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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
This past year, working full time as a priestess

Hello all!

So I had realized recently, I hadn't updated this precious space in quite a long time - nor even my own personal blogs. Where had I gone? 

Well..the story is a bit complicated. Last year, 2017, was a huge transitioning year for me. 

I moved to Japan in May 2017. And since then, it has been a lot of time of trying to settle into my new home, my new environment. Even the weather when I landed was quite different, and made me very weak comparing to coming from Canada's cold winter. I also missed, and still do miss my family a lot back in North America, which is the only downside to living here, and that also weighed heavily on me.

While here in Japan, I began to work full time as a priestess at the Konkokyo Shrine of Yokosuka, and assist with monthly ceremonies as well as private ones, in which there were many.
In addition, since Yokosuka is a naval base town, despite not knowing Japanese entirely fluently yet, I still was blessed to be busy with both translation work and also interacting with the local American community here. It was and is really great, and I love it here, but before I realized it, my time was getting busier and busier! I hardly had time to go online at all; only to check a few emails and messages, or answer direct questions.

The Fall itself felt like a blur, and in November, late Fall season, we held our Grand Ceremony, which is one of the two biggest ceremonies of the year. (The other is in May, or late Spring). After that, Winter came and New Years season came around, the busiest season of the year for shrines since everyone comes to pray for a happy and safe New Year, and in addition for the Year-End purification ceremonies, and Mochitsuki (mochi making event) in January.

And now..that brings us to here! And things have finally come to a settle I think. At least, I'm managing things a lot better and understand the work flow of the shrine here, and the general schedule. As well as being used to the home here, and the local city is familiarized to me as well. 

So, while I do have some long-term work I need to do, such as continuing to answer emails and questions, shrine work, which includes a website and print materials I need to make for this year and will take some time, and in addition of course the ceremonies - and studying more Japanese - between all these things, I also want to make a commitment to post more articles regularly! 

So thank you all and to those who have been patient with me! I deeply appreciate it.

Since 2015, I've been in a kind of nonstop busy mode. Priestess training was back in 2015, 2016 had a lot of travel to Japan, and now 2017 just flew by doing work here - 2018 I'm hoping is a lot more stable year where I can be settled into a good work flow schedule smoothly.

And I hope by 2019, I'll have a better handle on everything to do some hobbies I want to pursue, such as dollmaking, and doing more art and creative writing. But I want to get important things done first, or I can't enjoy other hobbies personally!

In any case, I know this update isn't entirely educational or Shinto related...but I think sharing some insight just into what I learned working as a priestess full time is like, I'll share here a bit! Hopefully you'll find it interesting at least. After this, I do plan to go back to usual educational articles, so please look forward to them!

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A photo of when I danced kibimai, a type of ancient kagura (sacred dance) I offered to Kamisama in the Konkokyo Shrine of Toronto, April 2017, before I left for Japan




Before I moved to Yokosuka, I did priestess work in Toronto. However, since it's in Toronto and Canadian culture is much different than Japan, services were only held every other Sunday, since it was the day of the week most had off in Canada, and other days people would be working and unable to visit. We also had to schedule around the western holidays like Easter, Christmas, and so on which also made having more regular ceremonies a bit difficult. In contrast, in Japan, we go by Japanese holidays which match up with the traditional rituals and ceremonies in the shrine, so it's much easier for the people to come more often.

So in other words...while I worked in Toronto - it was quite easier workload in comparison. I had the whole week, sometimes two free weeks, and then just had the one day I had to do priestess work. Of course it was a little sad for me, but it was also why I had a lot more free time to do blogging, or even other part-time work. 

I got an idea of what it was like to work as a full fledged priestess from the monthly ceremonies in Toronto - I helped a little with offerings, preparing tamagushi, and practicing ritual. I also did these intensely during priestess training, so things were as usual and not too unfamiliar. It was a lot like refining the skills. My teacher in Toronto is still the best teacher I have, and I respect him greatly now. I feel very blessed I got to train and learn under him.

However, since moving to Japan here and working more regularly in priestess work - I realized especially what my teacher meant when he said I still had a lot to learn! The workload is completely different in Japan, and since the shrine here is 120 years old, there were a lot of older knowledge of our shrine tradition I learned as well, and my mind and knowledge expanded so much more. 

The house and living area is right next to the shrine itself, so in addition I work essentially every day shrine keeping. It's a whole different experience. Whereas before in Toronto I could relax fully at home and not be concerned about visitors, just caretake my own kamidana - here I need to be sure to wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed (no pajamas!), open the shrine, and then watch for shrine visitors (sanpaisha) if they come and to greet them. Of course; I can afford now to have lazy days and sleep in, since 3 other priests and priestess work here (My partner and his parents) and I am not the Head Priest, but Associate Priestess, so my responsibilities are a lot lighter.

But I realized very seriously that if I was alone, I'd have to be much more serious about it, and be sure to get proper rest and a good schedule. We are open every day of the year, from 8am to 8pm, so I learned quickly the importance of having a very good schedule and managing everything - from personal hygiene, to chores around the house, to making meals, and managing the shrine and shrine work. It was so much more than I expected! 

