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Wish Upon a Star (Tanabata)

Today is the 7th day of the 7th month, otherwise known as Tanabata. This is often called the star festival, and it relates to wishes. According to Barrish-sensei, here is the back story to the festival:

Two stars, Weaver Princess Star and Herd Boy Star were in love. The Weaver Princess Star was very good at weaving, and her father was a heavenly king. Although the Herd Boy Star was a boy of lowly birth, the king, kind-hearted, let them marry. But because they were in love so much, they forgot to do their work. The Weaver Princess Star did not weave the cloth and the Herd Boy Star did not take care of the herds of sheep. The king became so angry that he decided they must be separated. They were told to live at the opposite sides of the Milky Way, the Sparkling River of the Heavens. They were only to meet on the night of July 7th, when they cross the sky.

There are multiple versions out there. As always, wikipedia has something to say on the matter. No matter which story version you follow, today is the day for making wishes. This is usually done by writing your wish on a piece of paper, a tanzaku. You then tie this wish to a bamboo plant or pole. Little Tokyo has a couple of bamboo plants that always have wishes on them. To the point that the bamboo looks like it is stunted from it.

Me and SO decided we would participate this year at home (we participated last year in Little Tokyo). We took out some of our special origami paper and cut a nice piece for ourselves. We focused on what we wanted as we wrote. We then took our papers outside to hang on our wisteria plant (I know, it’s not quite the same). I also left some offerings out for the local fauna, so hopefully they will like it.

Tanzaku on our wisteria.

The offerings are tea and water- the only two beverages on tap in our house anymore, and cookies. Back when I offered to the fae regularly, they seemed to like sweet baked goods- sugar cookies and mini-cupcakes were the most common. Since I had some lying around, I decided to offer them up. If I would have had any, I would have offered daifuku as well.

Offerings

If you could wish for anything right now, what would you wish for?

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Shintoism

 

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The Great Mid Year Purification

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:

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Shintoism

 

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The Color of Mourning

I’m not really sure why I’m posting this. It keeps bugging me, so I’m getting out of my system in an effort to make it stop bugging me.

There is a place that exists in my mind that I often times visit. I lovingly call it the Interior. It is something I either created, or stumbled upon during my college years, when I didn’t really have a path that I subscribed to. It came about during a time of heavy warding and barrier creation, and I needed a place in my mind where I could visualize my barriers being constructed. Even now, I still go into the recesses of my mind to explore the Interior, to see what secrets she holds. And sometimes I go there to get away from problems. To reconnect with myself, and sometimes the gods.

Throughout the past 6 or 7 years of working with the Interior, there are a few things that have stayed the same. The general layout of the place is the same as it was then. The weather is almost always the same (overcast during the day, gigantic full moon at night). And so is my appearance. When I first started working on the Interior, I wore a black robe or cloak of some kind. And slowly, the cloak disappeared more and more, and a black kimono replaced it. At the time, I didn’t really note anything of it. It’s a kimono, right? Nothing new there. I like Japan, no big deal. Must be bleed through. But then I began to learn more and more about wafuku and it’s styles. And I realized I was wearing mofuku. Clothes for those in mourning.


Mofuku is easy to spot because you are literally wearing nothing but black (except the juban collar, normally). Even items that you don’t see are black. Black black black. And the only thing I was missing on my clothes on the Interior are the crests. As far as I know, I had no crests (the white dots you see). However, rain or shine. Summer, winter, whenever. I was in black. Black wafuku. Sometimes the kimono would hit my ankles, other days it was shorter- closer to my knees. But always black. The only color I ever had to my name (on a regular basis) was on a pair of tekko- of a purple-ish color. For many years, I was not without my arm guards (look at Miroku’s to get a good idea).

Now that I’ve learned more about kimono, and the nuances of what the patterns and cuts mean, I really wonder what on earth I’m doing wearing mourning wear all the time. Yes, I can go in there and forcibly change what I’m wearing, but it always defaults to this black. Is it a past life me, running around being all sad? Is it a reflection of something within myself- that I’m mourning all the time? Is it just a coincidence?

The more I’ve learned about how to wear all of these items, the clearer the clothes become. Originally, I had a hard time figuring out what was around my waist. I knew something was there, but I couldn’t figure out the details. Now that I know how that stuff goes on and appears, I can see it more. However, the black on black on black came around before I knew jack about kimono, or how it’s worn. And even during the era of my ‘cloak’, I was still always in black. Why this necessity of black? It really does confuse me, as I am not a wearer of black. I think I own 3 black items in my entire wardrobe.

