July 8th, 2012

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Domestic shrine, Japan, 1801-1900

Inside this highly decorated Japanese shrine are 66 figures of both Shinto and Buddhist deities. It would have been placed in a wealthy family home or monastery. Such a shrine would have been known as a kamidana or “shelf of the gods”. The shrine would have been used in ceremonial rituals with offerings to the deities to ensure physical healing and protection as well as financial or personal success for all the family. When worshipping at the kamidana, family members would give simple prayers, offer food such as rice and place flowers on the shrine. It was considered necessary for those worshipping to first wash their hands.
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Taweret was an ancient Egyptian goddess who was believed to have given birth to the world. She was called upon to protect pregnant women, especially during child birth. She is represented as a pregnant hippopotamus with pendulous breasts and sometimes as part lion and part crocodile. She is holding the hieroglyph sa, a sign of protection. Taweret’s cult was also venerated in ancient Greece, where her name became Theoris. The ancient Egyptians believed that while illness and disease were natural events, they also had supernatural causes, which were controlled by the gods. Prevention and treatment of illness and disease therefore included prayers at home to statues of gods like this one.

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