As well, I gained a deeper respect for those who manage shrines alone. We don't get a salary or anything from a head shrine, so we are self-sustaining - and that means as well learning how to do accounting and managing money, and budgeting properly for things like offerings or ritual tools, to not overspend or even underspend too (buying the right amount and variety for Kamisama is also a factor for important ceremonies). 

In addition, at our shrine in particular, we also have a large garden, - which grows sakaki branches for tamagushi, vegetables such as cucumbers, and many, many oranges and persimmons - which is beautiful and I realized the bounty of nature, but as well, it's also another task to manage to caretake of the trees and plants, and trim and harvest accordingly. 

In making offerings, I also learned how to treat each food item carefully. We should try to place them the way they grow in nature, the proper way to cut and wash them, and the proper way to stack them with stability. Food offerings are still one of the hardest areas to master!

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A mixed fruits and vegetables offerings I did for the mitama no kami, or ancestral divine spirits, about a week ago. I learned afterwards I should have spread the eggplants more, and cut the top of the leeks cleaner, to improve and perfect the form.


Despite all of this hard work, I really, really enjoy it, and love to learn all the new things I am! And very happy to do things with care and sincerity towards kami-sama. I was actually moved to tears at one point, to see how deeply everything is carefully made, cleaned, arranged, organized, and run in the shrine for kami-sama, mitama no kami, and the people who visit the shrine and who are parishioners of the shrine. I understood a strong sense of community and sincerity, and I was and am very grateful to learn as well.

As in, it's not just the form or method how to do things as a priestess, but what's very important moreso is the heart, spirit, and sincerity behind it. I feel like I really learned that this year, and I think I will begin to understand it even more the longer I work here. 

I learned being a priestess wasn't just ritual work or making offerings - but it was so much more. It wasalso making offerings with care and consideration, even right down to details like how to wash and clean and cut them (even using a special, kami-sama offering-only knife).

It was learning how to do many different things, such as gardening, harvesting, accounting, budgeting, learning how to cook with the offerings we eat after so nothing goes to waste, learning how to make sacred items properly, learning different types of ceremonies, even my work in coding, graphic design and social media was and is needed to work on having and updating information online - it ends up being a kind of jack of all trades job. That is, this is all behind the scenes to the very important spiritual work which is our main focus.

In the end, all of it is done for the community and kami-sama, which makes me so happy. I feel so glad and grateful to be able to serve the community and kami-sama - that we are a shrine where not only people can come together and rest and have a connection with kami-sama, but also for our shrine tradition in particular, to come and talk about any problem or issue on their mind (a rite called toritsugi mediation). Organizing and running the shrine well contributes to everything to go harmoniously, and it's amazing to me how it all comes together.

This year, I want to start doing the old, ancient prayers at sunrise - such as Ooharae no Kotoba, and Amatsu Norito, as our shrine tradition used to do 100 years ago. I want to make our shrine shine even brighter and have more spiritual strength by returning and nurturing to the roots. Thankfully, it seems kami-sama also agrees, as the past year we have had a lot of things from the past return - including a very old Tenchi Kakitsuke, or Divine Reminder from the Universe, made by a shrine parishioner from a long time ago!

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The old Tenchi Kakitsuke. The meaning of the black background and white kanji, is that "even in the darkness, the reminder from the universe will shine through". It has such a strong spiritual power I feel!


So, those are the things I learned deeply especially this year about priestess work. For anyone who is considering to become a Shinto priest, or especially a Shinto priest in the Konkokyo tradition, there is so much to think about and manage...but I think in the end, it's very much worth it.

To see the smiling faces of everyone and their bright spirits - and to feel the power of kami-sama and the gentle power from the shrine and nature around us, I think it is all worth it, and any kind of physical and/or spiritual work that has to be done daily I'm so grateful to do every day!

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  • Mivi
    Mivi says #
    I'm so proud of you. I always love hearing about how your training is going. I cannot be as rigorous in studies since I don't liv

Posted by on in Signs & Portents
A Time of Birth and Renewal

Greetings, readers! Today (or yesterday, depending on how you count) is Imbolc, an ancient Celtic festival celebrating new life and considered historically to be the first day of spring. The holiday is also sometimes known as Brigid/Brighid’s Day, after the Gaelic goddess associated with it, and is also represented today by Groundhog Day and Candlemas.Today we’ve gathered all our posts related to Imbolc for you to peruse and enjoy. We hope that spring comes early for you all and fills your hearts with joy.

--Aryós Héngwis

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Race and Paganism

“Racism is a problem CREATED BY white people and BLAMED ON people of color.” 

- Waking Up White, Debby Irving

...
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  • Cairril Adaire
    Cairril Adaire says #
    I hear you. It doesn't seem comfortable to say beforehand, "I have studied with a tribal elder," but do we feel that way because o
  • JudithAnn
    JudithAnn says #
    I think I understand the question because I am in the same place. I am only two generations removed from my immigrant grandparents
  • Cairril Adaire
    Cairril Adaire says #
    I would like a brown or black person to respond to this, but off the top of my head I think we just need to be as honest as we can
  • Felicia
    Felicia says #
    What if one is trying to reclaim a bit of their heritage but, because of mixing, doesn't obviously look like they have that heri

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Radical Hope

Last night I read the news about Cape Town, and then dreamed that my garden died.