To make matters even more confusing, there is another form of clothing that I’ve started to wear (in the past 2 years) that shows up when I’m actually around something dead. And it’s not black. It’s light pink. And the clothing is typical of a younger female. Talk about confusing.

Brain, Y U NO make sense?

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Rambles

 

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Hanami, Desert Style

There is very little that Arizona and Japan share in common. Japan is an island that has the standard four seasons. Arizona is in the middle of the desert and is lucky if it has two seasons (hot, and less hot). However, despite their differences, there is one thing that they share in common: Hanami.

Hanami means flower viewing. Traditionally, this could cover a range of flowers, but in the modern sense, it almost always is in reference to sakura- or cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms hold a lot of meaning to the Japanese people. These trees bloom very suddenly in the Spring, and the blossoms die out very quickly. In the short amount of time that the flowers are in bloom, thousands of people will flock to gardens, parks and orchards to view them and hold hanami parties.

The flowers themselves symbolize transience. Many times, it is said that soldiers were like sakura. They bloom suddenly, and die suddenly and beautifully on the battlefield. They are a symbol for our own existence- we live a short life, and our lives can be taken at any moment. It is best to enjoy the beauty of the here and now, because here and now is all that you have.

I love these flowers. They are beautiful and graceful. In the movie The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, the man who runs a very old sakura orchard mentions that sakura is a very empathetic tree/flower. It brings out of us what we want brought out of us. It reflects our own feelings. If you are sad, you will see sadness in the flowers. If you are hopeful, you will see hope in the flowers, etc. And for all of the people who lost their lives last year, many of them see hope in the return of the sakura. Nature continues despite setbacks, and so should we.

Arizona’s answer to the sakura is the Palo Verde (green tree). These trees are all over AZ, and usually they aren’t much to see. However, for a few brief months in the Spring, these trees light up with bright yellow flowers. Usually, the palo verde is mixed in with other desert trees, and you will see these swarms of yellow amidst a sea of green. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see a whole bunch of palo verde trees grouped together, and it turns into a sea of yellow.

I look for the sea of yellow every Spring. I personally feel that these trees are perfect for this time of year, because the Arizona Spring is beyond transient. We’re lucky if we get a Spring at all (usually, it goes from super cold to 100 degrees outside), and I think it definitely is in the desert dweller’s nature to relish in what few mild months (weeks) we get in any given year. I know that soon these flowers will die off, and in a matter of weeks I will not even want to step foot outside due to the heat. For me, this time of year is bitter sweet- because the weather is great, but it’s only a matter of time before the heat sets in, and I’m forced back into my AC driven house. Great Nature is always shifting, and so I shift with it.

I always try to spend a little bit of time every year enjoying these trees. Hopefully, you will enjoy them too!

(Ignore this, this is for Technorati: PSDYN7Q9DDVE)

 
 

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The Wave Rises

Last weekend was another therapy session. This time we were in the new office. It was nice to have a change in scenery.

We started the session off by discussing our new apartment. There are issues with the apartment that me and my SO have issue with, and she discussed with me how there is perfection in imperfection. Sometimes, we try so hard to create this pretty picture that is in our head, and in so doing, we end up making things even worse. Which I can understand. Luckily, my SO has gotten a bit more laid back about the state of the apt. Hopefully that will be resolved soon.

After discussing that, I brought up a topic that has been bothering me for a long time now. It’s some weird ‘ailment’ that I’ve had since I was probably a child, but I’ve learned to ignore it more or less. On 3-11, I went to a film screening relating to the Great East quake in Japan. It was a documentary not only showing footage during the tsunami, but also showed how Japan and the Japanese have dealt with the loss and destruction that was wrought. It was painfully sad to watch, yet inspiring in other ways. I knew before going that I might have an issue with it. That I might have an emotional breakdown in the middle of the theatre. However, I went anyways. I went for a friend, and I was kinda interested in seeing what the movie was about.

And in retrospect, I am glad I went, and I regret that I went. It was very bitter sweet, the whole thing. I am glad for what the movie gave me- which is perspective. It showed me how I should be grateful for more. How many of us are missing the point entirely. We are so caught up in all of these physical trappings… and for what? To watch these people’s lives completely torn apart by this huge wave… it really shifted how I view things. In the documentary, there was a guy who lost his life over his car. Instead of running up the mountainside with his friend (to escape the ever rising wave), he ran back to he new car- because it was new and expensive. And this guy watched his best friend die. Over a car. I think this really embodies what a lot of people I know are like. We are so caught up in our stuff, we miss the real meaning of being here.

So for that, I am glad I went.

