of great Yamato where the sun is high, as the centre of the countries of the four quarters bestowed upon him when he was thus sent down from heaven-­stoutly planting the HOUSE-pillars on the bottom-most rocks, and exalting the cross-beams to the plain of high heaven, the builders had made for his SHADE from the heavens and SHADE from the sun, and wherein he will tranquilly rule the country as a peaceful country-­may, without deigning to be turbulent, deigning to be fierce, and deigning to hurt, knowing, by virtue of their divinity, the things which were begun in the plain of high heaven, deigning to correct with Divine-correcting and Great-correcting, remove hence out to the clean places of the mountain-streams which look far away over the four quarters, and rule them as their own place. Let the Sovran gods tranquilly take with clear HEARTS, as peaceful OFFERINGS and sufficient OFFERINGS the great OFFERINGS which I set up, piling them upon the tables like a range of hills, providing bright cloth, glittering cloth, soft cloth, and coarse cloth; as a thing to see plain in-­a mirror: as things to play with-­beads: as things to shoot off with-­a bow and arrows: as a thing to strike and cut with-­a sword: as a thing which gallops out-­a horse; as to LIQUOR-­raising high the beer-jars, filling and ranging in rows the bellies of the beer-jars, with grains of rice and ears; as to the things which dwell in the hills-­things soft of hair, and things rough of hair; as to the things which grow in the great field plain-­sweet herbs and bitter herbs; as to the things which dwell in the blue sea plain-­things broad of fin and things narrow of fin, down to weeds of the offing and weeds of the shore, and without deigning to be turbulent, deigning to be fierce, and deigning to hurt, remove out to the wide and clean places of the mountain-streams, and by virtue of their divinity be tranquil.

In this ritual we find the origin of evil attributed to wicked kami, or gods. To get rid of them is to be free from the troubles of life. The object of the ritual worship was to compel the turbulent and malevolent kami to go out from human habitations to the mountain solitudes and rest there. The dogmas of both god-possession and of the power of exorcism were not, however, held exclusively by the high functionaries of the official religion, but were part of the faith of all the people. To this day both the tenets and the practices are popular under various forms.

Besides the twenty-seven Norito which are found in the Yengishiki, published at the opening of the tenth century, there are many others composed for single occasions. Examples of these are found in the Government Gazettes. One celebrates the Mikado’s removal from Kioto to Tokio, another was written and recited to add greater solemnity to the oath which he took to govern according to modern liberal principles and to form a national parliament. To those Japanese whose first idea of duty is loyalty to the emperor, Shinto thus becomes a system of patriotism exalted to the rank of a religion. Even Christian natives of Japan can use much of the phraseology of the Norito while addressing their petitions on behalf of their chief magistrate to the King of kings.

The primitive worship of the sun, of light, of fire, has left its impress upon the language and in vernacular art and customs. Among scores of derivations of Japanese words (often more pleasing than scientific), in which the general term hi enters, is that which finds in the word for man, hito, the meaning of “light-bearer.” On the face of the broad terminal tiles of the house-roofs, we still see moulded the river-weed, with which the Clay-Hill Maiden pacified the Fire-God. On the frontlet of the warrior’s helmet, in the old days of arrow and armor, glittered in brass on either side of his crest the same symbol of power and victory.

Having glanced at the ritual of Shinto, let us now examine the teachings of its oldest book.