The Japanese word mitama (御魂・御霊・神霊, honorable spirit) refers to the spirit of a kami or the soul of a dead person. It is composed of two characters, the first of which, mi (御, honorable), is a simply an honorific. The second, tama (魂・霊) means "spirit". The character pair 神霊, also read mitama, is used exclusively to refer to a kami's spirit. Significantly, the term mitamashiro (御魂代, mitama representative) is a synonym of shintai, the object which in a Shinto shrine houses the enshrined kami. Early Japanese definitions of the mitama, developed later by many thinkers like Motoori Norinaga, maintain it consists of several "souls", relatively independent one from the other. The most developed is the ichirei shikon (一霊四魂), a Shinto theory according to which the spirit (霊魂 reikon) of both kami and human beings consists of one spirit and four souls. The four souls are the ara-mitama (荒御霊・荒御魂, rude soul), the nigi-mitama (和御霊・和御魂, harmonious soul), the saki-mitama (幸御魂, happy soul) and the kushi-mitama (奇御霊・奇御魂, wondrous soul). According to the theory, each of the souls making up the spirit has a character and a function of its own; they all exist at the same time, complementing each other. In the Nihon Shoki, kami Ōnamuchi actually meets his kushi-mitama and shiki-mitama, but does not even recognize them. The four seem moreover to have a different importance, and different thinkers have described their interaction differently.
Ara-mitama and nigi-mitama
The ara-mitama is the rough and violent side of a spirit. A kami's first appearance is as an ara-mitama, which must be pacified with appropriate pacification rites and worship so that the nigi-mitama can appear. The nigi-mitama is the normal state of the kami, its functional side, while the ara-mitama appears in times of war or natural disasters. These two souls are usually considered opposites, and Motoori Norinaga believed the other two to be no more than aspects of the nigi-mitama. Ara-mitama and nigi-mitama are in any case independent agents, so much so that they can sometimes be enshrined separately in different locations and different shintai. For example, Sumiyoshi Shrine in Shimonoseki enshrines the ara-mitama of the Sumiyoshi kami, while Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka enshrines its nigi-mitama. Ise Shrine has a sub-shrine called Aramatsuri-no-miya enshrining Amaterasu's ara-mitama. Atsuta-jingū has a sessha called Ichi-no-misaki Jinja for her ara-mitama and a massha called Toosu-no-yashiro for her nigi-mitama. No separate enshrinement of the mitama of a kami has taken place since the rationalization and systematization of Shinto actuated by the Meiji restoration.
This is the soul of blessing and prosperity. In a scene of the Nihon Shoki, kami Ōnamuchi is described in conversation with his own saki-mitama and kushi-mitama. Within Shinto also exists the idea that this the soul which brings good harvests and catches. Motoori Norinaga and others however believe this to be no more than a function of the nigi-mitama.
The "wondrous soul" which appears together with the saki-mitama, the providing soul, which is the power behind the harvest. It is believed to have mysterious powers, to cause transformations and to be able to cure illnesses.
- Iwanami Kōjien (広辞苑) Japanese dictionary, 6th Edition (2008), DVD version
- Yonei Teruyoshi: "Tama". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011
- Smyers, Karen Ann (1999). The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 118–119. ISBN 0-8248-2102-5. OCLC 231775156.
- Yonei Teruyoshi: "Ichirei shikon". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011
- Yonei, Teruyoshi. "Aramitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto. Kokugakuin University. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
- Yonei, Teruyoshi. "Nigimitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto. Kokugakuin University. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
- Yonei Teruyoshi: "Sakimitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011
- Yonei Teruyoshi: "Kushimitama". Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University, retrieved on February 10, 2011