Native spirituality and faith in the marebito: ancient Japanese, Ainu, and Okinawan conceptions




Nayuki, Izumi

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Some communities through the Japanese islands conduct some ceremonies, festivals, or customs, according to the belief that spiritual beings come from a distant place to bless villagers and go back to their own world. These ritual practices are often embedded in the basic notion in which life (spirit) exists in all forms and the spirit continues its journey between this world and the spiritual world by obtaining different physical forms each time it manifests itself in this world. In this way, an immense spiritual life force exists throughout the universe; this life force exists even within each human individual. In other words, all life forms repeat this cycle, births and deaths; a spiritual self and a physical self are not separated from one another. This notion is often expressed as faith in the marebito in present day Japan. Orikuchi Shinobu (1887-1953), a Japanese scholar in the field of Japanese folklore, introduced this notion through his marebito images presented in his marebito theory in his work, Kodai kenkyu: Kokubungaku no hassei (Archaic Studies: the Origin of National Literature). This thesis does not reflect Orikuchi's influence on Japanese imperialism during his time. The aim of this thesis is to illustrate his marebito images in the context of nature's law or the rule of the universe that has been introduced in the first paragraph. In order to capture his marebito images in this context, the author introduces spiritual worldviews of ancient Japanese, the Ainu people, and the Okinawan people. Through exploring the commonalities of these native worldviews, the author shows the intimate relationship between deities and humans as well as a macrocosm and a microcosm. By interpreting Orikuchi's marebito images in relation to these spiritual views with the utilization of existing scholarly works around Orikuchi's studies, the author seeks a way for humans to understand one another beyond the boundaries of cultural differences.



folklore, Japan, Shinobu Origuchi