Shinto – Kagura
Type of Spiritual Experience
Kagura are the ancient Shinto ritual dances of shamanic origin. There are purification kagura dances and dances that re-enact myths and legends. There are also however, a few dances that were used to invoke spiritual experience.
Miko kagura , for example, is the oldest type of kagura and is danced by women in Shinto shrines and during folk festivals. The ancient miko were shamanesses, but this role has long since disappeared. Miko kagura originally was a shamanic trance dance, but you will see none of this reflected in the current dances.
Originally, the practice of kagura often involved authentic ‘possession’ – spiritual experience. In modern day Japan it appears to be difficult to find any true kagura that achieves this [called kamigakari]. Most of the apparent experiences are simply choreographed.
A description of the experience
Sagimusune is the title of a kabuki dance, thus here we have a dancing girl who enacted the trance dance in the kabuki theatre. The entire picture is symbolic.
The snow represents ‘winter’ – the last stage of the spiritual path; she is wearing sky walker shoes, cloud walkers indicating out of body travel in the spiritual world.
Her white kimono – again a symbol of travel to the highest levels – is cloudy and billowy in shape, the cloud level of experience.
She has a black obi – so yin and yang.
The willow – a weeping willow – is a symbol of the spiritual word, the world of ‘death’ and ‘sorrow’ theoretically, but to the living simply the spirit world to where the dead eventually go.
The fence is a symbolic barrier however, between her and the final world of death, she is still on the side of the water level – the world of the living; there is another barrier of cloud above her