Women of the Sacred Groves Divine Priestesses of Okinawa

ISBN-10: 0195124871
ISBN-13: 9780195124873
Edition: 1999
Authors: Susan Sered
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Description: Okinawa is the only contemporary society in which women lead the official, mainstream, publicly funded religion. Priestesses are the acknowledged religious leaders within the home, clan, and village--and, until annexation by Japan approximately one  More...

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Book details

List price: $61.00
Copyright year: 1999
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 3/4/1999
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 320
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.25" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 0.990
Language: English

Okinawa is the only contemporary society in which women lead the official, mainstream, publicly funded religion. Priestesses are the acknowledged religious leaders within the home, clan, and village--and, until annexation by Japan approximately one hundred years ago, within the Ryukyuan Kingdom. This fieldwork-based study provides a gender-sensitive look at a remarkable religious tradition. Susan Sered spent a year living in Henza, an Okinawan fishing village, joining priestesses as they conducted rituals in the sacred groves located deep in the jungle-covered mountains surrounding the village. Her observations focus upon the meaning of being a priestess and the interplay between women's religious preeminence and other aspects of the society. Sered shows that the villages social ethos is characterized by easy-going interpersonal relations, an absence of firm rules and hierarchies, and a belief that the village and its inhabitants are naturally healthy. Particularly interesting is her discovery that gender is a minimal category here: villagers do not adapt any sort of ideology that proclaims that men and women are inherently different from one another. Villagers do explain that because farmland is scarce in Okinawa, men have been compelled to go to the dangerous ocean and to foreign countries to seek their livelihoods. Women, in contrast, have remained present in their healthy and pleasant village, working on their farms and engaging in constant rounds of intra- and interfamilial socializing. Priestesses, who do not exert power in the sense that religious leaders in many other societies do, can be seen as the epitome of presence. By praying and eating at myriad rituals, priestesses make immediate and tangible the benevolent presence of kami-sama (divinity). Through in-depth examination of this unique and little-studied society, Sered offers a glimpse of a religious paradigm radically different from the male-dominated religious ideologies found in many other cultures.

Introduction
Prologue: Okinawan History, Henza Village, and `nthodology
Divine Dis-order
Divine Dis-order: On Social Planes
Divine Dis-order: On Cosmological Planes
Questions of Gender
Gender in an Egalitarian Society
Gender Separation and Social Integration
Women and Men and Ritual
Sitting in the Seat of the Gods
Priestesses and Ritual: Feeding the Kami-sama
Divine Dis-order: Signs, Symptoms, and Sitting in the Right Seat
Born to Be Kami-sama
Questions of Power
The Problematics of Power
Priestesses, Yuta, and Ogami People
Deconstructing Gender
Un-gendering Religious Discourse
Gender Bending(?) and Ritual Deconstruction
Conclusion: Religion, Power, and the Sanctification of Gender
Appendixes
Glossary of Japanese and Okinawan Words
Dramatis Personae
Notes
References
Index

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