May 13, 2017

Shrine Maiden

Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto
Nikon D700 Micro Nikkor 105mm F2.8

The term shrine maiden (巫女, miko) refers specifically to altar girls of the Shinto religion. They live and work in a Shinto shrine. Shrine maidens are generally virgins and take various rites of purity and chastity, and undergo various forms of physical and mental training. They also practice sealing and purification rituals, which are highly form-based and symbolic, and are used to bless, purify, or exorcise vengeful spirits. A shrine maiden's main tool, or possibly simply the most popular one, is a stick with elaborately folded paper on the end, known as a gohei (御幣). The name of Reimu's gohei (霊夢の御幣) is oharaibō (御祓い棒, purification rod). Other common tools are small rectangular papers used for sealing, called o-fuda (お札); these are elaborately painted with various mystical symbols and rites of sealing.

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