Tag Archives: spirits

Shintoism: praying for helping hand from the spirits

mulanpraysIt’s largely debated that Disney princess Mulan was Shinto, a spiritual religion centered on communication with helpful spirits. While Mulan is Chinese, many aspects in the movie point to Shintoism. The movie even depicts the family’s personal shrine where she goes to pray to them for safety before she joins the war.

Shinto is an ethnic and spiritually bound Japanese religion that emphasizes the communication between living humans and spirits. The religion centers on the connection between present day Japan and ancient Japan. The name Shinto is derived from the Chinese characters for Shen meaning the divine being and Tao which means the way of the spirits. Ritual is central to the Shinto religion and visiting shrines is popular amongpriests-meiji-cc-chrisjfry followers especially around the Japanese New Year. There is no founder of the religion and there are no Gods to be worshiped. There is also no central text, although Shintoism does teach a set of ethical principles for worshipers. Shintoism is also very much a local religion. There is not much missionary work and the religion revolves around the idea of local worship. Followers might even have small shrines in their homes. Shinto has been viewed as a Japanese faith that has influenced culture for more than 2000 years.

Shintos call the spiritual beings they connect with kami. The work kami can be translated to “spirits” in English, but it is important to note that the Japanese version of the world also incorporates the spirits of landscapes, elements and nature. Shintos believe that kami are spirits that have passed on who are still interested in human beings and communicating with us. Kamis are not Gods, but they can be prayed to and should be treated with respect. Shintos believe that if kamis are 711308701_origproperly respected they can help us and bring us good benefits like A’s on final exams. Kamis have the ability to influence nature and human lives in order to bring us happiness.

There is no concept of sin in Shintoism and it is believed that all humans are basically good. Most followers of Shintoism are devoted to the emphasis of goodness in a man’s life.

One important aspect of Shintoism is purity. Shintos believe that all humans are born pure and that humans collect “badness” over time. The human can get rid of the impurity in their life through purifying rituals. The most common purifying agents are water and salt. The purification takes place at the beginning of the ceremony when the hands and face are washed. The priest then uses a haraigushi, a ‘purification’ want over the person completing the purification.  Many Shintos perform these purification in large groups, especially at the beginning of a new year.

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The Shinto shrine called a jinja is a sacred place where the kami live. Every town has its own kami and a shrine dedicated to it. There is always a Shinto shrine in town for public worship, but many Shintosshinto also have private shrines. Shrines do not have to be buildings, they can be anywhere, but they must be special to each kami. There is no obligation to visit the shrine. Shintos visit the shrines during festivals and whenever they feel that they should. Often they visit shrines during time of need to ask the kamis for assistance.

Shinto weddings do exist, however, they are very unpopular with only 20 percent of Shintos participating. The standard Shinto wedding is small, involving family and close friends. The bride wears a white kimono and a white scarf to symbolize purity. The wedding begins with a purification followed by prayers to the kami for the couple. The couple takes three sips from three different cups and read their commitments to each other.shinto_wedding_meiji_jingu_4093

The Shinto concept of baptism is called Hatsumiyamairi. The newborn is taken to the shrine by the grandmother and prayers are recited.

In Shintoism, death is seen as impure. Shinto funerals do not usually occur. The dead are handled by the laypeople who bury the body in a cemetery. Shrines and cemeteries will never be found near each other in Japan.

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Santeria: nourishing Orishas to become closer to God

You’ve heard in a Sublime song, but what is Santeria all about?

Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that formed out of the slave trade in Cuba. Santeria is translated to “Way of the Saints” and it has some Catholic influences. It is considered “syncretic” because the religion blends elements from many different faiths.

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Santeria is based on the relationships between humans and powerful spirits called Orishas. Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishnas and the manifestation of Olodumare, their God. They believe that certain rituals can enlist the help of Orishas.

The religion is area in Cuba through Yoruba traditions that were brought to the country by the enslaved Africans. Santeria is an interesting blend of religions, because the enslaved did not convert, but instead blended religions. For a long time Santeria was a secret religion, but over the past 15 years it has expanded. The slaves kept their own rituals like dancing, drumming, speaking and eating with the spirits. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 it has spread to many other countries including the United States. The population of those practicing Santeria is unknown and there is no central organization. Santeria also does not have holy scripture. The religion is based in oral tradition and is passed through word-of-mouth.

