Religious Beliefs

Have dreams and visions or other spirit manifestations been important in Shinto tradition?

Shinto legends are full of famous figures who have enjoyed—or barely survived— encounters with the spirit world. Many religiously prominent individuals have claimed to receive divine visitations and privileged communications in dreams. Various spirits, even evil ones (goryo), are capable of making their presence known for the purpose of delivering a message. These spirits, also called “living human kami” (arahitogami), can return in their human form to make things both positive and negative happen in the land of the living. Certain famous people, like Prince Shotoku Taishi (574-622) and poet-calligrapher Sugawara Michizane (845-903), who died untimely or violent deaths and later became kami, could also exert an unhappy influence if not dealt with properly. This is a striking amalgam of positive and negative powers in one spirit. Such a spirit can manifest itself in frightening apparitions or in blessings.


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