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!
At this time of year, the main sacrificial stone close to where I live becomes filled with offerings:
Often you find flowers, seeds, money, and salt. It’s nice to see that so many people still give offerings here, whether they believe in haltija or not. I nearly wasn’t able to find an available cup to put mine in!
It appears that I will be going back to Finland a lot sooner than I thought; in a little under two months. I decided to not go to Japan, because of the expense, and moving around between three different countries is starting to take a serious toll on me. So I’ll stay put in Finland all year. One of the things that I’m most excited about is being in the forests there once again. They speak to me much more than forests in America; I don’t feel much of a tie to the land here. Then again, what can I expect when my family has not even been here for a century. I love the feel of the soft, mossy ground, and the conifers that keep green all year. Perhaps what I love most of all is the silence. One of the things that I have noticed about America(at least where I am) is that it’s impossible to get away from noise if you live anywhere near a city. Even though I lived in the city in Finland, the forests in the area remained silent and were easily accessible. Here I have to travel far away from the urban sprawl, as the parks in the area are quite small and often have a road cutting through the middle of it. I predict that I will feel that sense of place once more when I return. Not to mention, there’s still much more to research and learn about Finnish pagan traditions!
Unless I have some sort of revelation while here, I will return to this blog once I get back to Finland!