Onusa (Shinto) (大麻 (神道))

Onusa is one of the instruments used for purification at religious services of Shinto. A shide (paper streamer) or asao (hemp rope) is attached to the tip of a sakaki or plain wood stick. Ones made with a plain wood stick are also called "Haraegushi."

A word 'onusa' is originally a polite term for 'nusa.'
Nusa' refers to an offering made to a God or a thing used to purify the sin. Hemp and yu (fiber of kozo (paper mulberry)) were mainly used, as well as clothes and paper in more recent years. That is the reason why clothes and paper used in Shinto rituals are called "Onusa." In addition to the meaning of an instrument for purification, the kanji characters "大麻" also refers to talisman distributed by Ise-jingu Shrine, called Jingu taima (in this case, the reading of '大麻' is 'taima').

It is said that waving onusa to the left, right, and left again to the person or object to be purified transfers impurities from them to the onusa. In ancient times, the person to be purified pulled onusa by hand to transfer impurities. In more recent times, onusa was waved to people as to objects.

In some cases, a Shinto priest may (pretend to) sprinkle hot salt water with a small sakaki after purification with onusa is done.

There are also rituals in which a Shinto priest put onusa itself into the boiling salt water in a pot and wave the onusa to pray for a perfect state of health. Therefore, it is regarded that onusa was originally used like a brush to wash the body.

[Original Japanese]