Immortal Wishes is a powerful ethnographic rendering of religious
experiences of landscape, healing, and self-fashioning on a northern
Japanese sacred mountain. Working at the intersection of anthropology,
religion, and Japan studies, Ellen Schattschneider focuses on Akakura
Mountain Shrine, a popular Shinto intitution founded by a rural
woman in the 1920s. For decades, local spirit mediums and worshipers,
predominantly women, have undertaken extended stints of shugyo
(ascetic discipline) within the shrine and on the mountain's slopes.
Their elaborate, transforming repertoire of ritual practice and ascetic
discipline at Akakura, argues Schattschneider, has been generated by
complex social and historical tensions, largely emerging out of the
uneasy status of the surrounding area within the modern nation's industrial
and postindustrial economies.
Schattschneider shows how, through dedicated work at the shrine--including
demanding ascents up the sacred mountain--worshipers over time project
aspects of themselves into this evocative landscape and are gradually
opened to intimate contact with the purifying domains of divinities
and ancestors. Each worshiper comes to associate the rugged mountain
landscape with her personal biography, the life histories of certain
exemplary predecessors and ancestors, and the collective biography of
the extended congregation. Schattschneider argues that this body of
ritual practice presents each worshiper with a field of imaginative
possibilities, through which she may dramatize or reflect upon the nature
of her relations with loved ones, ancestors, and divinities. In some
cases, worshipers significantly redress traumas in their own lives or
in the recollected economic careers of their families and ancestors.
In other instances, these ritualized processes have led to deepening
crises of the self, the accelerated fragmentation of local households,
and apprehended possession by demons or ancestral forces. Immortal
Wishes reveals how these varied practices and outcomes have over
time been incorporated into the changing organization of ritual, space,
and time on the mountainscape.
an excerpt from Immortal Wishes
"Ellen Schattschneider has given us an account of Japanese religious
experience that is at once powerfully evocative and analytically sophisticated.
Immortal Wishes is a remarkable book that should prove invaluable not
only for students of Japan but also for anyone wanting to understand
the transformative power of religious experience."-Bradd Shore, Emory
reveals the deeply embodied nature of a religion which is physically
labored at with a subtlety and intensity that is as sensuous as it is
spiritual. It is this aesthetic - personal, historical, collective-
that Ellen Schattschneider captures with the delicacy of her prose and
analysis" --Dr. Anne Allison, Duke University.
Ellen Schattschneider is Assistant
Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University.
272 pages (April 2003)
31 b and w photos, 5 figures
ISBN 0-8223-3075-X Cloth - $64.95
ISBN 0-8223-3062-8 Paperback - $21.95
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain
Duke University Press (2003)