Shinto Shrine Visit
My wife, R, and I took an extended weekend to Seattle last week. Having moved to the Bay Area in mid-2006, we left a lot of friends behind. Spending time there reminds me of just how many friends we left behind, including some of the best friends that the two of us have ever had. I expect that we’ll eventually make as rich connections in the Bay Area but it took us decades back in Seattle. We also had an opportunity to spend some time with my grandparents, who helped raise me, and my now 13 year old daughter, Madeline.
While we were there, we finally had the chance to go visit the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America. It is located in Granite Falls, which is about an hour outside of Seattle, North and towards the mountains. The shrine is the only fully functioning Shinto shrine in the continental United States (I believe that there may be one in Hawaii but I’m not sure). Many of our old Neopagan friends have begun going out to the shrine over the last few years (even before we left the area). The friends that we were staying with, Denny and Sophia, participated in Shinto when they lived in Japan and have a strong interest in it but had never gone out there. For my own part, I’m interested in Shinto because of its survival as a living, nature oriented faith that has blended with Buddhism in Japan. Much of the Japanese esoteric Buddhism that I’m interested in has strong Shinto connections (and you have faiths, such as the various Shugendo groups, that merge esoteric Buddhism and Shinto quite organically).
As I’ve said on this blog before, while I may be a Buddhist, I consider my basic culture and root to be coming from my Neopagan background, not my earlier childhood Catholicism. I’m much more of a Pagan-Buddhist in essential outlook. That is part of what makes Shinto so interesting to me.
My friend, Erynn, had contacted the shrine priest, Rev. Barrish, and arranged for him to be around. The week before was one of the annual festivals, which we would have liked to see, but the visit worked out quite nicely. When we arrived, there was a family on their way out but no one else outside of us, Rev. Barrish, his spouse, and the shrine attendant. We had the chance to sit down for a good hour and a half with Rev. Barrish over tea, discussing Shinto and asking questions of him. It was a pretty unique opportunity and he was very interesting and informative. Following this, we did a Shinto ceremony with Rev. Barrish. This was a purification and blessing for R and me (and our friends had other requests). The ceremony was very interesting and, frankly, a subjectively powerful event. Chanting, a giant drum, and various other actions combined into a whole. All of us felt quite affected by it.
Following the ceremony, we bought a few items from the shrine (such as some of the exceptional tea from Japan that we had sampled) and took the opportunity to look around the grounds. This included the brief climb to the Inari Shrine, which had been nearly destroyed by storms earlier, leaving only the miniature Tori Gate on it standing.
As we left later, our friends, Denny and Sophia, expressed that they’d felt like they were back in Japan while at the Shrine. The building was entirely built in a traditional manner and it looked and felt just like the shrines in Japan (except it is sitting in a rural county in the Western United States). I definitely recommend that anyone with an interest in Shinto who goes to the Seattle area go out to the shrine if they get a chance to do so.
I have put up a set of photos up on Flickr as well.