Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Shimenawa

The shimenawa is the twisted rope hung from the main gate, suspended above the holy font or the entrance to the main hall, or wrapped around sacred trees or other objects at Shinto shrines. It may be a thick, hempen plait, as in the lower photo, or a few strands of twine, as in the upper. Of the shimenawa Lafcadio Hearn has this to say:"(I)t represents the straw rope the deity Futo-tama-no-mikoto stretched behind the Sun-goddess Ama-terasu... after Ame-no.., the Heavenly-handstrength-god, had pulled her out" [of the ground]. Depending from the shimenawa are tufts of rope signifying the roots that clung to the mythical original, which was made of grass.

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