27 November 2014

on this day of given thanks

It's Thanksgiving here and Kit’s traveling, but we ran into three things:

1) Inari has been on our collective minds due to the Kill la Kill ebook;

2) Thanksgiving and gratitude;

3) disparate threads on Shinto, such as if those from a more pagan background ever left "extra" offerings for the kami when things went really right.

At the same time, given the often emotional state of the holiday season, compassion and mercy also move to the front, for both the less fortunate among us, and the beleaguered shopper seeking the perfect gifts in an increasingly impersonal world. Sometimes we find ourselves lost in a sea of commerce, forgetting who we even are the rest of the year, all in the name of...well, everything. That’s the holidays as they’ve become, and as some of us have only known. 

Inari is a kami of many things, and patron of pretty much all spheres of human life; we talk about transformation and compassion and all, but it's important to realize Inari is also the patron of gratitude, happiness, and concerns in a more every day, concrete sense too. Have a great day at work? Inari. Need help on a test? Inari will listen to your worries. (I bet Tenjin would disagree with you there, Kit.) Thankful for having enough to eat, or worried you may not have money for dinner? Inari.

The scope of Inari’s domains seem baffling sometimes, especially considering how Inari’s origins indicate a harvest deity. Many versions of the kami are associated with rice and a bounteous harvest- Uka no Mitama no Okami, seen as one of the principle forms of Inari, is a food-centric deity; and Dakiniten, the primary deity at the Toyokawa Buddhist shrine, is seen throwing rice while riding a great white fox. But that’s only part of the story, one that exceeds the size and scope of the major shrines, and indeed transcends personal experience to create something more welcoming to everyone, everywhere. She really is the kami of everything, a great spirit that combines and blends, and covers all spheres of life, both spiritual and “mundane.”

Inari may not be the easiest to comprehend, but perhaps we make things too complicated for ourselves. To me, Inari is - in some very primal, basic way - the urge to defend, to have a home, to adapt to change. To eat, to dance. To rely on others if needed: to know that you mean something, that you too are important and worthy.

For me, the idea that Inari welcomes all is the most important. The spirit of the holiday season is, to quote classic literature, “God Bless Us, Everyone.” Much like Jesus Christ, Inari doesn’t care your station, she just accepts you for who you are. More than any other kami, the relationship between Inari and her devotees is where her strength lies. Whether its organized or deeply personal, Inari looks out for you. She provides comfort, promotes unity, takes care of families, and bestows good fortune on those who have little. Which, in these last days of the year, is what we repeat to one another as we see family, undertake charitable pursuits, or give thanks for what we have. Its also a sign that these feelings are universal, not just restricted to one philosophy or creed- being a good person is more important than giving lip service to the divine, and much like Santa Claus, believe me they know the truth of things. 

What can you do to thank something that can do all that? What can you do to bless that- no matter what you may call the Divine? It sounds silly. Ridiculous. Laughable even.

But still, humanity has the urge to give thanks.

Today, as you sit down to dinner with friends and families, ponder the true meaning of the holidays. Cliche, but it’s important. Between gifts and hectic travel, stop for a moment and give thanks.

Blessed be the source of Life, for guiding us Home. Even if Home has been there all along, or even if we thought we'd never see it.

And thank you for being here. Yes, you. You too. All of you. We're grateful for you, reading and seeing and helping us in the past year.

Be excellent to each other.

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