Spirits and ancestors are a big deal in Mahikari. Spirits attach to your body, and cause diseases or other ailments. But that’s another blog post.
What I want to talk about today is the obsession with a special sort of spirits — your ancestors. In Shinto tradition, ancestors are revered. A great deal of Mahikari is based on Shinto.
In Mahikari, if you’re really devout, you have an ancestor’s altar, and then a second one for your maiden line, so both parts of your family are covered and you have twice as much to do.
The altar sits on a high shelf in your living room, usually. There are all kinds of rules about where in the house it's allowed to be located. Can't have any beds with their feet pointing towards it, for instance.
The alter contains name tablets. There’s a main one for all ancestors who died more than 30 years ago. Those who have died more recently get their own name tablet, inscribed with a new name, to help them give up attachment to their past life. There should always be a tiny vase with some scented flowers in it, too. There is also a Japanese-style bell.
Ancestors require constant attention. Their altar has to be opened every morning, the light turned on, with a good morning greeting. If you go out, you need to tell them. And tell them when you’re back home too. Introduce them to any visitors to the house. Inform them of any major events. Close it at night, turning off its light, and wishing your ancestors a pleasant evening. So civilised.
And they need dinner every day. They have a tiny set of dishes, glasses and cutlery, all bought new (second-hand is not acceptable, not pure enough). These are all put on a small tray. Mahikari members are forever seeking out cute tiny crockery and cutlery. Liqueur glasses are popular as wine glasses. Miniature cutlery sets are the best. All sorts of tiny things, like this ...
For dinner, they should be served a small part of your meal, and the best part of it, too. Don't forget the wine. And don't cook anything with a microwave oven, because that destroys the spiritual aspect of the food, which, after all, is what your ancestors are 'eating'. And they should be served before you eat. The bell is struck to get the ancestors’ attention, to call them for dinner.
When cleaning up after dinner, don't use your usual dishwashing things, either. Special washing up cloths for the special ancestors' crockery and cutlery 🙄
Their altar also needs to be cleaned regularly. With special purified altar cleaning cloths (Mahikari has a lot of purity rituals!). And they need to have Mahikari prayers and teachings read to them regularly. Don't ever sit with your feet pointing towards the altar, either. So rude.
Ancestors send warnings too. If you get headaches, or head injuries, or eye problems, or anything like that, it’s your ancestors telling you to ‘look up’ and pay heed to them. Aren’t you glad you know that now? Feeling guilty yet?
Looking after an ancestors altar or two is a shitload of work, and keeps you very involved in daily ‘cult tasks’, all the time. I still get nightmares about the fucking thing. But maybe that’s my just my poor imaginary ancestor spirits having a bit of a grizzle about my neglect?
Quite a responsibility, really. I'd rather have a dog.