Shinto: what does Kami mean? (deity, spirit)

The concept of Kami is at the heart of Shinto spirituality. But what does “Kami” actually mean?

In the world of Shinto, the Kami are not simply considered deities or spirits. They represent a life force that permeates all things.

This article delves into the deep and complex interpretation of this fascinating term in traditional Japanese culture.

Contents :

1. Definition of the word “Kami”

2. Japanese etymology of Kami

3. What is the role of the Kami in Shinto?

4. Kami: similar elements in Western culture?

Definition of the word

Definition of the word "Kami"

In the Japanese universe, the word "kami" translates as "spirit", "god" or even "deity". These spiritual entities are omnipresent in Shinto culture and religion. The kami can be linked to venerable ancestors or to mythical characters.

The existence of kami is not restricted to the main deities. They also include the more discreet spirits associated with certain natural elements such as trees, rocks or sacred water sources. Each component of nature has its own dedicated kami.

From this perspective, each aspect of the environment is inhabited by a specific spirit which gives it a sacred dimension. In this sense, the visible world becomes a gateway to the invisible domain of the sacral.

Thus, within the Japanese landscape imbued with Shintoism, we perceive a deep connection between all living beings and their natural environment thanks to these invisible but powerful presences that are the kami.

Japanese collection

The magical power of Japan

by these ancestral Japanese lucky charms


Japanese etymology of Kami

The term "kami" finds its origins in ancient words in the Japanese language. It probably comes from the obsolete verb kam-u, which means “to be superior”, “to surpass” or even “to lead”. This word illustrates the concept that the kami are supernatural beings influential in the earthly universe.

In the Shinto spiritual ecosystem, this name has evolved to represent these sacred entities honored and venerated by the disciples of this traditional Japanese dogma. These divine spirits occupy a preponderant place within this ancestral belief.

The respect and admiration accorded to these sacred figures testify to the deep bond that unites the faithful to their religious heritage. The symbolic power of the kami reinforces their major role in the daily life of Shinto followers, making each gesture and each ritual charged with a particular meaning.

What is the role of the Kami in Shinto?

What is the role of the Kami in Shinto?

In Shinto belief, every element of the universe - a towering mountain, a flowing stream or even a simple pebble - is the shrine of a kami. Shinto followers consider these spiritual entities to be the guardians of universal harmony.

The kami are also of crucial importance as mediators between men and the supreme deities. They may be called upon to obtain benefits, provide protection or guide those seeking spiritual advice. Throughout Japan there are shrines dedicated to specific kami where their followers come to pay homage and pray.

These sacred places attract not only those seeking spiritual comfort but also those curious to discover this ancient Japanese religious tradition. With their unique architecture and peaceful atmosphere, they offer visitors an unforgettable cultural experience while highlighting the depth and complexity of Shintoism.

Kami: Similar elements in Western culture?

Kami: Similar elements in Western culture?

The concept of "kami" is an essential notion rooted in Japanese culture. Parallels can be drawn with various Western religious traditions and beliefs.

In particular, elements of ancient Greek polytheism evoke the idea of ​​divine entities residing in natural elements. Likewise, various European mythologies speak of spirits linked to sacred forests, rivers or majestic mountains.

However, despite these superficial similarities between different world religions and myths, each tradition has its own unique characteristics that define its own identity.

To conclude, the term "kami" goes beyond its simple literary translation. It embodies a deep philosophy that respects nature and venerates the spiritual forces that live there. Shintoism places this concept at the center of its teachings - a faith firmly planted in Japanese soil whose influence persists on contemporary religious practices in Japan.

author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.