Deities, Kami, Shinto

Inari and Loki Part 1: Inari

This is the first of three posts where I’m going to talk about how having more than one patron/matron deity feels like, my personal experiences and how it affects my practice. I don’t actually talk about Loki on here nearly as much as Shinto and Inari-Okami but my reason for that is quite simple; I feel that there is already enough pagan and Loki related content on the web already while Shinto is lacking. My primary focus in this blog is of course Shinto, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I also work with other pantheons in my practice.

I feel that it is important to say that I don’t mix Shinto and Paganism, and neither should you. Although Shinto as a faith is incredibly open and welcoming of all other beliefs, Shinto kami should always be enshrined separate to other Pagan deities. This is because Shinto is a very old tradition and although there are no doctrines, there are still ‘rules’ which should be followed, especially in shrine Shinto. It is believed that kami may be offended if they are enshrined improperly! I feel that as I am practicing a faith that is not native of my own country, I should do my best to respect and follow the traditions.

Inari-Ōkami to me will always feel like the ‘head’ of my household. I think of her as a parent and a guardian against misfortune. Loki on the other hand feels more like a very close friend, a brother or sometimes even myself. I don’t believe that there are deities that are more powerful than others and I am going to discuss that in an upcoming blog post. But for now I’m just going to talk about my experiences in working with each deity.

Inari-Ōkami

If you’re reading this blog right now you’re probably here because of my many posts talking about Inari-Ōkami! Inari-Ōkami is a Shinto kami who is worshipped across Japan and has over 32’000 registered shrines! Their head shrine is Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto and they have many, many unregistered shrines too. They are a kami of rice, prosperity, business, tea, sake and more. They are seen as female, male or androgynous and their messenger is the white fox. I will refer to Inari-Ōkami as female as that is how I see them most of the time. You can read more about Inari-Ōkami here!

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This is remarkably close to how I see Inari-Ōkami. Artwork by Ashley Stewart.

I have been working with Inari-Ōkami daily for about 8-9 years now though my interest goes back about 15 years. At first I wasn’t sure how to worship them correctly but due to access to Shinto priests and other practitioners through the internet I now act as a lay priest and perform every action to the traditional standard. This type of formal worship is not for everyone but for me it gives me purpose and structure.

You might think that because my worship is so structured and formal that my relationship with Inari-Ōkami is formal and strained. But it’s really not. I feel that the offerings, bowing, chanting and everything else is like a very elaborate way to make Inari-Ōkami happy. I also feel that it raises a unique energy as I am replaying the steps that have been used in Inari worship for thousands of years. I do have a lot of respect to Inari-Ōkami but as I described before it is like a parent. I choose appropriate language, use Japanese honorifics and thank her for everything she has given me.

This is not to say that I don’t joke or talk casually to Inari-Ōkami. I’ve found that she can have a wicked sense of humor! It took me a little while to figure out what was okay and what was not okay when talking to Inari-Ōkami, much like a child pushing it’s parent to see what it can get away with. Often Inari-Ōkami can be cryptic, sarcastic or even harsh!

I see Inari-Ōkami as the provider of life and I talked about this a bit in this post. So I feel that I simply cannot live without her and that doing elaborate ceremonies is just a part of my gratitude towards her as a parent. I know it may seem weird to a lot of pagans that I feel I need to do such ceremonies and formal prayers, but I don’t feel any type of obligation to do them; it’s more that I enjoy it and I know Inari-Ōkami enjoys it too.

For me this type of relationship feels very close and special. I have no problem being formal when needed to Inari-Ōkami and friendly at other times. I know that I must give as much respect as possible and always use honorifics. I even pray entirely in Japanese instead of English as a form of respect! We have a mutual relationship in which Inari-Ōkami provides me with a service of life, blessings and good fortune in return of my service of offerings, respect and worship. It is a relationship that I am happy with and that works for me incredibly well.

In my next post I will talk about my relationship with Loki and how that works for me! And the final post will be about how Inari-Ōkami and Loki work together, their similarities and differences and also a little about other deities I work with!

Thank you for reading!

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1 thought on “Inari and Loki Part 1: Inari”

  1. I found it really difficult to be devoted strongly to more than one Deity. At first my focus was very strongly on Loki, and I had a hard time learning to split my energies between Him, Hel and, later on, Sigyn. I felt like I couldn’t give my full effort to more than one Deity. You ever feel like that?

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