Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Japanese Ainu shamanism: pre-Shinto, Zen

EveryCulture.comXochitl, Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly
Ainu look Caucasian/Asian but their DNA shows no evidence of Caucasian genetic ancestry. They show kinship with Tibetans and Andaman Island aboriginals (Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.)
Kennewick Man sculpted to resemble Ainu, considered by some to be his closest living relatives. Now alleged to be a Native American (Brittney Tatchell/Smithsonian) More.
Indigenous Ainu man, Native White Japanese, circa 1880 (Heritage of Japan)
Natives of the Americas are very much like the Native Ainu of Japan and Siberia
Ainu, 18th century (xiuyan.com.cn)
The indigenous religion of Japan is called Shinto, the worship or dealing with the kami (shape-shifting spirits, "gods," ghouls, ghosts, ogres, or earthbound-devas).

No one knows where this shamanic tradition came from, but it is obvious that it came with or from the indigenous Native Japanese, the Ainu (and Oroks and Nivkhs), Russian/Siberian peoples from neighboring islands in the north and the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Ainu refer to their "gods" as the kamuy (a clear reference to the kami, who are still highly regarded by both Shintoists and Japanese Zen Buddhists in increasingly secular Japan, which is nevertheless obsessed with an inconceivable variety of shape shifting monsters and ghouls with the strangest habits and predilections).

Here is a good explanation of Ainu religion, which is like the shamanism of almost all native peoples.
Kuril Ainu dwelling (University of Tokyo)
The Ainu are an indigenous ethnic group of people who live in Hokkaido in Japan today as well as in Russia (the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin). In the 19th Century, Japanese people called the northern island of Hokkaido “Ezochi,” which means “Land of the Ainu.” The term "Ainu" generally referred to the fair-skinned, long-haired, hunter-gatherer people with animistic [all is living] beliefs who had lived there for hundreds of years. From the 15th century, waves of Japanese settlers began crowding out Ainu communities on Honshu Island and pushing them northwards. The settlers also brought infectious diseases that caused Ainu populations to fall... More

(RT) Life on Kuril Islands, formerly Japan now Russia, Siberian settlers

Kuril Ainu next to traditional dwelling.
HISTORY: The Ainu people were early inhabitants of Kuril Islands (now in Russian hands, although there are few records that predate the 17th century. The Japanese administration first took nominal control of the islands in the Edo period of Japan, in the form of claims by the Matsumae clan. More
Ainu: Religion and Expressive Culture 
Ainu lands: Hokkaido, Sakhalin, Kuril islands
Separation of religious dimensions of Ainu life from others distorts the way Ainu view their lives, since religion is the perspective that pervades their life.

Thus, even the disposal of discarded items such as food remains and broken objects is guided by the spatial classification of the Ainu universe and its directions, which derive from religious and cosmological principles.

What we call economic activities are religious activities to the Ainu, who regard land and sea animals as deities and fish and plants as products of deities.

Religious Beliefs
(Sarastarlight) Ainu: First People of Japan, The Original and First Japanese: The Ainu [who are "white" but not genetically Caucasian. closer to Tibetans and Andaman Island aboriginals, and perhaps Agarthans] arrived in Japan maybe 14,000 years ago, 10,000 years before the Japanese. They were killed, enslaved, and driven off their lands, taking refuge in the northern islands of Japan (now Russia) where they now number less than 25,000. This is a documentary film by Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D. (BrainMind.com).

Native American keystone totem animals like the bear
An important concept in the Ainu belief system is the soul [spirit, subtle body, consciousness stream], owned by most beings in the Ainu universe.

According to tradition, the soul becomes perceptible when it leaves the owner's body. For example, when one dreams, one's soul [astral body] frees itself from the sleeping body and travels, even to places where one has never been.

