Reframe Japan, Wabi-Sabi

Animism and stones

Animism and stones

For animism, although some explanations were already made here, >Animism, I would like to focus more on the relation between animism and stones on this page.

Animism is the religious belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things?animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork and perhaps even words?as animated and alive.

Natural features such as mountains, waterfalls, large rocks and large trees have been objects of worship in Japan since ancient times and believed to be places in which invisible Kami (Japanese folk deities) dwell, such as large rocks referred to as Iwakura (磐座) in which kami were thought to reside.

Rock and stone stay unchanged unless there is a big event or it is intentionally altered.

From human life-span perspective, it is not going to make a bit of difference. The unchangeableness seems to be considered as being timeless and eternal and it seems to be the reason for becoming the objects of worship.

In kanji character, rock is translated to Iwa(岩) and stone is Ishi(石). In Japanese, Ishi(stone) is smaller than Iwa(rock) but bigger than sand.

So, from animism perspective, it is easy to imagine that stone is also considered as a subject of belief as rock. Since the only difference is size if rock and stone are classified in Japanese language and size does not affect timeless and eternal. Of course, because of the size difference, stone may be considered to be more close to people.

There is another story. According to Carl Linnaeus(23 May 1707 - 10 January 1778), who was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who formalized binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms, is also known as the "father of modern taxonomy", the physical world is divided into the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms. He said in his book, Systema Naturae, published in 1735 as follows:

Minerals grow, Plants grow and live, Animals grow, live, and have feeling.

So, during 18th century, life and material are classified unlike in modern times. I am not sure the people of the past have another sense which was something that someone has forgotten.

According to ancient folk religion in Japan, there is a general idea that “Minerals grow”. Such as pebbles are believed to grow into boulders in some legends. The idea is also in Kimigayo(君が代) which is Japan's National Anthem.

May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the tiny pebbles
Grow into massive boulders
Lush with moss

Stones may be not ones just scattered at the roadside, but ones which have more meaningful content.

It may be important thing for modern people to remember something that someone has forgotten.

アニミズムと石