Fu or Kannagi (Female Spiritual Medium) (巫)
The fu or kannagi, also called "fugeki," refers to those who worship and serve gods and take responsibility for conveying gods will to secular people. Such women were called kannagi, while such men were called geki or shuku. It means "神和," which literally means harmony with the gods.
Shamans in the Japanese tradition correspond closely to the shamanism practiced by certain groups of indigenous Siberians, native Americans, and Africans.
It commonly refers to a person who had the responsibility of conveying a divine message (oracle) after having 'gods fallen' into his or her own body. Most ancient Shinto priests worked as fu or kannagi. In a society where government was not separated from religious rituals, the oracles they gave had the power to control a nation's policies.
The term of 'kannagi' refers particularly to such a profession in Japan. The term "Kannushi," which today is generally used to refer to Shinto priests, originally referred to the professional group responsible for deciding the status of the gods, much as one might expect from the Chinese characters used--神主, or literally "god-master." In Japan, most kannagi have historically been female; such women are typically called "miko" or "fujo." In early ancient Japan, however, quite a few men fulfilled the same role as a female miko, and such men were called 'fugeki,' 'okannagi,' or 'miko'. Today, the word "miko" is usually used to refer simply to the female assistants of Shinto priests.
In some regions, the profession of a fu or kannagi may be termed 'Itako.'
In Okinawa Prefecture and its surrounding area, where different historical circumstances existed than in Japan's home islands, a religious vocation called "noro" has existed since even before the foundation of the Ryukyu kingdom, and still exists today. The noro can be regarded as having the same power and authority as the Kannagi in ancient times of Japan. Many ethnologists use the case of the noro as evidence to reconstruct the nature of ancient Japanese religious belief.
Some argue that the term "Kannagi" originates from "Kami maneki" (lit. "god-beckoner"), while others hold that it comes from "kamunagi" (lit. "harmony with the gods"). However, neither opinion is backed by evidence.
Abilities of the Fu or Kannagi
The Fu or Kannagi is regarded as a person having the following abilities.
The Fu or Kannagi has the power or authority to communicate with the occult, such as gods or holy spirits in the divine, spiritual, and natural worlds. They "communicate" or "exchange information."
They put themselves in a special state (which is said to be a kind of a trance) through prayer or by other means and cause themselves to be left open to the spirit with whom they exchange information so that they can receive and convey (or take the responsibility of conveying) the words (oracles) of the spirit.
In other words, they are regarded as having the supernatural power to communicate with paranormal entities, enabling them to give appropriate advice to those seeking an oracle.
However, a recent study has pointed out that some of the Kannagi who gave oracles may have been gifted with far more practical abilities. Namely, they have abilities to collect information and make a decision from a political point of view.
For instance, Apollo's oracle in Delphi, Greece had great authority in ancient Greece. Delphi attracted many people including messengers of city states all over the country as well as those who seek opportunities in a lively city. Priests who gave oracles, in effect, collected information on regions and rumors on the street from people coming to Delphi and independently comprehended the world situation by piecing the collected information together.
In Japan, Himiko (first known ruler of Japan) is considered to have acted as a miko of the Yamatai-Koku kingdom. Also some have the opinion that women acting as miko formed a part of the state authority of Yamato sovereignty (the ancient Japan sovereignty). Some suggest that in ancient Japan, whose political system was based on saisei icchi (theocracy), miko participated in politics in this manner.