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Summer Ritual at Shinto Shrine: “Chinowa-kuguri”

Kibitsu shrine's Torii

When I visited my wife’s parents’ home, I also went to a nearby shrine called Kibitsu shrine.
At that time, an interesting ritual was being held.

I’m going to introduce about it on this post.

“Chinowa-kuguri”

Chinowa-kuguri

The ritual that has been held there is called “Chinowa-kuguri”.
“Chinowa-kuguri” is one of the rites of “Nagoshi-no-harae”, which is held every June to get rid of defilements for the next half year.
People walk through a big ring in the hope of preventing diseases and disasters.

Chinowa

This “Chinowa” is made of cogon grasses wrapped around a big bamboo ring.

This event is popular for families, not only because it is an annual event since the old days but it’s also amusing to pass through the “Chinowa”.

By the way, in the old days, people changed their clothes to new summer clothes at the same time this event is also held.

“Hitogata” (“Katashiro”)

Hitogata

Although the design of “Chinowa” might be different on every shrine, at the shrine I visited, the “Chinowa” has “Hitogata” attached on it.
In ancient times, this “Hitogata” is used as a tool to place curse to others or as a scapegoat to receive someone’s disasters.

Hinamatsuri

For example, there is an event called “Hinamatsuri” which is being held every March 3 in Japan.
This event is celebrated to pray for the growth of young girls.

The origin of this festival goes like this:
In the old days, many babies and children died.
Because of that, people used “Hitogata” as a scapegoat in order to prevent diseases and disasters for their children.

On the other hand, the famous straw dolls for cursing is an example of using “Hitogata” to place curse to other people.
※ There is a rumor that it’s still being done even today.
In this case, “Hitogata” is used the same as voodoo doll.

How to perform “Chinowa-kuguri”

How to perform Chinowa-kuguri

  1. Stand in front of the Chinowa and bow once.
  2. Walk through the ring with your left foot and turn around the ring towards left back to the starting point.
  3. At the starting point, bow once.
  4. Again, walk through the ring but with your right foot and turn around the ring towards right back to the starting point.
  5. At the starting point, bow once.
  6. Again, walk through the ring with your left foot and turn around the ring towards left. (Same in step 2.)
  7. Back in the starting point, bow once.
  8. Walk through the ring with your left foot, but this time, go straight to the altar.
  9. Finally, perform the “Twice bowing, twice clapping and one-time bowing” worship manner.

Those are the steps of “Chinowa-kuguri”.

There are two key points to remember:

  • When you stand in front of the Chinowa, you always have to do a deep bow.
  • You have to walk through and around the ring in left-right-left order, forming a figure 8.

Please note that there might be some differences on “Chinowa-kuguri” ritual depending on the shrine.

Notes

You must not pull out and take the cogon grass of “Chinowa” with you.

This is not a matter of morality.

“Chinowa-kuguri” is a custom to transfer diseases and disasters to the “kaya” (cogon grass).
So, if you bring it home, that means you are taking somebody’s diseases or disasters with you.

About Kibitsu shrine

Kibitsu_shrine

Kibitsu shrine in Okayama City is famous.
But this time, the Kibitsu shrine that I visited is in Fukuyama City.
Kibitsu shrine in Fukuyama City is equally huge as the one in Okayama City. It is ranked as “Ichinomiya”, the highest shrine rank in a province or prefecture.

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