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Shinigamis, the cunning Japanese spirits that lure people to death

It was believed that the Shinigamis incited humans to slip into the clutches of death.

Duality has been a way of looking at reality since ancient times; thinking about good inherently implies thinking about evil. The same idea extends to all philosophical realms of human thought, which is why it is not surprising that most cultures have their own ways of dealing with the idea of life when thinking about death. There have been a great number of beings that lead the soul through spirals to finally reach a destination that we do not know completely, but that gives meaning to existence. The Shinigamis are part of Japanese culture and are considered gods of death, although their history is much more complex than this.

Who are the Shinigami?

The term Shinigami is composed of ‘shi’ and ‘kami’ which would translate from Japanese as ‘death’ and ‘god.’ According to the traditional Japanese worldview, everything in the world has a spirit or god that governs it, and precisely the gods of death are the Shinigami.

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These types of spirits or supernatural gods incite humans to slip into the clutches of death, which involves inducing feelings and states that invite humans to wish to die. Even in some writings from the Edo Period of Japanese history, Shinigami are described as entering the thoughts of the living, reminding them of their evil deeds and thus inducing them to desire death through existential emptiness.

The appearance of the Shinigami

Describing the appearance of a Shinigami is a really complicated task, since, according to Japanese folklore, the gods of death are invisible to most people, except for those who have a special connection with death. Another way to look at the Shinigami is on one’s deathbed, only at this moment, one can admire their forms. However, it is a doubly difficult task as it is believed that a Shinigami never has the same form, which means that you will not necessarily recognize one if you see one.

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Origin of Japanese Death Spirits

The origins of these creatures of the paranormal world are not entirely clear. It is known that they appeared in the famous literary text Heike Monogatari, which was written in the Heian Era, and they are also part of the supernatural catalog of the Edo Era entitled Ehon Hyaku Monogatari. They are also known to be an important part of the work of the renowned playwright Chikamatsu Mozaemon, also known as Japanese Shakespeare. Mozaemon was the creator of the puppet theater technique that formed an important part of ancient Japanese culture, offering plays in Osaka and Kyoto.

It is said that to chase away the Shinigami, the Japanese had to drink a cup of tea with a plate of rice, to chase away evil thoughts and thus restore peace.

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Today the Shinigami are still part of modern literature and have gained their popularity through the mangakas who have captured their stories in renowned manga such as Death Note or Bleach.

Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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