May. 2nd, 2014

jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)

After re-reading some blogs on Tumblr where other Inari worshipers talk about her, and reblog traditional artwork and prayers, I have a lot of thoughts that I need to get out.

I see Inari through the following filters:

  • A distrust of organized religion. I was burned very badly by Mormonism, the religious corporation that I was raised in. I'm wary of anyone who makes promises on behalf of a god ("Do this and you will be blessed!") or tells you what personal gnosis is okay and not okay to have.

  • An otherkin identity. I see myself as less of a fox therian and more of a "foxwoman" or "spiritual fox archetype," which is a confusing distinction even to me. But I feel less of a connection to what I see as "human religion," and more of a connection with the foxes that feature in stories that humans tell. I see them as people and identify with them, and I often ask myself why these humans told this story and what the foxes in them were actually feeling.

  • An extremely personal relationship. For me, Inari is first and foremost the being I've prayed to my whole life, who I feel started answering my prayers in my childhood when the Mormon god was too busy or self-important. I feel she has guided me through my whole life, and has encouraged me to do things that help me and affirm my self-worth. I feel that part of the reason she does this is because I'm a part of her who will return to her after I die, and she feels personally responsible for what happens to me and what kind of experiences I will bring back to her.

(I would like to note that some people appear to believe that Inari is basically the Lifestream, which would make everyone part of her if it were true. Others believe she is more than one kami.)

So despite having personal gnosis which basically makes me Inari, or at least a part of her, I'm really uncomfortable with traditions that prescribe ways of relating to deities, as opposed to suggesting them. I feel like a relationship with deity is equally important to the deity and her petitioner, and I feel that most established, written-down, preached-about ways of relating to deity aren't meant for the deity's benefit but for the people's. The only question is which people it's meant to benefit.

So when I read about Shinto religious practices, or practices done under the auspices of Shinto-identifying organizations, I don't see them as "the right way to pray to the kami [deities]." And when I read things people teach about Inari's nature, I don't see them as true just because a person believed them before I was born. I perform triage on religious beliefs, practices, and iconography, sorting them into bins marked "sacred," "interesting," and "uninteresting," and I do so shamelessly.

Because you can't control how a deity reveals herself to you, if you are the kind of person who has such experiences. She can reveal herself to you through a shrine, or a statue, or a thousand-year-old prayer, or a ten-year-old video game. Something will just seem to make sense, or make you feel wonder and awe. Like it was a sacred thing that was made just for you, and you're privileged to have experienced it.

I don't feel that anyone is obligated to respond to that feeling in a particular way, whether it's a deity or a flesh-and-blood person (or both) who's approaching you. You don't have to go out with someone just because they asked you, even if they and your family and friends all think they'd be good for you -- not even if you feel attracted to them. If you do go out with them, you don't have to go to dinner and a movie just because that's what everyone does. There is no book of rules (or The Rules) that defines every situation and makes sense for every person to follow. The people who say otherwise have something to gain from your believing there is.

I don't know how much of that there is on Tumblr, especially in the Inari-worshiping circles. There's one blogger I won't say the name of here, though, who's received institutionalized permission to enshrine an "official" kami in the States, and regularly posts things like their translations of prayers, or their recipe for Inari-zushi, or instructions on how to approach Inari.

I feel uncomfortable with things like this, not because I think they are doing it wrong but because I am really quick to internalize the notion that I am. And I don't think it's fully my fault. I think there are a lot of people who are really concerned with doing things the "right" way, whether they want to or not, because of how they were raised or a sense of propriety or empathy / scrupulousness. And I think they need to be taken into account when you're talking about stuff like religion or relationships, every time you discuss these things, so that they don't confuse "what works for you" with "what's right for them."

Where by "you" I guess I mean this blogger, who I'm too nervous to confront directly. *cringe*

All of which is to say that I personally identify as Shinto, and as an Inari worshiper. Not because another one would necessarily recognize me as such, but because they're the words that make the most sense to me, to describe my internal landscape.

Inari, and much of her iconography, and the feelings I get when I pray to her in my own way, are sacred to me. I practice my personal "way of the gods" without a human community; I actually see humans the way I think they would see foxes, as kami to be appeased, venerated, or avoided as appropriate. And when I get a sense for how to live my life in a way I feel pleases Inari, I try very hard to make it clear that I'm talking about my personal spirituality, and not prescribing The Right Way To Live.

I am not okay with making any absolute, authoritative statements on behalf of a god. Not even when I feel that, to some degree, I am her.

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~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

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