Living With Kami: All About Konkokyo and Shinto

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Tamagushi: What is it, and how to offer it

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Hello everyone! I apologize for not updating as often as I'd like - I had been in a period of transition from May to June, and July was full of ceremonies, both private and public. Now that I've got a better handle of my time and schedule, please look forward to more posts!

For start, here is a short and simple article explaining tamagushi. There is more theories to their origins, and etmology theories to the word, however, what I wanted to explain here is the essence of tamagushi and it's present meaning.

Tamagushi (玉串, translated as jewel skewer) is an ancient offering to Kami-sama, it is usually a sakaki tree branch, or at times when there is no sakaki availible, an evergreen branch such as cedar, and shide (zigzag strip of white rice paper) on top attached to  the leaves. There can be larger and more elaborate tamagushi, with red and white cloth, and asa (sacred hemp fibres) tied in a ribbon on the top as well alongisde two shide. 

 

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Tamagushi

What is the meaning and symbolism of tamagushi?

Tamagushi represents our sincere hearts and spirits, which we offer to Kami-sama. The evergreen (traditionally sakaki) represents the eternal nature of our spirits and hearts, and our connection to nature/the natural world, the physical world. Sakaki, and other evergreen trees (commonly cedar, cypress - especially hinoki) is also seen as a purifying tree. The shide itself represents energy and spirit, the spiritual side of our world. Shide is commonly understood to look like lightning, which is like energy/connection to Kami-sama. Thus, it is also reflective of our own divine sparks, our spirits and connection to the spiritual world.  The white of the paper as well also represents purify. 

If Asa (sacred hemp fibre) and red and white cloth are also tied onto the tamagushi, they represent dressing our hearts and spirits formally to be offered sincerely to Kami-sama. Asa is commonly used to tie offerings together, and offered as sacred fibre as well. Cloth is also seen as sacred, and a precious material from the blessings of both the heavens (sun, rain, moon) and Earth (soil, growth, seasons, etc.)

 

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 Tamagushi with asa fiber ribbon and dual shide

 

So we have both physical and spiritual, together as a symbol of our hearts and spirits in tamagushi. 

The action of offering as well is important, 

When we offer tamagushi, we hold the sakaki branch with the leaves resting on our left palm, and pinching the stem in our right hand. We walk up to the offering area, and bow, raising the tamagushi to our foreheads forward.

Going back upright, we turn the tamagushi stem to our hearts, and leaves to Kami-sama. Then we turn the branch once more to the left,  and then forward, so the stem will face Kami-sama, and the leaves face us. Then, we place the tamagushi on the hassouku/an/offering table, bow once more, do hairei (clap to Kami-sama) and then bow deeply again. We return to our seats after offering.

What does this action mean? It’s the symbolic action of turning the tamagushi to our hearts and spirit energy, then directing it to Kami-sama to offer. The hairei clapping is to call Kami-sama’s attention towards our offering and heart. 

If you ever have a chance to offer tamagushi during ceremony, now you know the meaning! 

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Hello! I am Olivia. Nice to meet you. I am an ordained Konkokyo priestess since October 22nd, 2015. My hometown is Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but I'm currently working as an associate minister/priestess and miko at the Konkokyo Yokosuka Kyoukai in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan. During my training, I went to various shrines and temples, and regions all around Japan, and I want to share all the spiritual knowledge I was able to learn with many others all around the world. I hope to help others as much as I can!

Comments

  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis Tuesday, 01 August 2017

    Welcome back, Olivia! Your presence was missed.

    This is a very interesting insight into a particular part of Shinto ritual that I'd seen before but never really gained a full understanding of. Thank you for sharing!

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