Haltija in Japan

Posted On April 3, 2012

Filed under nature

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A recent comment on here gave me some inspiration to talk about haltija in Japan, aka kami. I find a lot of similarities between Shinto and Suomenusko. The main part of it being that it’s very much tied to the forces of nature and respect of them. I guess that is true of most indigenous religions, but here I think it is a little different. Like Suomenusko, Shinto is mainly about honoring what is around you, rather than far-away gods. There are of course gods in Shinto, but the vast majority of kami are nature spirits. Shrines are placed in what you may call areas with a strong väki power, if we are going to use Finnish terms. Most people here go to shrines and don’t even know what the name of the being they are honoring is. It’s similar to how I felt while walking around in the forests in Finland and giving offerings to the spirits there. I didn’t know their names; I simply felt them. The main difference between the two I would say is the way that you honor these haltija. In Suomenusko, it’s a bit more spontaneous; you can honor in any way you see fit (such as what I do with playing kantele or leaving food offerings). In Shinto, it’s pretty structured: offering a coin, bowing twice, clapping the hands twice, saying a prayer, and then bowing again.

Another thing I find pretty similar is the way that Japanese people act about their religion. People don’t have a strict dogma with specific hours to go worship. That’s only done on special holidays throughout the year, but otherwise, people can go to the shrine whenever they feel like it. I felt like Finns were the same; making it into more of a living religion. I always hear about Finns and Japanese people being a lot alike, and I think this is quite right. Not just in religion, but in character traits such as respect of nature and silence is golden. There were a large number of people in Finland interested in Japan, and the same is true here. Perhaps that’s how I got my interest in Japan!


One Response to “Haltija in Japan”

  1. Why Metal and Iron? « Metal and Iron

    […] My own spirituality has shifted somewhat in that it is definitely not purely Hellenistic anymore. It probably wasn’t “purely” Hellenistic to begin with, it just happened that all the gods I had a relationship with were Hellenic. (I never went ass-over-tits for the whole cultural reconstruction thing, since I’m about as Greek as I am Chinese, which is to say, not at all.) The last year has seen a strong infusion of interest in suomenusko, that is, the folklore and spirituality of Finland. Kind of random, and if my grandfather wasn’t Finnish I wouldn’t have felt drawn to it, but it is what it is. The only god I have really cultivated a relationship with there is Ukko, though saying you pray to Ukko is like saying you pray to God–the Old Man really is god of everything, as far as the Suomi are concerned. There are a lot of interesting differences between the nature of deity in Finnish folklore versus other cultures, as well, and some close parallels with Shinto that have been discussed at length with much better skill than mine… […]

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