In Japanese mythology there was One in the beginning of the Universe, then the One split into two: Heaven and Earth. From Heaven appeared the Kami, and the last two were male and female; Inzanagi and Inzanami. These two looked down from the pillar of heaven and stirred the primordial waters to create the Islands of Japan, then the Kami who became the ancestral deities of the various clans. Here is a basic belief that humanity and nature are the offspring of the same parents, and this view requires us to reflect on our conduct and treatment of the Earth.
I was drawn to this religion due to my heritage, I am terribly proud to be Japanese with such an awesome tapestry of history behind it. The witch side of me also enjoys the fact that Shintoism is the only major religion that worships a female deity- Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess. She is considered the ancestral deity of the Emperor and Her symbol, the rising sun, still adorns Japan's flag. Amaterasu also takes pride of place in every family shrine. Shinto is a faith that is based on the belief that the many kami cooperate, and Jinja Shinto then unites and harmonizes the various kinds of kami. To me that means all kami, all deity, be it Wiccan, Buddhist, Indian, Christian, etc.
So, what is Shinto? The name is from the Chinese characters Shin (divinity) and Tao (the way or path) meaning the Way of the Gods in Japan it is also called Kami-no-michi. ‘Kami’ is often translated as God or Gods, but that is a blanket term for all divine spirits. For those who worship the kami, Shinto is a collective noun denoting all faiths. The religion itself was founded between 2500-3000 years ago and is generally believes to have coalesced into a cohesive path around 500 BCE. Originally, it was an amorphous mix of nature worship, fertility cults, divination techniques, and shamanism. However, it is more than a religion; it is an amalgam of attitudes, ideas, and ways of doing things. For the Japanese it is a personal faith and a communal way of life.
I want to take a moment to better explain the term ‘kami’. Usually, you will find kami simply translated as ‘god’, and while that definition is technically correct, there is more to the term. Since there is no belief in one main Creative Deity, it's often hard for people to grasp the nature of the kami. They are divine spirits of nature (every mountain, river, plant, beast and all the diverse phenomena of heaven and earth), ancestors, and great heroes, and often-unexplainable events would be labeled as kami. They are benign and they sustain and protect.
Unlike most Western religions there are no ‘good’ kami and bad ‘kami’. There are rough, fierce, and violent kami but they are not intrinsically bad. Just as there are gentle, kind, sweet kami; that does not make them intrinsically good. Every kami has a ‘rough’ side (ara-mi-tama) and a ‘gentle; side (nigi-mi-tama), but you will not find a foil to God and Satan in them. Because of this there is no concept of the wrath of God or the separation of God from humanity by sin. The Kami are worshipped in various shrines but no statues are found in the shrines for it is believed that the Kami resides in the shrine itself so there is no need to have a representative of the deity. Fresh food and water, incense, etc., are offered daily upon the altar and parishioners believes in each kami's divine personality and their willingness to respond to sincere prayers. Believers revere musuhi, the kami's creative and harmonizing powers and aspire to have mokoto or a true and sincere heart.
Shinto is also an intricate religion that has no absolutes – no divine good and divine evil. It is an optimistic and hopeful faith, which believes that all people, deep down, are good. In Shinto, it is believed that inappropriate action or malevolent spirits are what causes evil. Which raises the question – what is inappropriate? As a general example, it’s considered wrong to raise your hand in violence toward a child. Yet to raise your hand in violence towards an attacker, in defense, is acceptable. Raising your hand to hit a child is inappropriate and when children are beaten for nothing more than being a child that is considered evil. Because of this evil in the world, the direction that most Shinto rituals take is either to purify or to drive away malicious spirits.
