Chinese characters representing Kannagi include "巫" and "神なぎ (神和ぎ・神薙ぎ・神凪)," which are also read as "kaminagi" or "kamunagi." Kannagi (巫) refers to acts of yorishiro (object representative of a divine spirit), dependence on gods, or communication with gods. It also refers to persons who carry out such acts. For more details, refer to the Section of "Fu" or "Kannagi" (巫) (a person who serves and sings for and invites gods).
This section mainly describes the meaning of 'Kannagi' (神なぎ) or the acts (Shinto rituals) of comforting Araburu Kami, (malignant gods) (Aramitama (god's rough soul)) to make it Kannagi (Nikitama, Nigitama, Nikimitama, Nigimitama (god's tranquil soul)), although some descriptions may overlap with those of Kannagi (巫).
Kannagi (神なぎ) and Kannagi (巫)
These words are related mainly to Koshinto (as practiced prior to the introduction of Confucianism and Buddhism to Japan), referring to acts of persons involved in the two aspects of a god--a tranquil god and a savage god.
Koshinto, which is originally said to be a primitive religion, has values or beliefs based on the animism such as nature worship and worship of the dead and prays (communication with gods through prayers) as well as on the fortune-telling (prediction and foreknowledge depending on gods). The former has it that gods dwell in shinrabansho (all things in nature, the whole creation), for example in himorogi (a temporarily erected sacred space or "altar" used as a locus of worship) and iwakura (dwelling place of a god, usually in reference to a large rock). Even today people believe in shinboku (sacred tree), Mt.Fuji as sacred mountain, and inazuma (thunderbolt; a bolt of lightning) as faith in rice cropping.
The latter were seen in ceremonies held in shrines, some of which have been excavated in remains, or in the administration of the ancient times, in particular by Himiko (first known ruler of Japan), who is said to have offered prayers and given fortune telling herself.
There have been Kannagi (written as 巫) as prayers and dependence on gods which led to Shrine Shinto and Kannagi (written as 神和ぎ) as awe (fear) of, respect for, and thanks for nature in Koshinto since ancient times. These two Kannagi, which are common in some parts and inseparable, are alive even today and are typical in Japan.
Acts as Kannagi (written as 神和ぎ)
Matsuri here means so-called festivals whose purpose is to console the spirit, give thanks to gods, be admitted in their presence, and demonstrate and change residence. For local residents and ujiko (shrine parishioner) to enjoy a festive day merrily while being friendly with gods and eat food offered to gods as an offering means 'staying close beside gods' and thereby satisfying and relaxing them.
Matsuri (dedication to gods)
The Chinese character of this matsuri is also read as "tatematsuru," which means that gods stand 'high above' and 'serve as a guardian,' who 'protect people.'
Revering and having a feeling of awe for gods is believed as a matter of course. People's comforting gods acts as a warning to prevent people from becoming too arrogant, and face retaliation by nature.
Matsuri here means prayer, which include not only prayers by Shinto priesthood as a divine yorishiro but also by ordinary people who thank gods for everyday life by placing their hands together before shintai (an object of worship housed in a Shinto shrine and believed to contain the spirit of a deity), Shinto shrine as yorishiro, himorogi, iwakura, mounts, hokora (a small shrine), Doso-shin (traveler's guardian deity), Jizo, or the inazuma and rain that sometimes bring good harvest.
Building a shrine
Yorishiro is necessary to comfort gods as an object before which people pray (although not in all cases); for example, a great shrine (not existing) of Izumo-taisha Shrine, and himorogi or iwakura--a natural object regarded as yorishiro-- were built in ancient times. With the establishment of Shrine Shinto, 'shines (yashiro)' were built, and there are said to be tens of thousands of them in Japan. In addition, many monuments and mounts were built so that those who died in conflicts and wars would not become Araburu Kami. Such monuments and tumuli can be found throughout Japan, for example in the name of a mound for weapons and tumulus for Mongol warriors. Furthermore, monuments for fish and mounds for whales are seen throughout Japan as a repose of souls of living things who died for food, and served as Kannagi.
The meanings of Kannagi varies depending on the Chinese characters and according to Japanese mythology.
Kannagi written as "神和ぎ" means 'Shinto rituals' to bring calmness to gods' souls. Kannagi written as "神薙ぎ" means 'Shinto rituals' to pray for plentiful crops in farm lands and prosperous agriculture as well as the prevention of landslides, wind or storm damage, and other disasters in remote mountainous areas. Kannagi written as "神凪" means 'Shinto rituals' to pray for large catches and safe fishing as well as the prevention of tidal waves and other disasters in coastal areas.
Aramitama and Nigimitama (rough god and tranquil god)
According to Shinto's view of world, there are Tokoyo (the perpetual world) and Utsusho (the actual world); Utsushiyo is where people live and Tokoyo is considered to be where gods live or the sacred area. The Tokoyo further consists of two worlds.
The one written as "常世" is so called the heaven--the world of eternal youth and immortality without nights in which wisdoms are brought. The other written as "常夜" is so called the hell, the realm of the dead, or yominokuni (hades)--the world only with nights in which misfortunes and disasters are brought.
In this way the world of Shinto has two aspects.
These two aspects are seen in common with the idea that gods bring fortunes on some occasions but misfortunes on others. Therefore gods are expressed as Aramitama and Nigimitama (Araburu Kami and Nagiru kami (tranquil gods)) depending on the occasion. This idea is identical to the view of nature held by the Japanese. Gods were considered to be capricious beings, sometimes they provided rain in proper amounts, but served floods when they gave too much rain.
Tsukumogami (god of great age and experience)
Shinto is rather vague with no script and has so many gods in any form of natural things that they are called Yao Yorozu no Kami (eight million gods) --meaning that there are countless number of gods. There are differences in terms of the superiority or grade; things that live long or are used long are respected as having a strong force. Thus gods are believed to dwell in a wide variety of tools and living things and such gods are called Tsukumogami. Such gods are believed to become a so-called "Yokai" (specter) and bring misfortune when malignant and happiness when tranquil.
This shows affections to long-lived things as a symbol of nature and appreciations to long-used tools, serving as a warning that a misfortune may occur when these things are handled without due respect.