Today was the Shyuki Taisai, or “Great Fall Ceremony,” at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Granite Falls, WA. I was able to attend it, and I’m very glad I did!
The above photo is not from this year’s ceremony, it’s from a previous year (I couldn’t tell you which, unfortunately), but it gives you an idea. One of the things about Shinto ceremonies is that they follow pretty rigid orders of service, or–as they often translate it at the Shrine–”flow of ceremony”; however, that’s not to say that they’re all exactly alike. In fact, more than anything, today’s was different than all of the ones I’ve been to before for various reasons. (This is something you’d expect to get from me, innit: a critique of liturgical technique for other traditions!)
However, in many respects, my visit to the Shrine today began before I even got there. You see, one of the places I frequently visit in dreams is a kind of “Dream Shrine,” which is based on the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America to some extent, and usually features some of the people who are often found there in my experience of it, but which is always “different” in some form or another, either in layout (almost always), or in practice, or in various other manners. I don’t know if this is simply the manner in which Sensei says that Shinto is of a “subconscious nature” and therefore it is more likely to use the dreams of someone like myself as a playground, or if there is more to it than that…But, needless to say, I visited the Dream Shrine again today in the last little period of sleep I had this morning before getting up, between about 6 and 6:30 AM.
I was actually feeling quite bad, because I was having high blood sugar issues associated with having to do my insulin pump switch-out. I didn’t eat before we left, and had planned to perhaps eat on the way. I got a lemonade at our usual drink stop, as I’ve not had one for a while–and forgot in the process of doing so that citrus fruits, it seems, are making my acid reflux act up, so I’ve been paying for that oversight ever since today. (A few drops of lemon juice will do that to me, whereas a whole carbonated beverage does not…bodies are weird!) However, by the time we were getting close to the Shrine, I was feeling much better in overall energy and physical comfort (except for the occasional cough due to the acid reflux).
It turns out that today was also the death-date of my maternal grandfather, the only grandfather I ever really knew, which happened less than three weeks short of his seventieth birthday back in 1993. As I carry one of his pocket knives with me at all times as a physical connection to my ancestors, I think he was strangely present today more than usual…and all the more unusually so given that we were going to the Shinto Shrine, and he was in the Pacific Theatre of World War II when he served in the Navy, and through his Naval buddy met my grandmother and got married to her soon after he returned from the war. Strange connections…
There ended up being a lot of people at the ceremony, and many of them were dressed far nicer than people attending Shrine ceremonies often are–I wasn’t sure why this was, but it was noticeable. There was a new Shrine assistant, and they’re often put through their paces by the Great Spring and Great Fall ceremonies. However, on this occasion, in the Kensen-no-gi and the Tessen-no-gi, the presenting of the “buffet of the gods” on eight offering platforms that occurs toward the beginning and end of this ceremony after the inner doors of the Shrine are opened and the kami are ushered in on a wave of sound and then their removal at the end of the ceremony before the kami are again ushered out and the inner Shrine doors are closed, the Shrine assistant did not relay them to the priest, who then laid them before the kami, but instead the priest did it all himself. In a way, this seemed to streamline the process a bit, however I think the ceremony took longer than it usually does overall.
It’s a very stately and old ceremony, and hearkens back to the times when there were no permanent Shrine buildings where the kami live all year round, but instead were only welcomed down from the mountains (or up from the waters, I’d assume) twice a year. It was great, as always, to feel that white, cold, kami energy as they came in and out, and I think it helped in making me feel much better over the course of the ceremony.
There were also some real nice “treats” for all of us after the ceremony, because the new rice stalks that were offered in the ceremony from the Lundberg farms were also offered to us to take home (which I did, and put on my Inari shrine as soon as I arrived back!), but likewise the Lundberg Farms provided free bags of rice crackers to everyone who attended, a local accupuncturist provided seasonally-appropriate herbal tea samples for everyone to try for sustained health at this time of year, and there were also special seasonal sweets on sale from Tokara Japanese Confectionery, which we got (and which is pictured above), but I have not yet tried…they look and smell beautiful, though!
I made a prayer ema to Sarutahiko-no-Okami and Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto as well, and visited the Inari Shrine before we headed home. Hopefully, those prayers will come to fruition…I nearly fell off the bridge on the way back from the Inari Shrine, though I also had the lovely experience while praying at it that a light breeze came up, and a flurry of leaves started to fall off the adjacent trees, and the light “snap!” of each of the leaves as they broke off was easily audible in the silence around the Inari Shrine.
During the ceremony, I had a thought, which is now probably my #2 priority for future plans relating to Antinous when I have some money (after #1, which is to visit Italy and many of the most important Antinous statues, as well as Hadrian’s Villa): namely, to visit Japan and the Antinous-Vertumnus statue there, that was thought lost to many Western scholars of Antinous, and to not only do my own ritual to honor him, but to see if perhaps some Shinto priests (including, perhaps, Sensei Barrish of the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America) might want to be present to know what it is that they have, and to perhaps even start a kind of Antinoan-Shinto syncretistic practice. It almost seems superlatively fitting that such a notion would occur to me today (even though scraps of such an idea have been in my mind previously), since Shinto is very good about rituals involving the turning of the seasons, and Vertumnus is a deity who is specifically associated with that in ancient Roman practice. Given that many divine beings from other, non-Japanese contexts (including Buddhas and Christian saints!) have been welcomed into Shinto practice over the years as kami, it should be relatively easy to make the same happen with a bona fides hero/deity from late antique European polytheism at some stage…but, that’s still a ways off at present, I think. I need a great deal more financial stability to be able to afford the trip and all of the logistics that would be necessary to pull it off, not to mention there needing to be a lot more public participation and viability for the Ekklesía Antínoou for it to look like anything other than opportunistic grand-standing. Perhaps the Communalia can be involved in some form or other as well…
So, that was my day! I did some writing last night and finished an article for an upcoming Bibliotheca Alexandrina devotional to the Morrígan, but I have at least one more article and perhaps a poem or two to do for that before the deadline on Tuesday…and so much other stuff, too. I hope to have the other planned posts (at least three are looming large on my list) done by the end of this week, but we shall see.