Norito Book of Prayers

During my time working in Cassadaga, there came a book into the shop titled Norito: A Translation of the Ancient Japanese Ritual Prayers. Of course, after skimming through it and discovering it’s a book of Shinto prayers translated into English, I snatched it up and bought it then and there with what was left of my paycheck. Gas money be damned.

Asian mythology and spirituality has always interested me since my days in middle school. I collected all manner of books that would even have one sentence on the subject. So when this came across the counter after opening a new shipment of books and merchandise, I knew I had to have it. Especially since information regarding Shinto from the pre-Buddhism merger period is actually quite sparse.

This book has been a source of comfort, wisdom, and education in my years since I have acquired it. I would like to share one of my personal favorite prayers from this book. In English, of course.

XXIII. Ituki-no-hime-miko wo Ire-maturu toki
(Grand Shrine of Ise: When the High Priestess Assumes Her Office)

After finishing speaking the words for presenting the offerings of the Divine First Fruits Banquet, the following is said:

I humbly speak in special words:
The Consecrated Princess (1) now being presented, has been,   According to the ancient custom,
Blessed and purified for three years
And designated as your handmaiden
With the prayer that you do grant that the Sovreign Grandchild (2) may abide tranquilly and peacefully
Together with the heaven and earth, with the sun and moon,
Eternal and unmoving.
The great command to present her as your handmaiden
Is relayed as an intermediary
By the great Nakatomi (3),
As if grasping an awsome spear in the middle,
And fearfully and reverently spoken.       Thus I humbly speak.


FOOTNOTES:

(1) Consecrated Princess – one of the classifications of Priestess; Ituki-no-hime-miko: A virgin princess of the blood selected to serve as the High Priestess of the Grand Shrine of Ise. Her term in office lasted as long as the emperor’s reign, and she retired at the end of his reign. She was purified by special rites for 3 years before going to assume her office.

(2) Sovereign Grandchild – a term referring to the Emperor; originally applied to the god Hiko-ho-no-ninigi-no-mikoto, the ancestor of the Imperial House. Emphasizes the lineal descendancy of the Emperor from his ancestors the Heavenly Deities.

(3) Nakatomi – an ancient family claiming descent from the deity Ame-no-ko-yane-no-mikoto, which served the Yamato Court in a priestly capacity together with the rival Imibe family. Their duties were to recite the norito. The Great Nakatomi (Oho-Nakatomi) evidently refers to the member of the family who officiated at ritual functions; thus it was no doubt the name of an office held by a single individual of the family rather than a family title.

EXCERPT SOURCE: NORITO: A Translation of the Ancient Japanese Ritual Prayers by Donald L. Philippi. “The Grand Shrine of Ise: When the Grand Priestess Assumes Her Office”, pg. 66.

You can buy the book on Amazon for around $30US – New. There are both new and used copies available.

You may also buy it direct from the publisher, Princeton University Press, for $32.95 + Shipping.

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