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Taima in Japanese religion

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Hempen rope, fibre and paper 
in oldest shrine in Saitama (1999)
Hempen rope, fibre and paper in oldest shrine in Saitama
Hempen paper and raw fibre

Cannabis (along with rice) is important in the Shinto religion where it represents purity.

It is believed to ward off evil. Priests wear hemp clothes. Hemp fibre is used in many ceremonies and shrines. Hemp is used for bell ropes or ropes strung across the entrances of shrines. A stick with unprocessed hemp fibre called gohei is used for ceremonies that drive out evil.

Hemp seeds are used in Shinto weddings. In medieval Japan people used to travel with hemp leaves to be used as ritual offerings. Hemp leaves were burnt during the o-bon festival "as an invitation to the spirits" (Moore) and during various o-matsuri.

Hempen bell rope
Hempen bell rope

Believers in Shinto sought the protection of a certain group of gods, the Sahe no Kami: "Travellers prayed to them before setting out on a journey and made a little offering of hemp leaves and rice to each one they passed." ("Religions Of Japan" by George Foot Moore, 1913)

Hemp and the Emperor

Five times a year so-called "taima ceremonies" are performed at Ise shrine near Nagoya. It is dedicated to Amaterasu, the sun goddess. She is also the goddess of hemp and rice. Ise shrine is the main shrine of the Imperial family. The current Emperor who is chief priest of Shintoism is well known to grow rice at the Imperial palace. A book published by the Imperial Household Agency shows him planting both rice and hemp as part of an ancient ritual performed by new emperors. Special clothes were made for his coronation in 1989 from hemp grown on Shikoku island.


"Sorry, we're out of hemp!"
"As we stood in the front part of the shrine grounds a group of men wearing headbands appeared at the foot of the mountain I had been blocked from hiking on. They were carrying something enormous which at closer glance turned out to be a huge bunch of dried hemp plants 'from last year', which of course I recognized instantly, bound together in a sort of column. The distinctive leaves had been stripped except at the very top of the bundle, and the whole thing was about 20 feet [6 metres] high. They stood it upright in a clearing and anchored guy lines to keep it upright.

The ceremony consisted of young men standing in a circle around the huge hempen column with their backs to the column, and trying to set fire to it by tossing flaming torches backwards over their shoulders. They tried to aim for the leafy crown of the column, and eventually they hit it, and it began to burn. Eventually the guy lines holding the whole thing up burned too, and it collapsed in a deluge of sparks and a familiar smell."

report by 'Roger'

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