The sacred fire ritual of Kibune Shrine … and others

Ohitaki rice harvest festival at Kibune Shrine

The Ohitaki Festival, holds a sacred fire ritual to express gratitude for the year’s rice harvest, which takes place at Kibune Shrine in Kyoto on Wednesday starting at 11 a.m.

The festival is also aimed at getting rid of bad spirits.

The shrine is a 30-minute walk from Kibune Guchi Station on the Eizan Densha Line. Visitors can also take a five-minute ride on Kyoto Bus 33 from the station and get off at the Kibune bus stop.

Admission is free. For more information, visit kibune.jp/jinja/ (in Japanese) or call (075) 741-2016

 

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[At the same shrine, for the Kibune Festival of the Kibune Shrine in Kyoto, people present offerings of birds to the kami on the day of the ceremony. After the ritual offering (hōbei) of nusa (sacred paper strips/streamers) and the intoning of norito (prayers) by the priests, they visit the branch shrines and hilltop shrines and perform more hōbei, then return wearing flowers taken from the mountain peak in their hair. At the midpoint in route between the Kibune and Upper Kamo Shrines a designated person chants a secret song to which the other priests responded in a repetitive manner.]

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Fire rituals elsewhere …

The Kurama Fire Festival in Kyoto has a long history- in the middle of the 10th century, a commotion and a big earthquake happened in Kyoto. Therefore, the Yuki Myojin (one of the guardian demons of the Imperial Court) was enshrined at Kurama to protect the nothern area of Kyoto from these misfortunes. When the Yuki Myojin came to Kurama, the village people welcomed it by building bonfires; this developed into a festival.

The Kurama Fire Festival is one of the three mysterious festivals in Kyoto (along with the Yasurai Festival and the Cow Festival). Every year on October 22nd this festival starts from 6 p.m. with the starting signal: “Shinji Mairasshare!” (The shrine ritual has come!)

In Kurama there are seven groups of residents, and each group joins the parade from its stronghold. Therefore, the parade becomes longer and longer with time (the longest length is one kilometer). People shoulder big torches and shout: “Sairei, sairyo!” (with hopes that this festival will be the best one). The participants include infants, boys and the youth. The size of the torches become bigger and bigger as the participants become older and older.

This festival ends after midnight. Two miniature shrines are carried  to a rest house for a demon called Otabisho, where the Kurama residents have already made room for the Yuki Myojin. Then, the shrine ritual takes place and the festival is over. — Source: Learning about Kyoto (Kyoto U.  of Foreign Studies website)

The following passages are extracted from WKD – Saijiki for Festivals and Ceremonies:

The most important yearly festival at Kifune Shrine 貴船神社 in the Kurama mountain region.
Its official name is gokoosai 御更祭.
It used to be held twice a year, on the first day of the fourth and eleventh lunar month.
Kibune shrine belongs to the Kamo Shrines of Kyoto (sessha 摂社).

Prior to the Meiji Period, when this shrine had an auxiliary shrine relationship to Kamowakeikazuchi Jinja (also known as Kamikamo Jinja, Upper Kamo Shrine), the festival was observed on a grand scale. In the past, on the day before the festival there used to be a kitchen knife ceremony, and shinsen (sacred offerings) were placed in a chest (karabitsu).
Then, together with birds (kakedori), people presented these to the kami on the day of the ceremony.
After the ritual offering (hōbei) of nusa (sacred paper strips/streamers) and the intoning of norito (prayers) by the shinshoku (priests) they visited the branch and hilltop shrines and performed hōbei, then returned wearing flowers taken from the mountain peak in their hair.

At the midpoint in route between the Kibune and Upper Kamo Shrines a designated person chanted a secret song to which the other priests responded in a repetitive manner. Formerly, during the fourth month festival worshippers used to collect the Japanese knotweed that grew profusely on the mountain near the shrine in a competition for size and amount, thus leading to the popular name itadori matsuri (“Knotweed Festival”). Vestiges of this ancient festival remain in the annual shin’yo (portable shrine) processional held on June 1, and in the festivals for the changing of the kami’s robes (gokōisai) held on April 1 and November 1. source : Mogi Sakae, Kokugakuin Uni

History of the Shrine:

Kibune Shrine (貴船神社, Kibune Jinja),
also known as Kifune Jinja, is a Shinto shrine located at Sakyō-ku in Kyoto, Japan.
It was founded more than 1600 years ago.
Legend tells us that the goddess Tamayori-hime appeared on a yellow boat in Osaka Bay and said, “Build a sanctuary at the place where this boat stops and deify the spirit of the locality, and the country will prosper.” The boat floated up the rivers of Yodogawa to the river Kamogawa, stopping at the beginning of the stream.
The deities enshrined here are Takaokami-no-Kami and Kuraokami-no-Kami. They are the gods of water, and people pray to them for rain during times of drought, and to stop the rain during floods.
One emperor offered a black horse in a drought, and a white horse during a prolonged spell of rain. This is why people now offer up votive plates with the image of a horse.
The shrine became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period.In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers were sent to report important events to the guardian kami of Japan. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines including the Kibune Shrine.

From 1871 through 1946, the Kibune Shrine was officially designated one of the Kanpei-chūsha (官幣中社), meaning that it stood in the second rank of government supported shrines.

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*On New Year’s Eve, the head priest (guuji) of the Hinomisaki Shrine in Shimane Prefecture lights a sacred fire, performs a purification rite and then climbs Mt. Amagatsuyama alone in the dead of night, to conduct an “extremely secret and ancient ritual.”  At the same time, at the signal of a drum, households in the entire town extinguish their lights and atone for their misdeeds.

 

 

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