Different from most modern religions Shinto has no founder, no sacred scriptures, and no dogma. What it does have, however, is several texts that are valued because of their ability to translate the sacred myths and legends as well as carry the history of the religion. Those books are the Kojiki (The Record of Ancient Matters), the Rokkokushi (The Six National Histories), the Shoku Nihongi and Nihon Shoki (The Continuing Chronicles of Japan), and finally the Jinno Shotoki which is a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history. The purpose of these books is to make clear the origin of the Imperial Throne, clan lineage, and other matters that constitute Japanese society and customs.
Shinto holy days are called matsuri and they are an important part of the system of worship. The main matsuri’s fall on the first days of each season, which are marked by the Solstices and Equinoxes. There are also a plethora of smaller festivals that happen during the rest of the year. Some of the festivals are the Hana Matsuri, National Founding Day, Oshugatsu, the Star Festival, as well as a plethora of others. I’m going to try to have more on the matsuri later, but they might need their own page to really do these festivals justice.
Shinto itself is broken down into four main branches. First, there is Kohitsu Shinto which is Shinto of the Imperial House. It involves rituals that are performed by the Emperor. The most important ritual of this branch is the Niinamesai, which makes an offering of the first fruits of the harvest to the kami. Male and female clergy (shoten and nai-shoten) assist the Emperor in performing the rites. This form of Shinto is performed solely within the palace ground at three shrines, which are for the exclusive use of the Imperial family.
Minzoku Shinto or Folk Shinto isn’t, technically, a separate branch of the Shinto tree as it has no formal central organization or creed. It exists in rural practices and rituals; for example, in small images by the roadside or in local agricultural festivals practiced by individual families. Oftentimes these small villages won’t have a priest of their own so they will elect a layman (called a ‘toya’) to be responsible for performing the rites and worshipping their local deity. The toya’s term will last for one year, and he will be replaced the next near by a new nominee.
The newest form of Shinto is called Kyoha or Shuha Shinto. It is comprised of 13 heterogeneous sects that were founded by various individuals since the start of the 19th century. Each sect has its own belief system and doctrines; most emphasize worship of their own central deity. Because of this, some of the groups follow an almost monotheistic religious path. According to their date of establishment these are the 13 sects: Kurozumikyo, Shuseiha Shinto, Izumooyashirokyo, Fusokyo, Jikkokyo, Shinshukyo, Taiseikyoshinto, Ontokekyo, Shintotaikyo, Misogikyo, Shinrikyo, Konkokyo, and Tenrikyo. However, the last one, Tenrikyo, withdrew its membership from the Federation of Sect Shinto in 1970 claiming that it wasn’t Shinto.
The final, and largest, of the four branches is Jinja, or shrine, Shinto. It is also the oldest and the closest to what the ancient religion would have been like. It dates back into pre-history, which many people believe was as long as 3000 years ago. It is said that the shrines themselves are the spontaneous manifestation of the people’s faith in kami.
What you will find in the heart of every shrine sanctuary is an object known as a shintai or mitamashiro. These objects aren’t statues or an anthropomorphic representation of the kami, but are a symbolic representation of the kami’s presence. Just the presence of the spirit-substitute imbues the sanctuary and makes the shrine inviolate. If it is ever removed from the sanctum the religious meaning of the area ceases to exist, for by their very existence they are what make a building a sanctuary. May times the shintai are one of the sanshu no jingi, the Imperial regalia, which are holy relics from Japanese myths. These consist of yata no kagami (the sacred mirror), kusanagi no tsurugi (the sacred sword), and the yasakani no magatama (the curved sacred jewel).
The mythic importance behind them comes from Sun Goddess and her errant brother the Storm God. Susanoo, being a young and brash God, horribly upset his solar sister by tossing a flayed pony into her weaving room which caused her to hide herself in a mountain cave and block the entrance with a huge stone. The world withered without the bright light of the sun and the kami did all they could to entice the Goddess out. Finally, it was Uzume with a lewd dance that caught Amaterasu’s attention and the other kami entranced her with an eight-sided mirror. Once the Sun Goddess saw her reflection, she came out of the cave and returned light to the world. As soon as she reappeared the others bestowed the tama upon her while Susanoo presented her with the sacred sword in repentance and submission, the kusanagi no tsurugi was taken from the tail of a giant serpent.