I live in a condo in Los Angeles, so my garden is small and fragile and mostly in containers: calendula and tulsi and borage and lemon balm in pots and window boxes, selfheal that's dying no matter what I do, jasmine and passionvine that twine around each other in bombastic friendship, nasturtiums that cascade in a curtain of friendly little circles. Baby blue eyes and violet seedlings growing in a flat. Cleveland sage in a pot, since the soil is mostly clay, and sagebrush and California fuschia in the ground, since they can tolerate that clay. I had to fight with my building manager to put plants in the bare dirt behind the building, even though I'm on the HOA board; status quo bias is so strong that people trust ugly cracked ground more than they trust small, quiet plants. (I won the rest of the board over partly by telling them my unit's property values are suffering because of the eyesore that is the dirt. In reality I don't care much about the property values, but a witch uses the tools in her toolbox; she shapeshifts when she needs to.)

...
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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Celebrating the buds

At this time of year in my corner of the UK, the tree buds change in a noticeable way, and for me this is something to celebrate.

Trees form their leaf buds during the winter. The idea that trees sleep through the winter is a misconception perpetrated by the Pagan community, depending entirely on never looking that closely at trees. If you only ever see trees from a distance then yes, those apparently bare branches may look like nothing is going on, but this isn’t so! Trees make their leaves, and their catkins during the winter months. In January here, the catkins start opening. Somewhere around Imbolc, buds fatten discernibly.

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  • Judith Shaw
    Judith Shaw says #
    Wise words - "New leaves on trees can seem like an event – a sudden arrival of bright new greenness to mark the beginning of the g

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Exit the Cailleach, Welcome Brigid!

The Cailleach did not depart without a bit of drama in Ireland. I woke Imbolc eve to snowflakes. We had hail thjat fell like shrapnel. We had sleet. She lashed us and threw down steely stair rods of rain. The wind bayed. Your fingers froze. Friends speculated that our cloth Brat Bríd's would be ripped from the bushes and clothes lines and we would be bereft of the goddess blessing this spring. As nightfall descended the cloud cover was so thick the supermoon was as veiled as if she had still been eclipsed. But enter the Divine Feminine reborn...and repurposed.

The cloud parted and the Cailleach departed before sunrise. Over towards the coast, to the southwest the full moon hung bright and low to the horizon. My little black cat, Sparkle, was intent on going out to moon bathe. I opened the door and welcomed Bríd. And the brat was still intact, the clip still secure. I brought it in, sodden with rain, to dry.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Turn up the Heat and Chill Out

Imbolc is a natural time for contemplation and quietude. The weather often compels us indoors and forces us to slow down and partake in some sort of hibernation. If we stay this way for too long however, restlessness and boredom can set in. How does one cope with extreme temperatures and no waiting plane ticket to sunnier climates in sight? Sometimes even simulated heat is better than none.

On those winter nights that you're feeling chilled to the bone, turning up the heat and meditating could be just what is needed to help in biding your time until spring. Don't be afraid to boost it enough to break a sweat. Yes, it's an indulgence, but you can always turn it down to normal right after. Bundle up, put on your heaviest wrap-around scarf, wool hat, leg warmers, arm warmers, fuzzy socks, and fashion a Snuggie-worthy blanket around the back of your shoulders. Prop yourself up on too many comfy pillows.

Before you get completely settled in though, light your favorite scented candle, dim all the lights and light some relaxing incense as well, preferably something such as "Tranquility," by Essential Essences, with lavender mixed in. Likewise, heat up a lavender and chamomile Anti-Stress Comfort Wrap, such as the one from Earth Therapeutics to drape over your shoulders.

A Himalayan salt lamp is a great tool for assisting on nights such as these, and has been known to help in removing toxins, stale energy, and even allergens out of the dry air, as well. Speaking as one prone to allergies, I noticed a difference immediately. Turn on your favorite soft-voiced guided mediation or mood music, or tune in to the white noise of a radiator, wood burning stove, or fireplace, if you're lucky enough to have one in your home.

Breathe deep and give yourself a good 20-30 minutes to completely relax, recharge your energies and realign your chakras – there's a nifty guided meditation to do just that at the end of this article. Breathe in the positive and let go/breathe out that which no longer serves you. When you feel that you have reached your optimum peaceful state of mind, express gratitude to the Goddesses and Gods for the unique opportunity to take the time to do this exercise. Finish with a cup of hot brewed herbal tea, and sprinkle a few drops out on your back porch in offering to Mother Nature.

Leave the salt lamp on for the night and take note of the interesting dreams that you may remember in the morning. And don't forget to turn down the heat again!

Resources:

“Yoga Pose Shows Exercise Wellbeing And Health” by Stuart Miles from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

https://www.today.com/health/himalayan-salt-lamps-are-health-benefits-real-t107117

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i50ZAs7v9es

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8LIbeKQ60U

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