Kagari Goku – Special Offering

On February 6th, the Shingu Fire Festival is held every year where around 2000 men and boys dress up in white clothing, eat and drink white food, and participate in various purification rites.

Here is a picture of a Kagari Goku (かがり御供) which is made in the morning on February 6th, at the Hayatama Shrine in Shingu. Kagari Goku is made of ‘mochi rice’ and kind of glutinous rice. Under the guidance of appointed festival ‘guardians’ or ‘kaishaku’ (かいしゃく), the mochi rice is steamed then placed in a large stone mortar and pounded with a cypress pestle until soft. It is then formed into a small cakes and usually eaten with miso soup.

In this case it made in a special ceremony and provided as a special offering to the entity of the Kamikura Shrine as part of the Shingu Fire Festival.

It is stretched out and cut into 3 small strips and tied up with a string tied formed a cross and then finally completed with an ‘Otokomusubi’, which is the same shape as the knot that used on the rope tied around the waist of the ‘noboriko’, or Oto Matsuri participants. This knot is shaped in the form of two ‘horns’.

The numbers involved in these Shinto ceremonies are rarely just arbitrary but normally have some symbolic meaning behind them. The 3 ‘mochi’ likely have something to do with the ‘Kumano Sanzan’ and the trinity of Heaven, Human, Earth, a commonly recurring theme in ancient eastern thought.

I interpret the two ‘horns’ as Yin and Yang, or Earth and Heaven, and the ‘cross’ to be where these two meet and blend in the Human experience.

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