Of the three, mirrors are one of the most common symbols, in fact most kami-dana (house ‘shelf-shrines’) have a mirror on them representing the Sun Goddess. The kagami symbolizes the pure mind (kokoro) of the kami and yet, at the same time, it is a symbolic embodiment of the fidelity of the worshipper. Chikafusa Kitabatake, an influential writer of the 14th century, says this about mirrors: “The mirror hides nothing. It shines without a selfish mind. Everything good and bad, right and wrong, is reflected without fail. The mirror is the source of honesty because it has the virtue of responding according to the shape of the objects. It points out the fairness and impartiality of divine will.”
I think that the two most important things to know about Jinja Shinto are the affirmation and the principles. These two things make up the basis for the whole religion and give you an excellent overview of Shinto’s values.
There are four basic beliefs in Shinto called affirmations. They are:
Going along with that are the three principles of Jinja Shinto, which are:
Great. What’s it all mean? Well, I can only give you personal experience… I feel the affirmations are fairly straight forward – celebrate life, your family, your traditions, and the holy days; keep clean; take care of the world that we love. I like to approach the three principles in segments – my faith, rituals, and how I follow the affirmations take care of the first one. I teach and (try) to maintain these pages as a way of serving others. I also find that I serve society through my work, by helping to heal. As for the third principle, while I don’t always want to be in ‘harmonious acknowledgment’ with the President I do feel that when he makes a decision we should put up or shut up. However, when our government wants us to do something, or impose a law, that will cause us or our country or other countries to not live in peace and prosperity we should unite our voices and try to cause change. This will help enact the second principle. And by doing all of that we can circle back to the first principle because by following through on our beliefs and helping others and ourselves, we will be expressing our gratitude to the divine with our rich and fruitful lives. I love it when things get all cyclical!
By now you may have noticed a repetitious use of the word ‘celebration’. Which is good, you should have because Shinto’s main purpose is to celebrate and enrich life. You won’t find any divine (or mortal) father figure shaking his finger at you and demanding repentance. There is a deep inward belief in the sacredness of the whole universe and that man can tune into this sacredness. Humanity is commonly considered the Kami's Child, so we carry in ourselves a divine spark of the sacred. Stress is placed on purification and truthfulness so we can shed the mortal 'dust' that conceals our divine nature. The ancient Japanese never divided material and spiritual existence but considered them inseparable. According to Shinto there is no division between man, nature, and Kami. It's often hard for Westerners to grasp certain ideas in Shintoism because the Japanese tend to think more symbolically than logically.
Shinto is a non-exclusive religion and many people practice it along with a second, and sometimes even a third, religion. Most Japanese practice Shinto with Buddhism. Part of Shinto's appeal is that it is completely non-judgmental in its approach to worship and has interesting ‘holes’ that can be easily filled by a companion religion. Most of the Shinto rites of passage are the life affirming ones – the first trip to a shrine, the coming of age, and weddings, but it requires a different faith to take care of funerary rites. There are many Buddhist holidays that overlap and are celebrated with Shinto matsuri and you will even find Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines sharing the same land.
Shinto walked hand in hand with the Imperial Household Shinto for a time and was known as State Shinto. This conveyed certain ideas regarding Japanese origins and history. Until the end of World War II, the Emperor of Japan was believed to be the head of the religion as well as the son of the Sun Goddess. During the time of the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), Shinto was named the state religion turning shrines into state institutions and priests became government officials. Because of this, the creation myths were used to foster an emperor cult and a movement began to emancipate Shinto from Buddhism. The Meiji Restoration had two main objectives that were both political and religious and these aims were both parallel and complementary. The political objective was to return direct rule to Emperor and remove it from the Tokugawa government. The religious purpose was to return Shinto as the spiritual basis for the government and society. In 1871, shrines were given official grades based on their relationship to the Imperial family, and depending on their standing they could receive government funding.
