Prayer, Shinto, Uncategorized

Our Parent Inari-Ōkamisama

Fox statue at Fushimi Inari Taisha. Credit: BrokeTourist

Being a human in a modern society can often be a stressful and taxing endeavor. Our commitment to our work and social lives can result in very little time for ourselves and our relationships to kami. In Shinto it is customary for us to pray and be thankful for our blessings daily and some of us even change offerings and perform formal norito (prayers) at our home altars (kamidana) daily.

A few people in Shinto groups I am a member of have recently expressed their distress when it comes to having time to worship, and are worried that Inari-Ōkamisama will forget them or become angry or distant.

To those people I advised that Inari-Ōkamisama, and of course other kami, are like a parent to us. We may go many months without talking to them, without telling them we love them or without thinking about them. But they are a parent. Even if we don’t always see them, they are bonded and will always be a parent. They do not forget their children, no matter what. Inari-Ōkamisama is the same.

We can go months without worship but Inari-Ōkamisama has an unconditional love for us, as we do for them. As long as we are sincere and polite in our prayer, they understand. Inari-Ōkamisama understands that we are in a busy modern society and that finding quiet time can be difficult. Of course, if we are unable to worship because of health reasons, Inari-Ōkamisama understands that too.

A Kami of Many Names

Inari-Ōkamisama is associated with many attributes and is seen as a kami of rice, fertility, commerce and business, good health and nature. They are also associated with or seen as many other kami, depending on where they are enshrined, historical worship and local customs. Some of the kami Inari-Ōkamisama is associated with are:

  • Uka-no-Mitama-no-Ōkami (宇迦之御魂大神): Kami of rice and ferility, a common name for Inari-Ōkami
  • Satahiko-Ōkami/Sarutahiko-Ōkami (佐田彦大神): Leader of the Earthly kami, kami of fertility, guidance and spiritual matters
  • Ōmiyanome-no-Ōkami/Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto (大宮能売大神): Wife of Sarutahiko-noŌkami, kami of arts, entertainment, happiness and joy
  • Tanaka no Ōkami (田中大神): Kami of the rice paddy 
  • Shi no Ōkami (四大神): An ancient kami considered to be one of the original energies of Inari-Ōkami
  • Kunitokotachi-no-mikoto (国常立尊): One of the original kami mentioned in the Nihon-Shoki. A primordial kami of creation and balance.

Through all of these kami, Inari-Ōkamisama themselves are considered an incredibly powerful and potent creation kami. As a creator, Inari-Ōkamisama is a parent to us all and we can really see the fertility aspect of the kami come to life.

Two kami associated with Inari-Ōkami – Ame-no-Uzume-Mikoto and Sarutahiko-Ōkami

For me, Inari-Ōkamisama encompasses everything – it is one of the reasons that Inari Faith is such a strong part of Shinto and why so many people across the world are drawn to them. I know I can go to Inari-Ōkamisama for anything as they provide me with everything I need to live a rich life – physically and spiritually.

Ways of Worship

It should be said that just because we feel we are unable to do formal prayers at a kamidana or shrine, it doesn’t mean we cannot contact the kami. Kami are omnipresent and do not ‘live’ in shrines or kamidana, they are simply places where we can feel their focused energy. The whole world is Kamisama’s shrine as it is a sacred place, even in cities and towns we can feel the presence of kamisama.

If you struggle to make time to pray, may I advise the following ways of worship and communing with the kami:

  • Notice nature: On your commute to work, your break time from school, even whilst staring out a window; take time to notice nature. Remember that nature is not only trees and birds, humans ourselves are a part of nature. Modern technology is an expression of human evolution and nature, as our city buildings. Thank the kami for your job, your home, your food. Everything around us has been manifested out of the universal energy that is kamisama.
  • Give Thanks: At the end of the day take a moment to think about what you have achieved that day. Think about the places you went, the people you saw, the food you ate. Practice the act of being grateful for the little things. Even if you have an awful day it is possible to still be thankful for things – even it’s just the fact that the air you breathe keeps you alive and the water you drink is clean.
  • Do small prayers instead of norito: It is not essential to do norito or make offerings every day. Instead you can do it once a month, or only on matsuri. I make an offering of water and sometimes candles daily, and give offerings formally on the 1st and 15th of each month, along with matsuri and sometimes the full moon. If you cannot do this, simply say a small prayer before bed or first thing in the morning. As long as you are sincere, kamisama will hear you.

Above all, remember that Inari-Ōkamisama or whatever kami you worship will not forget you. They will not get angry unless you do something purposely disrespectful and they often find ways to remind you that they would like to speak – in the forms of signs and dreams. Inari-Ōkamisama usually has very strong signs that they would like to be acknowledged too – from powerful dreams to literal foxes being sent!

If you are suddenly noticing lots of foxes in your life, it is possible that Inari-Ōkamisama is calling to you! Image credit: Flickr

So please relax and remember that this is a part of life! By just living life and partaking in society, we are giving thanks to the kami of creation for life. The best we can do is to live in accordance with nature and the kami, and to be grateful that we have been blessed with this gift.

References/Further Reading:

Fushimi Inari Taisha
Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America
Inari Faith International (稲荷信仰国際協会): Inari: The Source of Life

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