However, the first 5 – 10 minutes of the movie is real footage that a group of Japanese captured from a hillside. You watch this water roll in. And roll in. And roll in some more. You think it’s going to stop, but it never does. You listen to these people screaming for their lost family members (because they know that their family members are now under that water somewhere). You watch these people running up the hill to try and get away, only to have them sucked up by the wave. It leaves a mark. It left such a mark on me, I can’t even think about it without getting upset.

And it is this that I wanted to talk to her about. For many many many years now, I’ve had an issue where I have these waves of overpowering emotions. Sometimes it will be triggered by a movie such as this, or it will be triggered by something as simple as a song on the radio (some of which are not sad songs, and other songs I don’t even know the words to, yet I have a reaction). Other times, I will have this wave while reading an article in the newspaper (and sometimes the articles aren’t sad, or it’s a happy spin on a sad story). People can tell me stories, and I get upset. And I mean really upset. And while I’m sure that everyone else in that theatre was sad to see that movie, I would be surprised if many of them shed tears over it nearly every day for the week following.

When I told her about this issue I have, she told me that I have extreme empathy (specifically, extreme empathy for pain and suffering). I have no clue if this is what I have. Most people I know with empathy react to people around them. They feel the emotions around them, or people they are close to… and I don’t know if that’s what I’ve got. It almost seems that anything with a strong emotional background or footprint makes me react. I wish it wouldn’t. It’s debilitating. She continued this by saying that everything is controlled by karma. The bad has to balance out the good. And that until I could really accept the balance, I would continue to have problems. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I can’t justify killing 15,000 people with a tsunami. I don’t care who they were in their past lives. I do believe that bad things happen. Sometimes they happen for good reasons (to cause good changes in the world) and sometimes they just happen without any reason at all. I also grasp that in order for life to continue, things have to ultimately die, or be destroyed. Art is all about destruction and creation. And in order to fuel my body, I must kill things (plant, animal or otherwise). So I understand this exchange, but I don’t know what part it plays in my emotional roller coaster. Nor what to do about it.

After we discussed that, we started the hypnosis. It was to help me calm down and to realize that I need to take a break and have me time from time to time. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about it. I didn’t zonk out for this hypnosis, but I don’t remember a lot of imagery being associated with it. I remember the key part of the hypnosis was to breath. When things start to upset me, I need to breath. Which is easier said than done. Specifically, I need to breath and count to ten. Long breaths, so it’s more like counting to 30.

My other homework assignment was to look at my relationship. To see how we complete each other, how we play off of one another. How we push each other to grow, etc. I have a basis for this (I know there are a lot of ways in which my SO has caused me to grow and change for the better), but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be looking at it from another angle, or something else. I imagine it’ll become clearer in time.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Astral, Crack, Hypnosis & Inner Work

 

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The Great Clean of 2011

Cleaning. Is Fun. (borrowed from Flickr)

As I understand it, it is a common practice in Japanese culture to clean your house from top to bottom for New Years. Doing so more or less clears your slate for the upcoming year. It allows you to have good things come to you in the new year- because all of the crap has been cleared away.

I love this concept. I use it as a part of my Shinto practice, as I feel it’s focus on cleanliness and returning to a pure/clean state (such as Zep Tepi in Kemeticism) really mirrors the whole concept of The Great Clean. And after the Great Clean of 2010, I felt that I had cleared some of the drama from my life. I felt that it played a role in restoring some order in my life. That it cleared some chaos and stagnation away and allowed me to move forward to where I am now.

So this past weekend commenced the Great Clean of 2011. Due to being busy, we have broken up the Great Clean into multiple weekends. Each weekend we’ll pick certain areas of our house, or certain tasks to do. And hopefully, by the time Jan 1 hits, the house will be completely clean and ready for the new year. This past weekend we worked on cleaning out the kitchen. Getting rid of items we no longer need or use and taking them to the Goodwill (and actually, you know, taking them there. Not just leaving them in a pile by the door). We also got to work trying to sell our futon, which has been waiting to be sold since the beginning of Nov.

We also made the decision this past weekend that we will be making our own Kagami Mochi this year. Our normal place for buying it doesn’t seem to be carrying them this year. And at this rate, SAL wouldn’t get here in time. So we shall attempt to make our own. This will be the first year where we have an actual ofuda in the Kamidana- so I think it’s fitting that they get real Kagami Mochi, not a fake plastic one. Hopefully it will turn out well :3 I also need to get the Kamidana and it’s shelf all set up and ready for New Year and it’s ofuda. Which should be an adventure in and of itself.

Looks like I’ve got a lot to do before New Years hits.

 

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Shintoism

 

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