On Dec. 15, 1945 Shinto and state were separated when the Shinto Directive was issued and the shrines once more became private institutions. An unfortunate side effect of this was that the shrines were left in chaos and bereft of leadership. Less than two months later, on Feb. 3, 1946 a new body was formed called the Association of Shinto Shrines. This group invited local shrines throughout the country to affiliate and almost all did. Approximately one thousand shrines remained independent and of those around 250 formed smaller associations.
Today the Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines) controls and administrates approximately 80,000 shrines throughout Japan.
The objectives of Jinja Honcho are:
Even though the Directive left them in almost complete disarray, the shrines survived better than other religious organizations. They were able to do this by maintaining unity among themselves after the Second World War and slowly went about rebuilding their internal structures until the shrines metamorphosed into the entities that they are today.
When coming to a shrine the parishioner must first pass through the torii, or divine gate. It is usually composed of two vertical posts supporting two horizontal beams and are often painted a bright red. The torii is a demarcation between the finite world and the infinite world of the gods. Often visitors to one of the shrines will remark on feeling refreshed once they enter the temple grounds, the shrines were built in specific areas for that exact reason. As a general rule, shrines are in these locals due to a special landmark (tree, grove, rock, cave, mountain, river, or seashore) or because of a close relationship to an ancient family. Originally, rituals were performed wherever the kami had appeared, regardless of ease of access or convenience. Later, as the population increased structures were created to be more accessible.
I think it is important to state that shrines are not like churches. Their primary purpose is to provide a dwelling place for one or more kami, where the god-spirit can be served and worshipped. They are NOT to propagate faith or teach doctrine, for that a seeker would go to college and become a priest. Shrines are built in natural places where people feel great harmony and at peace with the world. The beauty of nature that surrounds them helps to move the worshipper from the mundane world into the higher and deeper divine world, which helps us to transform our lives into a closer fellowship with the kami.
When visiting a shrine people are expected to behave calmly and respectfully. Those who are ill, injured with an open wound, or in mourning refrain from going to a shrine to worship as these are all considered causes of impurity. Near every shrine entrance is a small fountain for purification. Visitors are to use the provided ladle to pour water over both hands, and then use the ladle to transfer water to their cupped hands to rinse their mouth. The water is swished around and then spit out beside the fountain. You are never to drink directly from the ladle nor swallow the water. This is done to purify you before you reach the sacred area of the shrine.
Once in the shrine, you are to make your respects to the sacred object. Nearby will be an offering hall where you should throw a coin or two into the offering box. Before saying your prayer you should bow from the waist, clap twice and bow again. Many shrines will have gong or bell nearby for you to ring before praying to get the kami’s attention. Some shrines will provide large incense burners where you can make an offering of incense to the kami. Since incense smoke is considered purifying, if you have recurring pain or soreness anywhere you can fan the smoke over the affected area to help remove whatever is causing the discomfort.
When I discuss the priesthood I mean as it pertains to Jinja Shinto. Just thought I’d warn you! In the distant past the priesthood in Shinto was based on a hereditary system that was eventually abolished. However, you will still find a few shrines where only priests from certain familial backgrounds may serve. These shrines are few and far between and are in no way common for normal priestly practices.
This next part I don’t quite understand completely myself – proof I have more studying to do! There are six grades within the priesthood: the Superior, the First, the Second, the Semi-Second, the Third, and the Fourth. Then there are five ranks for priests: Johkai, Meikai, Seikai, Gon-Sekai, and Chokkai. I honestly don’t understand how these fit together, so if you’re reading this and ~you~ understand it… please drop me a line and explain it to me!
There are six grades within the priesthood: the Superior, the First, the Second, the Semi-Second, the Third, and the Fourth. Then there are five ranks for priests: Johkai, Meikai, Seikai, Gon-Sekai, and Chokkai.
