Holy Fire – New Year

5 Jan

Tokyobling's Blog

One of the many ceremonies held around New Year in Japanese shinto shrines is the jouka (浄火), the holy fire. It is a ritual burning of holy items, such as the prayer slips, the votive plates, any old material related to the gods or statues, votive arrows, decorations that have been blessed etc. The ritual is called Otakiage (お焚きあげ). The basic rule is that since everything you buy at a shrine is blessed it needs to be ritually burned and never thrown away with common garbage. There is also a time limit to most of the things you buy, it should be burned within a year or so, before the holy charm is used up and ceases to be effective. This is one of the reasons you see so many Japanese shop at shrines but you never see the stuff piling up in homes and very little of it ever…

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