The term god refers to concepts such as spirits, natural forces and superhuman beings. In Japan's native Shinto religion, "god" is usually considered equivalent to the term kami (神). It should be noted, however, that kami include a broader spectrum of beings than those found in monotheistic religions (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, etc) or even some polytheistic ones. Shinto is at its roots an animist religion, meaning that any being (alive or dead), object or even phenomenon can be considered a god. Also, it should be noted that the 'G' in "god" should not be capitalized when referring to Shinto gods or any other gods from polytheistic religions.
Like many polytheistic religions (e.g. those of ancient Greece and Rome), Shinto gods live among humans and have direct impact on their daily lives. While their personalities are mostly similar to humans, they possess two aspects known as Ara and Nigi (荒・和): when they are worshiped they will protect people and grant them blessings (ご利益 gorieki), but when angry they will create disasters and curses (祟 tatari). In some cases the Ara and Nigi aspects of a god are so different in appearance and behaviour that they are named or worshipped separately. A shrine (神社 jinja) is a place for gods to occupy in order to interact with humans, which can vary in size from a small box or shelf (found in many homes) to an entire building and grounds.
- 1 Types of Gods
- 2 Gods in Touhou
- 3 Characters under this Bestiary
- 4 See Also
- 5 References
Types of Gods
Yaksha (夜叉 yasha) are an ancient group of compassionate spirits that conducted subterranean treasures and are known as protective gods.
There are two types of yaksha - friendly yaksha that take the form of beautiful nature spirits, and dark yaksha similar to ghosts that infest dangerous wildernesses and consume unwary creatures.
In Indian Buddhism, the good yaksha are loyal assistants of Vaisravana (Japanese form: Bishamonten), a god who supports righteousness.
- Main article: Dragon
Dragons (竜 ryuu) are reptilian creatures viewed as gods in some cultures, and monsters in others.
Yaoyorozu no Kami
- Main article: Yaoyorozu no Kami
Yaoyorozu no Kami (八百万の神, Lit. "Eight Million Gods") is the term in Shinto that is used to refer to gods in general. It also refers to the idea of "believing in Shinto faith".
While conventionally translated as "Eight Million Gods", it uses the older Japanese meaning of "eight" (八 hachi, ya) as "myriad"; i.e. the number of gods is actually uncountably large.
- Main article: Arahitogami
Arahitogami (現人神, "living god") are humans who become gods while still alive, thus being both at once.
- Main article: Yatagarasu
- Main article: Divine spirit
Divine spirits (神霊 shinrei) are the spirits of humans who ascended to godhood before or after their death.
Gods in Touhou
The majority of gods in the Touhou Project are drawn from or based on the Shinto religion. However, the Buddhist god Bishamonten is confirmed to exist, implying that the other gods of his pantheon exist as well. Possibly gods from other religions also exist; Seiga Kaku has made a dismissive reference to Jesus Christ, though his divinity was not confirmed.
The Shinto Gods in Touhou
Shinto Gods in the Touhou Project are "born" from faith and derive their power from it. Note that being "born" can also refer to ascension to godhood, such as the case of Mizue no Uranoshimako, a human who became a god after his death. As they are born from human belief they share some similarities to youkai, and some youkai have argued that the two are practically the same. However, they have many differences, and for the most part can be considered two different "species". Unlike youkai, gods are not generally born from fear; thus they do not do things like attacking humans by default, but instead seek out faith, typically in the form of worship.
Faith from either humans or youkai is valid, and is described by Kanako in Reimu's Mountain of Faith A ending as a reverence towards existence, a fear of retribution for one's actions, and the will to enrich one's life, spirit, and body, but it doesn't really have to be that serious. Worship and faith can be as simple as just celebrating with your god.
Shinto gods may split their spirits and manifest where ever called on, enabling them to be in many places at once to serve their worshippers; this doesn't diminish the power of the god in any way, as each split part of the same god would have the same amount of power as the original. Certain individuals, such as Watatsuki no Yorihime and shrine maidens like Reimu Hakurei and Sanae Kochiya can directly call upon the gods to enter their bodies. Most gods interact with the physical world entirely in this manner. Some gods have physical bodies which allow them to act independently without being called upon, such as Kanako and Suwako (and likely Hina Kagiyama, Minoriko Aki, and Shizuha Aki), but this does not prevent them from splitting their spirit or being invoked in the normal ways.
The Shinto gods are well-acknowledged in Gensokyo and by the denizens of the Lunar Capital (some of whom may have actually been the original gods in Shinto Myth, such as Lord Tsukuyomi and his sister). However, in the outside world, faith has instead been placed on various things such as friendship and news. Thus, like youkai, it is difficult for some gods such as Kanako Yasaka and Suwako Moriya to survive in the outside world as their faith dies out. Presumably more well-known Shinto gods such as Amaterasu still have plenty of faith to go around in the outside world, as there is nothing to indicate their existence is under threat any time soon; in particular, the god Ame-no-Torifune even had a space station dedicated to him.
Of note is that loss of faith for a god means a loss of their ability to manifest their power. For a god, losing all their power is equivalent to death (with the exception of arahitogami, who would continue to exist as normal humans).
The Buddhist Gods in Touhou
There is curently little known about any particular differences or caveats between the Buddhist gods in Touhou and Buddhist mythology. Bishamonten, being extremely busy, uses Shou Toramaru as an avatar for the temples that Shou works or worked in (Byakuren Hijiri's previous temple and her current Myouren Temple).
Okina Matara is based on Matara-jin (摩多羅神), an obscure, multifaceted God primarily of the esoteric Tendai Buddhism sect. The wheel of Dhamma is shown in one of her spell card backgrounds, representing buddhism as well.
Characters under this Bestiary
Gods not original to Touhou
- Yatagarasu (Swallowed by Utsuho)
- Sokotsutsu no Onomikoto
- Nakatsutsu no Onomikoto
- Uwatsutsu no Onomikoto
- Kanayamahiko no Mikoto
- Ishikori-dome no Mikoto
- Amenouzume no Mikoto
- Amaterasu Oomikami
- Tsukuyomi no Mikoto (?)
- Taisui Xingjun
- Kanayamabiko no Mikoto
- Sendai Shirou
- Ten Desires Youmu route
- Silent Sinner in Blue Chapter 17. "You can't fight gods and youkai the same way."
- Mountain of Faith Kanako's profile. "Actually, to play together was what gods wished for." "This was exactly the kind of faith Kanako was wishing for."; Reimu A ending. "There's no difference between faith and the ability to share a nice drink together like this.
- Silent Sinner in Blue, chapter 6
- Mountain of Faith Reimu B Ending. In the outside world, people's faith in gods was weakened by the appearance of bad cults and religions. However, all gods benefit from all faith in them. Even though faith and entreatment are different things. Humans, in their independence, lost the need for faith. Actually, that's not true. Even now, they have faith deep within their hearts. People believe in the news, brands, companies, and friends. The object of their faith has merely shifted closer. If you're a god who wishes to regain faith from humans... try setting your pride aside and being friendly with them.
- Mountain of Faith Sanae Kochiya's profile. "When people lose faith in gods, the gods lose their power. They can't manifest their divine virtues. This is the same as death, for a god.