Grades above Semi-Second are only awarded to priests who have served in a shrine for more than 20 years; however, if a priest is exemplary in some way, perhaps in education, he may receive it without serving such a long term. To become Guji, a chief priest, it is required to surpass the rank of meikai for pre-eminent shrines, or to be higher than gon-sekai for ordinary shrines.
Until the end of WWII only men were admitted into the priesthood. The only role for women was the place of miko, a type of shrine maiden priestess. One of the main duties of the miko is to perform the sacred dances, the kagura. Even though women are now admitted they are still a very small minority, with most priests still being men. Approximately only 10% of the clergy are female. Women priests do not claim the title of priestess; it seems to be a point of pride for them to be called ‘priests’.
Very few details are given about the afterlife in Shinto. Partially, this is because death is seen as a great uncleanliness and, above all, Shinto deals with purification. Generally, Buddhism is left to deal with funerals and handles the rituals of the dead. Shinto’s interests are more centralized in life in this world.
With that said Shinto does have a basic sketch of what the world of the afterlife is like. Because the human soul is believed to continue, eternally, like the kami, it is possible for mortals (all mortals, not just humans) to ascend to godhood after death. Even inanimate objects can reach kami-hood. In Shinto, everything that is mortal has the ability to become a kami.
People who die surrounded by their family and loved ones and are venerated in the family shrine are beneficial ancestors who will watch over the clan and help to keep them safe. However, there are times when people die without anyone to care for their kami and these can become ‘hungry ghosts’. These hungry ghosts are an idea that was imported from China and they wander causing mischief and can be a source of danger to others. There are small rituals to be done to help appease these kami and these rites don’t have to be performed by family members. Most are simple things like leaving offerings or building a small rock cairn.
There are three otherworlds where the spirit can ascend or descend. This although it may sound a little like heaven and hell it isn’t the same, for one there is no grand utopia nor anyplace of divine punishment waiting for us after we die. In fact, the afterlife is thought to mirror life in this world. For this reason the Japanese wear their kimono’s draped left over right, but the dead wear their kimonos with the right folded over the left. The names of the three worlds are: Heaven, Yomi, and Tokoyo.
Heaven is where creation began, with the first separation of Heaven and earth. Only the oldest and most venerable kami live there. Yomi is technically similar to the Greek Hades, a land of the dead who live much the way the living do. Generally this Yomi is thought to be underground, as shown in the myth where Inzanagi goes to Yomi to see his dead wife. His Augustness Who Invites enters and exists through a cavernous entrance. Finally, there is Tokoyo which is believed to exist beyond the sea. Supposedly, the reason that all of these otherworlds are so similar to our own is to allow for an easier transaction for our ancestor kami to watch over us.
All rituals follow several basic steps in Shrine Shinto. This basic outline is for the group rituals that are performed at the shrine by a priest with a congregation in attendance. First, everyone undergoes a simple water purification that usually is rinsing the hands, the mouth, and then the hands again in a shallow basin of water. Originally, this cleansing was done as a brief ritual dunking in either the sea or a river. It was believed that the sea, being infinitely deep and wide could take into itself any contaminates and purify them. Because of this salt is also seen as a great purifier. Rivers are acceptable substitutes for the sea as eventually they all flow into the ocean.
After the simple purification the priest then performs shubatsu, another ritual of purification. This rite originated from the myth that Inzanagi-no-mikoto performed misogi after visiting his wife in the land of Yomi. Shubatsu is performed to invite the deities to appear and allows a person to stand before an enshrined kami with a pure body and mind.
