© 2003 James Deacon
is the honourific term for the spiritual beings who are focii
of worship in Shinto - beings seen to possess extraordinary power
of influence over various areas of human existence - beings of
sublime ability or virtue, and therefore considered worthy of
to the 18th Century scholar, Motoori Norinaga: "Whatever
seemed strikingly impressive, possessed the quality of excellence
and virtue, and inspired a feeling of awe was called kami".
is often said that there are 'eight million' kami - this is not
intended to be a literal count, but simply another way of stating
"a vast number".
are indeed numerous, and constantly increasing in numbers - one
reason they are spoken of as yao-yorozu no kami (ever-increasing
myriad spirits), yet together,
these myriad spirits form one single harmonious, peaceful unity.
There are both earthly kami (kunitsu kami) and heavenly kami (amatsu
range from the divine spirits of the creation myths [which are
systematically compiled in the classical documents the Kojiki
and Nihon Shoki], to ancestral spirits (sorei or
umi-gami), spirits of deified heroes & founders of
religions, spirits of abstract ideas, spirits of specific objects,
to spirits of natural phenomena, spirits of place, features of
the landscape - mountains, forests, caves, springs, the very air
itself, trees, plants, rocks, fauna, etc.
one sense, kami can be seen as the creative life force in all
things, and a term: musubi refers to the creative, energizing
and harmonizing power of kami
many kami are perceived as male or female - whether human or other
animal in form, a great many also considered to be genderless