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Some of the blending in Santeria comes from Catholicism. There are some Catholic influences on Santeria including the incorporation of some Catholic symbols. Sometimes those who follow Santeria are also Roman Catholic. Santeria also worships some of the Catholic Saints:mainpromo

  • Saint Barbara/ Shango: justice and strength, associated with lightning and fire
  • Our Lady of Charity/ Ochun: Yoruba goddess of the river, associated with water, yellow, sweets, money and love
  • Saint Lazarus/ Bablu-Aye: associated with the sick

One central element of Santeria is animal sacrifice. Followers sacrifice animals as food in order to build a good relationship with Orishas. The process of sacrifice brings the worshiper closer to the Orishna.santeria2 Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishas are similar to living beings. They need food, nourishment and praise in order to stay alive. Sacrifices are performed for life events like birth, marriage and death and also for healing. Animal sacrifices are completed in a certain ways; the animal is killed by cutting the carotid artery with a knife. After the ritual is performed, the animal is cooked and eaten. Those who practice Santeria see it as sharing the sacrifice with the Orisha. The Orisha is nourished by the blood and the worshiper is nourished by the meat. Sacrificial animals include: chickens, pigeons, doves, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep, and turtles.

Although there is no central organization, there are a some buildings and houses devoted to the faith. Rituals are usually done in a house called the casa or ile which is generally the house of a senior Santeria priest. Santeria priesthood includes both men and women because they can either be called babalorisha which means Father in the Spirit or iyalorisha which means Mother/Wife in the Spirit. They are also sometimes called Santero and Santera which is the Spanish translation of the work priest in the masculine and feminine forms.

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Spiritualism: physical beings connecting with the ever-present soul

You’ve seen them on the boardwalk and you’ve seen them on TV shows like “Long Island Medium,” but is there any truth in those who practice Spiritualism?

Possibly one of the most recognized Spiritualists is the star of Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo. She claims that spirits began coming to her when she was just four years old. For many years, Caputo says she struggled with anxiety until she became a student of Pat Longo, a spiritual healer/ teacher who taught her about her ability to communicate with spirits. Since that time, Caputo has gone on to build a career out of her unique abilities and now tours the United States providing people with spiritual readings. When she is not touring she lives with her family in Long Island.

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Spiritualism is a modernist movement that grew out of Hydesville, NY in 1848. Spiritualism centers on communication with the spirits of the dead. In the 19th century séances were performed to connect with these people. Today, we communicate with spirits through people who have a special skill set called mediums, like Theresa Caputo.

Spiritualism

There are three ways the mediums can receive messages. Clairvoyance which is seeing spirits. Clairaudience which is hearing spirits, and clairsentience which is sensing spirits in some other way.

Spiritualism does not have a sacred text. Although all Spiritualists have a variety of beliefs most believe in the following key ideas:Psychic-Reading-Mediumship-Readings-Perth-Wa

  • the spirit can communicate with the living
  • every human soul survives death of body and enters the spirit world
  • souls can communicate with the living through a medium
  • souls are interested in the material world
  • souls are aware and interested in the lives they have left behind
  • after death a soul can keep learning and improving itself

Specifically, the United States’ National Association of Spiritualist Churches has nine core principles:

  • belief in infinite intelligence
  • belief that nature is a physical and spiritual expression of infinite intelligence
  • a correct understanding of the expression of infinite intelligence and living in accordance with that expression constitutes true religion
  • communication with spirits is a fact
  • the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you do ye also unto them.”
  • every individual has moral responsibility and is responsible for their own happiness
  • reformation of the soul never stops
  • belief in the prophecy and healing contained in all sacred texts

The number of practicing Spiritualists is unknown, but the BBC reports that Spiritualism is the eight largest religion in the UK.

spiritualism-grangerThere are Spiritualist churches where Spiritualism is practiced. There is a service held every Sunday that usually consists of prayers, hymns, and a reading or talk from a medium who connects the physical world to the spiritual world.

Naturally, the validity of this practice is controversial and there are many skeptics of Spiritualism. Although many may not consider Spiritualism a religion, Spiritualism has “rituals, doctrinal components, belief in a transcendent realm and an experiential dimension,” according to the BBC. Spiritualists have two main churches, one in the United Kingdom called the Spiritualists’ National Union and in the United States called the National Association of Spiritualist Churches.

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