Jesse Drian: Distant Travels of Local Gods

In this paper I argue that temple and shrine origin narratives (jisha engi) provided a means to connect gods with multiple spaces, and produced networks of meaning extending the significance of a seemingly local deity beyond a singular spatial identity. While recent research has stressed the combinatory role of the honji-suijaku (original form and local traces) paradigm to characterize the gods of Japan through interconnections, the locality of each deity’s sacred space has remained a marker of uniqueness despite the confounding degree of commonality between certain gods. Focusing on the late medieval narrative Itsukushima no honji (Original Form of Itsukushima) and its relationship with other narratives and rites about the founding of the Itsukushima Shrine, I demonstrate how Itsukushima no honji works as a mediator connecting Itsukushima with both local and translocal spaces. Through the production of such networked spaces, the identity of the gods could go beyond the honji-suijaku paradigm and move closer to devotees in terms of both location and character.