Likewise, a deceased person may appear in one's dreams because the soul of the deceased can travel from the world of the dead to that of the living. During a shamanistic performance, the shaman's soul travels to the world of the dead to snatch back the soul of a dead person, thereby reviving the person nearing death
This belief underlies the Ainu emphasis on proper treatment of the dead body of humans and all other soul owners in the universe, resulting in elaborate funeral customs ranging from the bear ceremony, discussed later, to the careful treatment of fish bones, which represent the dead body of a fish.

Yokai dracul (mokuhankan.com/Jed Henry's art)
Without proper treatment of a dead body, its soul cannot rest in peace in the world of the dead and causes illness among the living to remind the Ainu of their misconduct. Shamans must be consulted to obtain diagnosis and treatment for these illnesses.

The soul has the power to punish only when it has been mistreated. Deities (kamuy), in contrast, possess the power to punish or reward at will. Some scholars believe that among the Ainu nature is equated with the deities.

Others claim that only certain members of the universe are deified. The Ainu consider all animal deities to be exactly like humans in appearance and to live just like humans in their own divine country -- an important point in Ainu religion.

Animal deities disguise themselves when visiting the Ainu world to bring meat and fur as presents to the Ainu, just as Ainu guests always bring gifts. The bear thus is not itself the supreme deity but rather the mountain deity's disguise for bringing the "gift" of bear meat and hide. ... 

Evil spirits and demons 
Yokai, the Ainu's evil kami, are ghouls, monsters, and shape-shifters (scribblecitycentral)
Yokai; the many monsters of Japan
Evil spirits and demons -- called variously oyasi [yokai?], wen-kamuy (evil kami), and so on -- constitute another group of beings in the universe who are more powerful than humans. They exercise their destructive power by causing misfortunes such as epidemics. The smallpox deity is an example.

Some of them are intrinsic or by definition bona fide demons, whereas others become demons. For example, if a soul is mistreated after the death of its owner, it turns into a demon.

The Ainu devote a great deal of attention to evil spirits and demons by observing religious rules and performing exorcism rites. Human combat with demons is a major theme in Ainu epic poems, discussed below.

Characteristically, the deities never deal directly with the demons; rather, they extend aid to the Ainu if the latter behave as directed.
Monsters, ghosts, fantastic beings, and supernatural phenomena haunt the folklore and popular culture of Japan. Broadly labeled yokai, these creatures come in infinite shapes and sizes, from tengu mountain goblins and kappa water spirits to shape-shifting foxes and long-tongued ceiling-lickers. Popular in anime, manga, film, and computer games, many yokai originated in local legends, folktales, and regional ghost stories (Michael Dylan Foster). 
  • The Ainu Portal on Wikipedia
  • Kami () are spirits or phenomena worshiped in Shinto. They are elements in nature, animals, creative forces in the universe, as well as spirits of the revered deceased. Many kami are considered ancient ancestors of entire Japanese clans, and some ancestors became kami upon their death.
(Journeyman.TV) "The Despised Ainu People" (1994): A look into the modern-day situation of the Ainu people of Hokkaido, North Japan

Racial discrimination in Japan where whites are the Natives being exterminated or ethnically cleansed by the invaders. A small boy denies his Ainu ancestry for fear of being bullied in a society where conformity is valued above all else. The Ainu people were chased into the north and are despised by the rest of Japan. Different in appearance, language, customs and DNA, they have suffered more than a century of discrimination. They are denied their traditional fishing rights, their sacred sites are being destroyed, and tourists come to gawk at their culture in museums. But now the Ainu are fighting back. They have at last won a seat in Japanese parliament, and many are re-learning the Ainu language. They are struggling to preserve their unique heritage in the face of an urbanized and uncaring modern Japan (ABC Australia - Ref. 87).
  • Shamanism is part of the indigenous Ainu religion and Japanese religion of Shinto, although Shinto is distinct in that it is shamanism for an agricultural society. Since the early middle-ages Shinto has been influenced by and syncretized with Buddhism and other elements of continental East Asian culture [whereas Ainu presumably has not]. The book "Occult Japan: Shinto, Shamanism and the Way of the Gods" by Percival Lowell delves further into researching Japanese shamanism or Shintoism. The book Japan Through the Looking Glass: Shaman to Shinto uncovers the extraordinary aspects of Japanese beliefs.
Religious Practitioners
Ainu shaman, Exhibition from Laura Liverani, HESO Magazine (hesomagazine.com)
Ainu shamanism: "pet bear sacrifice," Japanese scroll painting, circa 1870 (wiki)
Shamanism is not an exclusively male role. Sakhalin-Ainu shamanism differs considerably from Hokkaidō-Ainu shamanism. Among the Sakhalin Ainu, with regard to the symbolic structure, the shamanistic ritual represents the process of cooking, a role assigned to women in Ainu society.

