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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » State Rites
Ōharae
A rite performed in the ancient and medieval periods. Its purpose was to ward off disaster by cleansing oneself of sins and pollution (kegare) accumulated unknowingly. The Jingiryō outlines two forms of ōharae. The first is the customary biannual rite performed on the last day of the sixth and twelfth months by the emperor, all his officials, and specified members of their families at court. The second is the ad hoc rite to be performed as needed in the various provinces. It was also performed on an ad hoc basis at court when someone became ritually unclean or unwittingly committed some offense, or on special religious occasions such as the Daijōsai, or the plastromantic divination (bokujō) and pre-departure purifications (gunkō) of an itsuki no miko (an unmarried prince/princess) leaving the capital to cloister at Ise jingū or Kamo jinja. There were also ōharae in which someone who has committed an offense against the kami had to make an offering in penitence. The leading theory holds that conventional ōharae originated at the end of the seventh century. Thereafter, the rite continued through the fifteenth century, undergoing significant changes with each revision of the ritutsuryō system during the eighth century. It was revived in the Edo period, but with a different character and appearance than during the medieval period. The ancient form of the rite was revived to an extent in the Meiji period. People tend to confuse the ōharae of the sixth month with the Minazuki-barae occurring around the same time, but the two are performed separately at court.

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