From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chickens at Ise Grand Shrine. Parishioners believe they are messengers of Amaterasu.[1]

Shinshi (神使)[2] or "divine messengers," are animals in Japanese mythology that are believed to be associated with a kami, a divine being. These animals are also known as kami no tsukai or tsukawashime. In ancient texts such as Kojiki and Nihongi, there are tales of special animals that acted on behalf of the kami to transmit the divine will or to bear oracles. [2]

As time passed, people started to connect certain animals with specific shrines. It became a custom to take care of these animals when they were found within the area of the shrine. Normally, each kami had only one animal familiar, but sometimes, there were some exceptions where a kami had more than one. Even some of the "Seven Lucky Gods" like Daikokuten (a mouse) and Benzaiten (a snake) had animal familiars.[2]

In later years, the kami's animal familiar became a common symbol of the kami itself. For instance, the fox at Inari shrines was worshipped as a manifestation of the kami. These creatures were thought to be extraordinary spiritual beings, and this perception, combined with their relationship with the specific kami, likely gave rise to this phenomenon.[2]

It is believed to have originated from shamanism, where animals aided shamans in traveling to the spirit world. Certain animals are associated with particular spirits, such as foxes with Inari and deer with Kasuga.[1]

In the past, tribal communities considered their shaman's animal helper as an ancestor, and this may have influenced the connection between animals and spirits in Shinto. For example, the Kamo tribe believed that the three-legged crow was their ancestor.[1]

At Ise Jingu, roosters roam around and are believed to be the assistants of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. They wake her up every morning, according to folklore. Some experts believe that the rooster may be the bird depicted on the torii, a gate that marks the entrance to a shrine.[1]

Inari Okami's fox messengers are often identified directly with her[3] Rice food sake and other offerings are given to them for her[4]

History[change | change source]

In a book called Fusō Sakki, which was written in the middle of the Heian period in Japan, it is mentioned that a person who killed a white fox (known as shiratoume) near the Ise Shrine was exiled to that area. This suggests that there was a belief in spiritual foxes in ancient Japan..[5]'

The "Chujin Harai-kun," a book written in the 12th century, states that the kami's messenger is second only to the eight great kami and is subordinate to the 100,000 kami. Moreover, "Kitakami Yuki-fu," an essay written in the early 19th century, explains that a ritual called hanasui-iwai is held every year on January 15th. During this ritual, every new household is given a Shinshi.[6]

Examples[change | change source]

Animal Kami
Cow Tenjin[7]
Fox Inari Ōkami[8]
Pigeon Hachiman[9]
Sea Snake Izumo-taisha[10]
Chicken Amaterasu[1]

See also[change | change source]

Gallery[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 D, John (2011-07-28). "Power animals". Green Shinto. Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3
  3. “‘My Own Inari’: Personalization of the Deity in Inari Worship.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 23, no. 1/2 (1996): 102.
  4. Hearn 154
  5. 関裕二 『寺社が語る秦氏の正体』 祥伝社新書 2018年 ISBN 978-4-396-11553-1 p.38.
  6. 第2版, 精選版 日本国語大辞典,デジタル大辞泉,世界大百科事典. "神使とは". コトバンク (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-02-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. MATCHA. "Sacred Animals In Japan - See Japan's Religion Through Its Animals". MATCHA - JAPAN TRAVEL WEB MAGAZINE. Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  8. MATCHA. "Sacred Animals In Japan - See Japan's Religion Through Its Animals". MATCHA - JAPAN TRAVEL WEB MAGAZINE. Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  9. "Miyake Hachimangū". Discover Kyoto. Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  10. D, John (2011-11-09). "Izumo's welcome party (Kamiari sai)". Green Shinto. Retrieved 2023-04-12.