Shamanism is highly valued among the Sakhalin Ainu, and highly regarded members of society of both sexes, including heads of settlements, may become shamans.

Although shamans sometimes perform rites for divination of various sorts and for miracles, most rites are performed to diagnose and cure illnesses.

When shamans are possessed by spirits, they enter a trance and the spirit speaks through their mouths, providing the client with necessary information such as the diagnosis and cure of an illness or the location of a missing object.

Bear Geisha or indigenous Ainu influences in Japanese art (Shimizu Yoku/yokuarts.com)
Among the Hokkaidō Ainu, shamanism is not highly regarded; shamans are usually women, who collectively have lower social status than men. The Hokkaidō Ainu shaman also enters a possession trance, but she does so only if a male elder induces it in her by offering prayers to the deities [kami].

Although she also diagnoses illnesses, male elders take over the healing process. Male elders must consult a shaman before they make important decisions for the community. In other words, the politically powerful male cannot even declare a war without consulting the shaman...

Kuril Ainu girl with face markings
While Ainu religion is expressed through rituals as well as in daily routines, like the disposal of fish bones, nowhere is it better articulated than in their highly developed oral tradition, which is comparable to the ancient Greek tradition.

For the Ainu, the oral tradition is both a primary source of knowledge about the deities [kami] and a guide for conduct. There are at least 27 native genres of oral tradition, each having a label in Ainu, that may be classified into two types, verses (epic or lyric) to be sung or chanted and narrative prose. More

What is "Zen"?
Wisdom Quarterly
Ascetic Bodhidharma brings Zen to Japan
Japanese is famous for its Zen form of Buddhism. Japan had Shinto, agricultural-centered shamanism, until Buddhism arrived.

Similarly, Tibet had Bon, Himalayan shamanism, until Buddhism arrived. But they did not lose their indigenous practices and worldviews.

They expanded them to accommodate the world's first missionary religion. Buddhism arrived not to take over the country the way Christianity is used to precede the military but to spread the Dharma. So Japanese and Tibetan Buddhism, called Zen and Vajrayana, are both distinct forms of Vedic/Hindu-influenced Mahayana Buddhism.

Zen came from China, where it is called ch'an. The word translates as "meditation" but in its original sense of "meditative absorption" (jhana, dhyana, deep effortless-concentration, trance, samadhi). Every culture colors Buddhism when it arrives creating a distinct school as indigenous lore gets folded in.

White? Do I look white? I'm Ainu (dijaspora)
Buddhism was new to the Ainu way, which was more fully formed as Shinto. But Ainu shamans must have been aware of meditative states, as are all peoples and religions.

It is the core of spirituality, which if not arrived at by drums, austerities (like yoga, fasting, breath control, etc.), or natural predilection will be seen with entheogens be they mushrooms, plants, roots, or potions.

Shinto and Zen overlap, both being deeply Japanese, the character of which is deeply influenced by the Ainu natives that were driven into the sea the way US forces pushed out the Native Americans but then assimilated their lore, ways, and mythology.

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