Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Isonokami Shrine; procession of the 7-prong sword


The DenDen Festival at Isonokami Shrine (Tenri city in Nara prefecture) is an annual event that is held on June 30th each year.
The festival is divided into two parts; the first is the Shinken Togyosai which is a procession of an ancient relic called a "god sword" (shin-ken 神剣). The sword, called the Nanatsusaya-no-tachi (literally "the seven branched sword"), is taken from a special storehouse in a forbidden part of the shrine using a special key used under special authorization of the imperial household.
The DenDen Festival involves a ceremony that imitates a rice planting; sacred seedlings are laid out over a dry stone garden after it is "plowed" by "cow that is acutally a person wearing a hat representing a cow (as seen below in photo by amano.jun ) which is performed at 1pm.

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The second part (beginning at 5pm) of the festival again involves a procession of the god-sword. This time the god-sword is taken into a ceremonial space which is surrounded by sacred ropes (shimenawa) with purification papers (shidare) hanging from them. In an unusual ceremony, the priests rip up paper and straw (hemp?) to be tied onto something (the fabric cover of the god-sword?) as they wave paper talismans over the crowd. Then the priests distribute paper dolls to the crowd. People pat the dolls on their bodies (left side, right side and center) as they breathe three times to transfer impurities into the doll. Then the dolls are returned to the priests to be disposed of. Moving out of the sacred space the priests with the sword take the lead in a procession which goes though a sacred straw wreath (chinowa) three times (left, right and straight through). Then the sword is returned to the inner shrine.

These chinowa ceremonies (oharae) are typical of Shinto shrines but it is unusual to see a mass procession being led through (you often see the chinowa but with no direction on how they are to be used). The oharae ceremonies are held at shrines twice per year (winter and summer) to cleanse away sins.

Iso no kami Jingu; the "jingu" classification is rare and is given to only a few large shrines that have a special connection to the imperial family.

Chickens have a special connection to the shrine.
There are three chicken coups with shimenawa ropes hanging around them.

A photo op featuring the mascots "Wanihiko-kun" (in the style of an ancient Yamato noble) and a chicken called "Buruppi" standing next to a kofun (ancient burial mound). Note how they are both wearing magatama (the yin-yang jewels) which were typical of ancient Japan and some of which were excavated from the shrines center along with the god-sword.
You can also see some kazari-daru.

Ema depicting the junish, 12 zodiac animals.

Brass lanterns hanging from the shrine.
Note the shrine gate with the unpainted brown wood.

Ema depicting the chickens of the shrine as well as the typical shinme (god-horses) seen around shrines.

Sacred chickens of the shrine.
These are a special breed of chicken.

In Japanese mythology chickens have a special significance from their role in the myth of Ameterasu; the sun goddess who hid herself in a cave and was drawn out by music and the call of a rooster.

Note the tall tree with the shidare papers hanging from it which mark it as a "yorishiro" or sacred object imbued with a special spirit.

Talisman dolls.

The chinowa with a procession snaking between the ring and the gate.

An onigawara roof cap.

Images of the Nanatsusay-no-kami.
The actual sword is kept concealed during the ceremonies and it is rarely taken out for inspection.

Three Goehei set on a stand in the shrine.
Heihaku is a general term for offerings in front of a shrine, and gohei are a subset of heihaku.
Special shidare on a stand in front of the shrine doors of the forbidden space.

Kikumon crests on the curtains.

A chinowa. Note the shime/shimenawa strung across the top.

Shrine staff carrying a large, old storehouse key that is used to unlock the shrine storehouse.
The key is considered the property of the emperor as a sacred relic and it is handled with great reverence.

The game "Puzzle and Dragons" features a number of Japanese gods. The artist rendering of the gods have many interesting features. Here you can see  the god Takeminakata (or his "War God of Metal, Takeminakata" form in the game, monster number 810). Note  the pronged sword that he is wielding (in the image the sword has eight points but the real sword only has seven because the tip is counted as one of the prongs.). Also note the magatama (yin-yang jewels) on his belt and sword handle. Magatama and the seven prong sword are treasures that had been buried at Isonokami Shrine.

◯石上神宮・夏越の祓・茅の輪くぐり⛩️ ◯Passing a sacred grass ring for Summet grand prifiction festival of Isonokmi-jingū⛩️. . 6月30日は各神社で夏越の祓の茅の輪くぐりです。ここでは神剣も茅の輪をくぐられます。 Passing a ring of the of cogon grass for the purification is carried out in June 30. God's sword also passes it. 石上神宮 / 奈良県天理市布留町 Idonokami-jingu shrine / Furu-machi, Tenri city, Nara prf., Japan Photo on 30.Jun.2018 #石上神宮 #夏越祓 #夏越の祓 #縁日 #水無月 #茅の輪 #茅の輪くぐり #神社 #神道 #山の辺の道 #天理 #奈良 #祭 #祭り #isonokamijingu #tenri #nara #japan #festival #shinto #shrine #IGersJP #japan_daytime_view #lovers_nippon #wu_japan #wp_japan #instagramers #instagood #icu_japan #loves_united_life
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  1. http://www.isonokami.jp/saiten/index.html
  2. http://www.isonokami.jp/english.html
  3. http://www.puzzledragonx.com/en/monster.asp?n=810
  4. https://bashabelmonteshinto.weebly.com/sacred-space.html
  5. http://sanpai-japan.com/2017/07/04/oharae/
  6. http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=327