What is a Miko?
We have seen them in anime. Mystical young women, dressed in red hakama (trousers) or a long red skirt, and a white haori (kimono jacket), fighting demons and spirits with chants and dancing. But what are they in real life?
A Miko plays an important role in the rituals and operations of a Shinto Shrine. Traditionally a Miko was a shaman, whose duties included driving out evil, acting as a spiritual medium, ritual dancing and other acts that might be considered types of magic. They also organized pilgrimages, provided religious entertainment and assisted in ritual prayers. They were usually unmarried virgins who served as vessels for divine revelations from the world of the Kami to our world.
The modern Miko mostly works at the reception desk of a shrine, selling lucky trinkets and answering visitor questions, or cleaning the shrine compound. She might also be involved in rituals and ceremonies such as offerings to kami, dances, festivals, weddings, and funerals and assisting the male priests. Their vocation as shaman has been reduced in the modern world. Most Miko undergo training in the Shinto religion and then work at a shrine as a part-time job while they are in college or university.
Since the Miko is a huge part of the Japanese life there are a lot of anime featuring shrine maidens. Here are a few examples:
Rei Hino from Sailor Moon is a Miko and as Sailor Mars her abilities include Shintoist shamanistic abilities like dispelling evil forces and divining the future.
In Inuyasha, Kagome and Kikyo are Miko, shooting sacred arrows as well as creating magical barriers.
In Fushigi Yuugi, Miaka Yūki and Yui Hongo are The Priestess of Suzaku (Suzaku no Miko) and The Priestess of Seriyu (Seriyu no Miko) from The Universe of the Four Gods, respectively.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Kaho Mizuki, is the daughter of a Shinto priest and works as a part-time Miko
Arashi Kishuu in X1999, was raised by the mikos of the Ise Jingun shrine.
Ayako in Ghost Hunt.
Minori in Log Horizon appears as a shrine maiden character class.
To read more about shrine maidens, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/shrine_maidens