Customs and Rituals

How do Shinto practitioners celebrate birth?

Not long after a couple have a baby—traditionally about thirty days—they take the child to the shrine for a natal blessing. This is consistent with the belief that all new ventures and beginnings will fare better if brought before the kami. In addition, the symbolism includes the belief that the infant thus becomes a child of the family’s protector kami. Parents arrange with shrine staff for a standard ceremony that takes place inside the haiden, or outer worship hall. At larger shrines a senior priest, assistant priest, and miko typically perform the ceremony. Pronouncing solemn prayers in an archaic Japanese, the priests then perform blessings over the young family by waving the haraigushi. The miko may also participate by blessing the worshippers with a green sakaki branch. Ancient Shinto tradition retains a class of divine beings called “kami of birth or beginnings” (musubi no kami). They include kami of fire, youth, plenty, and the creator divinities who brought all things to birth.


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