My Patron: Inari

Inari-Okami (稲荷大神)

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My home kamidana (house shrine) to Inari Okami.

My Patron deity is Inari-Okami, whom I have been working with for ten years now.

In this page I will use female pronouns for Inari, as that is how I see her the majority of the time in my worship.


Introduction to Inari

Inari is a Japanese kami from the Shinto faith of Japan. Inari has over 32,000 registered shrines and temples dedicated to her, one third of all Shinto shrines in Japan. It is said that this does not include the home shrines, roadside shrines and other small shrines in and outside of Japan which would bring the number to way over 100’000.

The entrance to an Inari shrine is usually marked by one or more red torii and some statues of kitsune, which are often adorned with red yodarekake (votive bibs) by worshippers out of respect. This red colour has come to be associated with Inari because of the prevalence of its use among Inari shrines and their torii.

The main shrine is the Fushimi Inari shrine in Fushimi, Kyoto, where the paths up to this shrine hill are marked in this fashion. The kitsune statues are at times taken for a form of Inari, and they typically come in pairs, representing a male and a female. These fox statues hold a symbolic item in their mouths or beneath a front paw – most often a jewel and a key, but a sheaf of rice, a scroll, or a fox cub are also common.

Inari is also worshiped in Buddhism, though she is represented as female or androgynous and referred to as Dakiniten. In this form she is a Bodhisattva and rides upon a flying white fox.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha, the biggest Inari shrine in Japan.


Associations and Symbols of Inari

Names: Inari-Okami, Oinari, Inari

Associations: Foxes, fertility, rice, tea, sake, prosperity and worldly success

Symbols: The fox, the wish-fulfilling jewel, sickle, sack of rice and the whip

Patron of: Swordssmiths, merchants, actors and prostitutes

Sex: Female, Male or Androgynous


Depictions of Inari

Inari has been identified as both male and female. The most popular representations of Inari are a young female food goddess, an old man carrying sheafs of rice and an androgynous Bodhisattva. Inari’s appearance very much depends on the individual devotees cultural and personal beliefs, making Inari a very personal and accessible deity.

Inari is heavily associated with spirit/magical foxes (kitsune) and is sometimes believed to be one, though this belief is generally discouraged by Priests in both Shinto and Buddhism. She has also been known throughout her lore to take the form of a dragon, a snake and a huge spider, the latter being to teach a wicked man a lesson.

Inari has shown herself to me during meditation and dreams in many different forms. I have seen her as a beautiful women in a white robe, a huge fox spirit and an old man in traditional Japanese clothing. I even saw her once as a white wolf when I was going through a ‘wolf’ phase; she said it was to make me pay attention to her at that particular time.

Inari is also sometimes seen as a collection of three deities (Inari sanza); since the Kamakura period , this number has sometimes increased to five kami (Inari goza). The identification of these kami has varied over time. According to the records of Fushimi Inari, these kami have included Izanagi, Izanami, Ninigi and Wakumusubi.

The five kami today identified with Inari at Fushimi Inari are Ukanomitama, Sarutahiko, Omiyamome, Tanaka and Shi. However, at Takekoma Inari, the second-oldest Inari shrine in Japan, the three enshrined kami are Ukanomitama, Ukemochi and Wakumusubi.

Toyokawa_Inari_Foxes

Fox statues at Toyokawa Inari Shrine


Worship of Inari outside of Japan

There is an increasing movement of the worship of Inari and other Shinto deities outside of Japan. The belief of Shinto being a closed and Japanese-only path is ruined by the Western understanding of Shinto from the World War II era, namely Kokka Shinto. This Shinto was Japanese propaganda to exclude foreigners. This is not true Shinto.

Shinto is now generally acknowledged as an open faith to followers of other paths in modern times. In fact, even in Japan most Shintoists are also involved in Buddhism, Christianity or another faith. Home shrines outside of Japan are becoming more popular as items such as kamidana are available to purchase online, and the resources and information of Shinto is increasingly accessible through the internet.

As well as small home shrines, large public temples have been built in countries including the USA, Canada and the Netherlands.

  • Shusse Inari Shrine of America, LA, California
  • Tsubaki Jinja, in Granite Falls, Washington
  • Ki-no-Mori Jinja, in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada
  • Shrine to Amaterasu-Omikami on Shambhala mountain center in remote Northern Colorado
  • Small Inari shrine in Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York (the National Shinto association is in New York as well)
  • Shi-yaku-jin no hokora, Twin Cities, Minnesota

In addition, there is Inari Faith International (稲荷信仰国際協会), a very active community on Facebook.

 


References/Further Reading:

Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inari_%C5%8Ckami

LivingwithGods: http://livingwithgods.tumblr.com/

Inari, the Shinto Rice Kami by Becky Yoose:http://www.uwec.edu/philrel/shimbutsudo/inari.html

Fushimi Inari (Japanese text): http://inari.jp/

Smyers, Karen A. The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

4 thoughts on “My Patron: Inari

  1. Pingback: Welcome to my Blog! | White Fox Tarot

  2. Pingback: August Personal Wellbeing Reading | White Fox Tarot

  3. Have you visited Fushimi Inari Taisha yet? If not, then when you do you will find your bliss! I will do a post on that particular shrine some time in the future. I’d love to connect and talk more about Shinto and various aspects of the practice of the religion!

    • Sadly, not! I am certain I want to pilgrimage there, but right now I am unfortunately unable to save that much money. I know it is my spiritual home, so to speak and although I have never physically been there, I very much feel a strong connection with the place.

      I would love to see more posts about Shinto and I look forward to it!

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