The main ritual is then announced with the beating of a drum. The chief priest will bow in front of the altar with his assistant priests, musicians and worshippers. Then the inner door to the sanctuary is opened. During this part of the ritual the attendants continue bowing while listening to the keihitsu. Once the chanting and bowing is completed, the food offering to the kami is made to musical accompaniment. Music is played on ancient instruments, the ones that are normally used are from the flute family: the fue, hichiriki, and the sho. The sho are very similar to panpipes rather than the traditional flute.
After this the norito (prayers) are recited. There are different norito for different festivities and if it is a taisai (a great festival) then the ancient prayers are used. For the more contemporary rituals the norito are spoken in a style that is closer to the modern Japanese language. After the reading of the norito is the sacred dance kagura, which is based on the myth cycle of Amaterasu. The end of the ritual is signaled with the tamagushi reihai. This is a symbolic offering using small tree branches of the sacred evergreen tree. Once this is completed the door to the inner sanctum is closed again, and more bowing commences. If the festival is one of the more formal ones it is ended with the naorai feast. This allows for a communion between the people and the kami with the congregation eating the same food and drinking the same sake that was offered to the kami in the ritual. For smaller festivals a slightly simplified version is done where the participants only partake of the sake.
When an individual goes to worship at a shrine there is also a format that they follow. Just like in the group ritual is the purification ablution of rinsing hands, mouth, and hands is substituted for the more formal misogiand harae. After the ritual cleansing the worshipper proceeds toward the altar and rings the bell that hangs before the altar. This is to alert the kami to your presence. Then you would present your offerings or toss coins into the offering box. Following all of this one bows deeply twice, then clap your hands twice. In Shinto it is believed that we communicate with the kami through sound. The clapping is followed by another bow and then the showing of reverence to the kami is completed. Repetition of bowing and clapping is our expression of deep reverence and that we possess a sincere mind.
There are four types of rituals in Shinto and they are:
Taisai – these are the grand festivals which include the annual festivities to revere an enshrined deity, the Spring Matsuri, and the Shinto Thanksgiving.
Chusai – the medium sized festivals which include Japans Founding Day and New Years Day.
Shosia – are the small festivals and include the other annual festivals.
Zassai – are the other miscellaneous festivals and include the Jichinsai (the worship of deities to gain their permission before building on their land), the shinosai (the funerary ceremony), and the Shichi-go-san.
Modern paganism and Shinto fit together fairly well since both are open to other religions and Shinto, at it's heart, is pagan. Many of the pagan holidays correspond to Shinto festivals or can be linked to one of the Japanese National holidays. Both religions pull from natural occurrences, the change of seasons or the solstices and equinoxes to help mark holy days. For example, the Hana Matsuri is when the Buddha is honored by surrounding a statue of him with flowers and pouring sweet tea on him. At Ostara I use an image of the young God pillowed on a bed of flowers in the cauldron. I then pour warm sweet honey-tea on him to help celebrate the sweetness of the season. Then at Samhain I blend some of the O-bon festival into the sabbat and at the end of ritual float tea lights across a large bowl filled with water.
Even within the clergy, there are parallels that can be drawn between Shinto and paganism. Shinto priests often go to school before being placed at a shrine where they tend to the needs of visitors, perform rituals, and keep the shrine running smoothly which often needs a lot of administrative work. I think that leaders of pagan groups often follow a similar format, the main difference is that coven leaders don’t have a formal school to attend for their training. Mikos are like solitary practitioners in that what they know is often self-taught or drawn from divine sources. A miko also deals more with the mystical side of religion and she is known to work magic and speak for the kami. Solitaries tend to fall on the more mystical side of paganism simply because the only experience that they have to draw on is their own. The miko’s mysticism helps to balance out the shrine’s strict adherence to tradition, while shrines keep the miko from going off too far from human understanding. Groups and solitaries must also work together to keep the pagan religions fresh and growing. There will, of course, be power struggles, but that too will help to keep the religion in check.
