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atibarix

Kami and spirits

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So I understand the principles of a Fortune, it makes sense to me. But I am a bit confused about the difference between a kami and a spirit, are they supposed to be the same?

 

Also, what is essentially an animal spirit? Is it like the soul of an animal leaving the body once it passed away and then just roam around Rokugan like a ghost until it is finally reincarnated into something else?  

 

Also, if Shugenjas are able to communicate directly with the spirits, then what good are priests? What differentiate them in their duties?

 

Thank you very much for your time.

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The kami and the other spirits are essentially the same, but the former is specifically elemental (air, earth, fire, water - there are no void kami) spirits.

The shugenja are the priests, there is no difference between the two: if you are shugenja then you are a priest - if you are a priest then you are a shugenja. 

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1 hour ago, AtoMaki said:

The kami and the other spirits are essentially the same, but the former is specifically elemental (air, earth, fire, water - there are no void kami) spirits.

The shugenja are the priests, there is no difference between the two: if you are shugenja then you are a priest - if you are a priest then you are a shugenja. 

That second part's wrong, as per Emerald Empire.

A Shugenja is one of the very few people who can talk directly to the kami of Rokugan, and most of them treat it as a religious duty.

A Priest is someone who is responsible for the day-to-day parts of religion and the maintenance of shrines.

Every shrine will have one or more priests who live in it and carry out ceremonies.  Very few shrines have an assigned live-in shugenja.

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The terminology is, admittedly, a little loose. The term "spirit" was originally defined in the (old) canon as any being not native to Ningen-do, the Mortal Realm. Unfortunately, that almost immediately got muddied when the Elemental kami started being referred to as "elemental spirits". Since the Elemental kami are, by their very definition, native to Ningen-do (they exist in all things, etc.) it created a hole in the "not native to Ningen-do" definition. For my part, I now take "spirit" to mean essentially anything native to Ningen-do that isn't actually mortal OR any being from a realm other than Ningen-do. So humans, animals, nezumi, etc. are not spirits; the Elemental kami, the kami of places and things, etc. ARE spirits, as are things originating in other realms like Chikusho-do, Gaki-do, Jigoku, etc. It's still probably not entirely watertight a definition, but it suffices.

(As an aside, it also raises the question--would humans be considered "spirits" if they traveled to another realm, by the denizens of that realm? If a human traveled to, say, Chikusho-do, would the native creatures there consider him or her a "spirit", or whatever their equivalent of that would be? I honestly don't know, and don't think there's a canon answer for that...which is fine, some questions should just be left making you go, hmmm....)

Anyway, the Elemental kami are spirits, not being mortal. Of course, not all spirits are kami, however!

As noted, shugenja are holy people who, for reasons not clearly understood by the Rokugani, have the ability to communicate directly with the Elemental kami and call upon them to manifest Elemental effects directly in the world. Priests, OTOH, are holy people who cannot do this, but are capable of doing myriad other holy acts like calling upon the kami to bless crops or a new bridge or forge or whatever, can marry people, perform funereal rites, etc. Because shugenja are generally very rare, and often have very specific duties on behalf of their lords and clans, priests actually deliver most of the day-to-day holy services to the people of the Empire. Priests also can, with considerable time and effort, cause some supernatural effects to manifest through rituals (but generally nothing as fast, potent or "showy" as a shugenja could.) So "priest" is essentially a job, while "shugenja" is something you, by your very nature, ARE.

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Like in the real world, the word spirit is pretty broad reaching. The kami are spirits and so are the creatures from most other realms that aren't Ningen-do. The kami are just a specific subcategory that make up the manifest essence of the four non-void elements. Void is solely manifest in the Void Dragon unless you want to count humans from old5r which were considered pretty void heavy. Fox spirits are just spirits that happen to be foxes. Maybe they once were living foxes but who can say. Generally speaking most of the spirits in the setting fall into being elemental kami, ancestors/the dead, evil Jigoku oni, trickster spirits (fox spirits fall here most the time), and the occasional dream monster/yokai.

Having just re-read the part about priests makes it seems like Shugenja are actually less involved with temple life than most priests. The priest does day to day normal holy work while shugenja seem more involved with big events or when dealing with less well known spirits. Many priests also seem to deal with fortunes and location specific spirits more than normal elemental kami. Priests can't really interact with the lesser elemental kami in a direct way so they just have to hope they are in good enough standing to give blessings. Shugenja can actually bargain, persuade, and channel kami. Shugenja also deal with a much broader group of things generally speaking. Shugenja may deal with ancestors, kami, fortunes, or even dragons. Priests best I can tell don't deal with dragons or ancestors and as I said before have a much more limited contact with kami.

 

Sorry that this was a bit on the ramble side of explanations but I hope it helped.

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2 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

Huh. Really. So shugenja are, like, the cool priests, but there are now also other mundane priests. Good to know...

Yup, there's even a title for it in Emerald Empire, in case someone's devout courtier is put in charge of a shrine.

1 hour ago, DGLaderoute said:

(As an aside, it also raises the question--would humans be considered "spirits" if they traveled to another realm, by the denizens of that realm? If a human traveled to, say, Chikusho-do, would the native creatures there consider him or her a "spirit", or whatever their equivalent of that would be? I honestly don't know, and don't think there's a canon answer for that...which is fine, some questions should just be left making you go, hmmm....)

Years ago, in a game where the group took a trip to one of the other realms, the player of an Isawa Shugenja was desperately trying to look at his own feet while moving through the misty landscape with other really important stuff to do - he was convinced that mortals in the realm of ghosts would have no feet, just like ghosts in the realm of mortals.

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If Lord Sun and Lady Moon own an estate, then the kami are the other beings responsible for keeping the estate running.  This includes the elemental spirits who are basically like the Heimin workers in the estate and are usually below Sun and Moon's notice.  When Sun and Moon's children took a more direct interest in the estate they basically became kami, although they are essentially samurai kami rather than Heimin kami.  The estate may get visitors from other realms and those visitors might be very influential/powerful, but they aren't responsible for the estate and therefore aren't kami.  Some of the visitors (like Kitsune) enjoy the flowers (flowers being the living beings) in the estate and others want to kill the flowers.. they might be able to influence things until someone notices, but ultimately the Kami report to Sun and Moon, not to the visitors.

  It should be pointed out that the dragons are also servants of the divine, but their job is to carry messages, not to be caretakers.. so they aren't generally considered kami either.  The spirits of man may be native to the estate, but they don't directly serve the will of the heavens and therefore aren't kami.

 

 In world Rokugani religion is really a hodge-podge of beliefs that no one really understands, so there really may be many other valid interpretations of what a kami is.

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18 hours ago, atibarix said:

So I understand the principles of a Fortune, it makes sense to me. But I am a bit confused about the difference between a kami and a spirit, are they supposed to be the same?

If you are confused at all I wouldn't worry too much about it. I am not sure that the average Priest or Shugenja has a very precise understanding either. There are the "political" religious truths that are officially espoused. And then the reality you find on the ground. There may or may not be daylight between the two based on what your character has been taught, thinks is true and has experienced in the world. And your GMs take on the spirit world.

My understanding, as has been  said above by AtoMaki and others, is that the kami are a subgroup of spirit beings usually dedicated to elements. Other spirits can be ghosts/souls, animal spirits, horrors from Jigoku or anything else you or your GMs' fevered imagination cooks up.

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