I was researching miko earlier, and while I need to do much more study on them, what I’ve found thus far is very interesting! For those who are unaware, “miko” refers to a kind of all-female Japanese religious figure who attend to shrines, performing sacred dances and purification rituals and the like. Though once quite powerful in Japanese society, the miko’s role in Shinto has largely been marginalized, with many miko likely being female students trying to earn some extra money rather than anyone exceptionally spiritual.
While they’ve largely been secularized and stripped of their powers in Japanese society, miko were once very important as female shaman! They would invite kami to possess them, going into trances in order to convey the will of the gods and help their village. A miko was considered to be the “bride” of one particular spirit, with her “wedding” coming after a grueling training process that could span at least half a decade! This training would include washings in cold water and isolation from taboos like death or blood.
As well as serving a role quite similar to the sibyl of ancient Greece, miko were intimately aware of the various different deities who were important to their village, being as it were a form of intermediary between humans and kami, or at the very least the communicator of the will of the spirits. They were taught to use mirrors and swords in rituals, had the capacity to perform exorcisms and divination, and were taught various magical formulae in a secret language that only a miko could learn after training for three to seven years!
I find the concept very interesting, and perhaps to help inform how I perform my witchcraft. At the very least, I’d like to exercise some discipline with myself in order to help heighten my magic, which I feel like washing with cold water and avoiding certain taboos could help with. All in all, though, I just find the miko and other kinds of magick practitioners across the world extremely interesting. So, in the future, I’ll probably do more posts like this!
p.s.: Miko are apparently associated with boxes that hold dolls, skulls, and Shinto prayer beads! Isn’t that interesting?