Rituals in paganism and Shinto have several parts that mirror each other. Many pagan rituals begin with a purification ceremony, and the greater cleansing at the shrine seems to coincide with the casting of Circle. Both call upon their respective gods and have their own patterns that they follow. Then they end with cakes and wine. The ringing of bells, clapping, and the use of musical instruments are also found in various pagan traditions as well as in Shinto. For the most part I feel that the two religions fit together easily and there isn’t much change or adaptation needed to make them work together, especially in a ritual sense.
Both religions follow the belief that there is no single, overarching in "evil" in the world. That actions in and of themselves are not evil, but the intent behind them can be. Like I stated in the earlier example – it isn’t correct to raise your hand to hit a child, but it is correct to raise your hand to hit an attacker. Thus practitioners are in control of their actions, there is no "ooops, the devil (or Goddess) made me do it." I have always been a big proponent for people taking responsibility for their own actions, because that’s all we can do. We can’t control others or impose our own morality on them; we each have to take accountability for our own lives.
I see some very strong similarities in how Shinto and modern paganism approach spirituality. Both are very open in their approach to religion, there is no one, absolute way to worship in either. Both also have varying branches that are all accepted as legitimate forms of the religion, even though there may be very little in common with the main branch. Paganism and Shinto are also very reverent towards nature and work to preserve the world around us by spreading awareness of the divinity inherent in the Earth.
Neither religion has any dogma or sacred text that a practitioner must follow yet they both allow the seeker to find a personal relationship with deity. Shinto, unlike paganism, does have special meeting areas in the form of shrines but many practitioners fulfill their spiritual needs at home or in natural surroundings. While there are priests to consult in Shinto, they aren’t there to tell the practitioner how to worship and what to do, but to guide them and help the person discover what they must do in their own spiritual life.
Probably one of the strongest correlations in the two religions is their main ethical focus. Wiccan’s follow the Rede which states: “Do as thou wilt, so long as it harms none.” Shinto says something similar: “Do what you will so long as it harms none and breaks no laws of the state.” Shinto takes into account that this is a man-made rule and as such is subject to other rules and laws. However, both boil down to the same thing – that working in harmony with those around us we will be able to fulfill our True Will. I actually prefer the Shinto one better, only because so many Wiccans have taken the Rede as dogma and use it to impose a system that is impossible to live up to. The Rede is also too often used as a cage to keep people too scared to do anything but stagnate. I think religion should help to push you forward, not hold you back.
The Shinto religion is unique in that it is almost expected for it to be used in conjunction with another religion or spiritual path. In fact, Shinto has the ability to blend with seemingly disparate religions, such as Christianity, with very little trouble. The mind set behind this would be useful to help spread religious diversity and tolerance in the world, something that paganism often finds necessary. Modern paganism doesn’t need any other religions, but by its very nature it pulls from so many faiths and cultures that working with a complementary spiritual path is rather easy.
Shinto has certain holes in it that are there for another religion to fill, and paganism does that nicely. Wicca’s ideas and practices on the afterlife are more complete than those of Shinto and Shinto’s emphasis on life helps to augment pagan Sabbats. The two religions work well together, especially since they are both polytheistic and emphasize reverence for the natural world as well as for Deity.
There is a destiny that the Fates weave for us, as I see things, but they do not plot out every aspect of our lives. There are main points that will happen no matter what (like meeting your soul-sibling, meeting the love of your life, any life changing event) and if we avoid these things the kami will simply keep arranging our lives until it happens. However, nothing is set in stone and even if it were stones can be broken. Both Shinto and modern paganism remind us that we are in charge of our destinies, even if little things are preordained the Universe is still in flux.
My mother and grandmother stressed that I had to choose my own path to Deity, and I'm working on doing that. I am very happy that part of my heritage blends so well into the spiritual path that I'm on, helping to keep me connected to my family and my roots. It’s also helpful that Shinto is finding a foothold here in the US, with Shinto shrines appearing in at least two states. Greater understanding of this religion means that I have a greater chance to meet others who are interested in the path of the kami.