Today, the Tsubaki GSA is celebrating the Great Mid-Year Purification or the Nagoshi-no-O-harai. This event is usually held in the 6th month, and it corresponds with the last day of the 6th lunar month and the protection and purification needed to get through the second half of the year.
As with all rites in Shinto, there is a heavy emphasis on purification and clearing out tsumi, or impurities, and this is done with katashiro and the chi-no-wa.
Katashiro take different forms, but typically, they are little paper people. You take these pieces of paper, and you rub them all over your person. In so doing, you soak up all impurities and negativity. To finish it, you breath out a long breath to get rid of impurities inside and out. After this is done, the Head Priest takes all of the katashiro from all of the Shrine members, and throws them into water to be purified. The source of water is different for each shrine. For Tsubaki, it’s a river. In other places (as stated in A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine) it could be a small pond or font of water.
Walking through the chi-no-wa is usually done last. I’ve seen a couple of different stories as to the origin of the grass circle. In the book mentioned above, the story goes:
It was a hot day in summer during the rainy season and a traveler was passing the last two farmhouses before the trail lef into the mountains. Being late, he stopped at the first and politely asked for a night’s lidging but was rudely refused. As the second house, however, they kindly took him in and treated him well. As thanks the next morning, he revealed himself as a Kami and foretold of an epidemic soon to come. “But don’t fear,” he told the terrified farmer and his family, “if you make a ring out of the long-stemmed grasses growing near your house and put it above your door, you’ll all be spared.” And so it came to pass.
As per Barrish-sensei, the story goes:
Susano-no-Mikoto was traveling incognito and was offered the hospitality of a poor but sincere man named Somin Shorai. In gratitude, Susano-no-Mikoto taught Somin Shorai how to make the Chi-no-Wa as the ward against disease and misfortune.
In the Mid-Year ceremony, all of the participants walk through the Chi-no-Wa. In the book mentioned above, everyone makes a figure-8. For Tsubaki, you will walk through it 3 times (I have never been to this festival, so it’s possible they walk in a figure-8 as well). Walking through the chi-no-wa will bring you health and harmony for the rest of the year.
I have yet to actually make it to a Mid-Year purification, but Tsubaki Jinja has made it possible for us long distance members to participate in the rite. We are all sent out own katashiro in advance, and we take them and rub them over our persons to soak up negative energies. I was a little rough with mine- and nearly bent the arms completely off of the little paper person. We then sent out katashiro back to the Shrine, and they will be cast into the river today.
For our own personal purification, today will be busied with cleaning the house and clearing our minds for the future ahead. Usually, there would be special offerings for the Kami, but I currently don’t know what to offer them. With my current limitations in diet, I can’t offer any juices or alcohols… so instead, I decided to give the birds outside extra seed (I feed the birds at the behest of the Kami). Beyond that, it will be a day of rest and mindfulness about the rest of the year to come.
What do you wish to see in the next 6 months?
Posts about Mid-Year Purification:
Some videos on it: