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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
Yuta
Magico-religious figures found in Amami and the main island of Okinawa. They can enter a state of possession during which they communicate with deities and spirits of the dead. In this condition, they also display distinctive spiritual powers and perform magical practices such as oracles (takusen) and augury (bokusen), and provide healing services. In general, women who become yuta are considered to have been born with a natural receptivity for spiritual forces (saadaka), and most become recognized as yuta after having undergone personal difficulties or unusual experiences. When an individual then experiences involuntary states of possession (kamidaarii), she receives instruction from an established yuta so that she finally too begins to practice as a shaman. A characteristic of the yuta is that the basis for her divinatory diagnoses are perceived problems in the client's family's veneration of their ancestral spirits (sorei). Because people's dependence on yuta has traditionally been high, there was always scope for abuse, and already in 1673 the court sought to place controls on them. They also suffered suppression by the prefectural government during the Second World War. Although the practice of yutagai (paying yuta for divination) represents a considerable economic burden, it continues to flourish, exhibiting a contrasting pattern to the comparative decline of traditional religion in contemporary Okinawa.

—Saitō Michiko
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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