Shikigami (式神?, also read as Shiki-no-kami, 式の神) is the term for a being from Japanese folklore. It is thought to be some sort of kami, represented by a small ghost. The belief of shikigami originates from Onmyōdō.
Shikigami are said to be invisible most of the time, but they can be made visible by banning them into small, folded and artfully cut paper manikins. There are also shikigami that can show themselves as animals or birds. They must be conjured during a complex ceremony and their power is connected to the spiritual force of their master. If the evoker is well introduced and has lots of experience, his Shiki can possess animals and even people and manipulate them. But if the evoker is careless, his shikigami may get out of control in time, gaining its own will and consciousness. In this case the shikigami will raid its own master and kill him in revenge. Normally shikigami are conjured to exercise risky orders for their masters, such as spying around, stealing and enemy tracking.
Shikigami in modern subculture
Shikigami are a popular motif in modern anime and fantasy-novels, such as Kekkaishi, Touhou Project Shōnen Onmyōji, Teito Monogatari, Inuyasha, Natsume's Book of Friends, Nurarihyon no Mago, Spirited Away, Bleach, Mahou Sensei Negima!, Tokyo Ravens, and Inazuma Eleven GO. In Teito Monogatari, the first work widely credited with sparking the contemporary popular interest in onmyodo mysticism, they are represented as shape shifters formed from parchments with the pentagram (Seiman) inscribed upon them. In Inuyasha, they appear as little paper manikins, causing a ruckus; or as trickster imitating demons in attempt to lure the heroes away. In Natsume's Book of Friends, they appear as little paper tools who spy, track and sometimes trap yōkai and occasionally the title character for one of the series' exorcist. In Nurarihyon no Mago the shikigami appear as battle spirits used as weapons by the onmyōji against the yōkai. In Spirited Away the shikigami appear as a swarm of little paper dolls, attacking Chihiro's friend, Haku. They play a minor role in the sequel of Inazuma Eleven GO as part of a hissatsu technique by the goalkeeper in one of the Feida's teams named Garu.
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- Patrick Drazen: A Gathering of Spirits: Japan's Ghost Story Tradition: from Folklore and Kabuki to Anime and Manga. iUniverse, New York 2011, ISBN 1-4620-2942-6, page 224.
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