Sacred Rope (Shimenawa)

DO NOT FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE OLD MASTERS,

BUT SEEK WHAT THEY SOUGHT.

BASHO

On carpe diem haiku kai, one of the recent prompts for creating a haiku is the Sacred Rope, or shimenawa in Japanese.  This is one of my favorite symbols in Shinto, and it always warmed my heart when I passed one–in a shrine or even in the countryside.  It is a twisted rope used to denote the sacred energy of a place–such as Mount Fuji:

shimenawa fuji

It is often seen circling a tree both to honor the soul of that tree and to call attention to its unusual life force:

shimenawa tree

The zigzag strips of paper are called Shide, and are often used in purifying ceremonies, attached to a wand (e.g. a gohei) and waved over anything from a building to a new car.

One of the most famous Shimenawa in Japan is pictured by Chèvrefeuille  on his website:

near wedded rocks

These are the Wedded Rocks, or the Married Couple Rocks, found near the Grand Shrine of Ise. The rocks symbolize the Shinto version of the Creator Deities, as told in the 8th century chronicle, Kojiki.   The story goes that the kami Izanagi and his wife Izanami (She Who Invites) were tasked with creating the Japanese islands.  They were given a heavenly spear, and standing on the floating bridge of Heaven, they swirled the waters of the sea.  As drops fell from their spear, the islands of japan were formed. The story continues with the death of Izanami, but their wonderful creative relationship is commemorated at this lovely spot, and sanctified with the shimenawa:

bridge

I will use the following photo for inspiration.  The young woman is called a Miko, a Shrine Maiden who in the olden days was regarded as a shaman.  Today they are young girls who help at the shrine and sometimes perform the sacred dance called the kagura.

Great Shiminawa

a lovely miko.

sheltering shimenawa–

no dogma, just dance

14 thoughts on “Sacred Rope (Shimenawa)

      1. John Dougill

        Actually your idea is nicer…. no dogma, just dance. Not only the alliteration, but it keeps the 5-7-5 plus on top of that dogma has rather a negative connotation, doesn’t it…

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        Reply
    1. jhanagan2014 Post author

      Yes, I love the sense of being in a living world, and feeling the magnificent energies of nature. I also find it fascinating that haiku so beautifully combines the syncretic sensibilities of Buddhism and Shinto.

      Like

      Reply

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