Kami

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Kami (神) is the Japanese word for "god". The word is used to indicate any sort of god, beings of a higher place or belonging to a different sphere of existence. This includes spirits and the God of the Abrahamic religions. The word connotates charisma, omniscience, miracle — any kind of thing resembling divinity. See for example kamikaze.

Because Japanese does not distinguish number (singular/plural) in nouns, it is rarely clear whether kami means a single entity or multiple entities. Japanese often imply multiple entities, including Buddha and the Abrahamic God (the latter is usually called Kami-sama, with the high honorific suffix -sama).

In Shinto, the ancient animistic religion of the Japanese, kami are understood as the divine forces of nature. The worshippers of the Shintō religion in ancient Japan revered creations of nature which exhibited a particular beauty and power such as waterfalls, mountains, boulders, animals, trees, grasses and even rice paddies. They strongly believed the spirits or resident kami deserved respect.

Shinto believers also adhere to kami having an anthromorphic form with the ability to act and communicate, as in a kind of avatar. They could not be seen by men. However, they were not omnipotent and omnipresent. In Japanese mythology, for example, Amaterasu, the sun goddess of the Shinto pantheon, could not see the events of the human world. She also had to use divination rituals to see the future.

The kami traditionally possessed two souls, one gentle (nigimi-tama) and the other aggressive (arami-tama). This human but powerful form of kami was also divided into amutsu-kami ("the heavenly deities") and kunitsu-kami ("the gods of the earthly realm"). A deity would behave differently according to which soul was in control at a given time. In many ways, this was representative of nature's sudden changes and would explain why there were kami for every meteorological event: snowfall, rain, typhoons, floods, lightning and volcanoes. The ancestors of a particular family can also be worshipped as kami. In this sense, these kami were worshipped not because of their godly powers, but because of a distinct quality or value. These kami were regional and many shrines (hokora) were built in honour of these kami.

In his 1946 Ningen-sengen radio broadcast, the emperor Hirohito declared that he is not an akitsumikami (manifest kami).

In the 2005 expansion to Magic: The Gathering, Champions of Kamigawa, kami and shinto are the basis for the ongoing storyline of the series. The set has stayed surprisingly true to the Japanese mythology, using actual kami names instead of inventing ones. In Kamigawa, the Kami have been angered by the actions of a human lord. This anger has sparked the "Kami War", in which the noble kami spirits turn against their human worshippers.

Some specific kami

See also

et:Kami ja:神 (神道) nl:Kami pl:kami pt:Kami ru:Ками simple:Kami sv:Kami

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