Basic Terms of Shinto

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Ôbarae no kotoba

The liturgical formula recited in the Ôharae or Great Purification Ceremony. In ancient times, it was recited by the Nakatomi clan, and so it is also called Nakatomi-barae no kotoba. Found in the Engi shiki, it has been respected highly as a Shinto classic since the middle ages, and there are many commentaries on it. See harae.

O-fuda[Glossary: ofuda]

Tablet or amulet on which is written the name of a deity. Made of wood or paper, amulets are distributed to pilgrims by shrines, and are considered to be symbols of the deity. Taken home, they may be enshrined on the household kamidana and worshiped to obtain divine aid.


A portable shrine used to transport the symbol of a deity when the location of a shrine is moved. O-haguruma may be found in two types, either with or without roof. See also mikoshi.

Ôharae[Glossary: oharae]

Great Purification, a ceremony performed to cast out the sins and impurities of the entire population. Ôharae is performed regularly on the last day of June and December, and may also be performed on special occasions when required, such as at times of pestilence or disaster, or before the advent of a major festival.


see Harae


Individual or group practice of traveling back and forth one hundred times between a shrine and some fixed place in the shrine precincts, praying at the shrine each time. Often performed to gain divine aid in cases of sickness and disaster. Also called hyakudomairi (hundred pilgrimages) and sengori (thousand purifications).


[Okina] Old man. In the world of legend, gods frequently appear in the form of venerable old men, and such scenes are often represented in dance and drama. In the play Takasago, for example, the god of Sumiyoshi appears in the form of an old man. Okina is also the title of a play in the repertoire that derives from dengaku and is now performed on special occasions.


Interior shrine. In a dual shrine complex, the shrine geographically farther to the interior (oku), or less accessible than the other shrine of the pair. When two shrines dedicated to the same deity exist on a mountain, the shrine at the foot of the mountain may be called the honsha, while the one at the summit is called the okumiya, yamamiya, etc. For example, the shrine at the summit of Mt. Fuji is called the okumiya in contrast to the hongû called Fuji Hongû Sengen Jinja.

Ôkuninushi no kami[Glossary: okuninushi_no_kami][Glossary: izumo_shrine][Glossary: ninigi_no_mikoto]

Great Land Possessor. Also known by the names Ônamuchi, Ashihara no shikoo, Yachihoko, Ôkunitama, and Utsushikunitama no kami. Said to be either the child or grandchild of Susanoo no mikoto, Ôkuninushi no kami was persecuted by his many brothers, and repeatedly exposed to danger, but always saved by the intervention of mysterious helpers. In one legend illustrating his kindness, he is depicted saving a rabbit whose fur was torn off by crocodiles. He received permission to marry Susanoo no mikoto's daughter Suseribime and was designated as the possessor of the utsushiyo or manifest world. There he punished evil spirits, developed the land, cured illnesses and gave medicines, removed damage caused by birds and insects, and then presented the land to Ninigi no mikoto, who was sent from heaven by his grandmother Amaterasu Ômikami. Ôkuninushi no kami is enshrined at Izumo Taisha and is widely worshiped as a provider of happiness, especially marital happiness. See also Daikoku.


see Sankei


Small personal tablet or amulet on which is written the name of a deity and distributed to worshipers by shrines. Made of wood, paper, or metal, the o-mamori is regarded as the symbol of the god and worn constantly on the person for divine protection.

O-mikuji[Glossary: mikuji]

Divination by lots to predict good or ill fortune, to decide the order of an undertaking, or to choose between alternatives. The basic procedure is to write the various possibilities or alternatives on pieces of paper or sticks of wood, place them before the deity, recite prayers over them, and then draw one.


see Shinkôshiki


[Oni] A spirit possessing a fearful countenance, great strength, and a near-human form. The image of this demon varies with different historical periods. In ancient times, oni were portrayed wearing rush hats, or appearing as visitors from faraway regions.

Remnants of this belief are still recognizable in certain local customs observed during the New Year season, in which men dress is strange costumes and visit the homes of villagers. In general, however, the oni is regarded as a type of devil.

Ônie no Matsuri

see Daijôsai


[On-sashiha] A curtain used for concealing something sacred. In religious ceremonies, it is used to cover the symbol of a deity or as an ornament in a procession. There are two types: murasaki no sashiha, a purple curtain, and suge no sashi, a sedge-reed curtain.


Thought to be an abbreviation for okitoshi or prayer reciter. From the middle ages to the Meiji period, oshi were employed at Ise no Jingû and the three Kumano shrines, and they maintained a close relationship with their patrons (danna). The oshi traveled around the country, visiting their danna in various localities and distributing amulets. They also provided lodgings and other services to pilgrims visiting their respective shrines. At Ise, called on-shi.


A prescribed sacred spot where a mikoshi is temporarily lodged for the duration of a festival. The o-tabisho is thought to have originally had a great significance as the true ceremonial locale, while the main shrine served merely for the storage of the mikoshi.


Dance by young maidens. The Gosechi no mai or five-movement dance is the oldest example. The legendary account describing its origin says that when Emperor Temmu was playing the koto in his palace at Yoshino, an angel descended from heaven and danced, raising her sleeves five times. At the Daijôe festival, five young daughters of noble families (at the Toyonoakari no Sechie festival, four) were chosen to dance. Shrine priestesses (miko) clad in red skirts perform a dance called Chihaya hibakama. Today the newly composed dance Urayasu no mai, commemorating the 2600th anniversary of the foundation of the imperial house, is widely performed by eight young women holding fans or bells.


see Shinkôshiki

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