“ANOTHER development of ancestor worship—the cult of gods presiding over crafts and callings deserves special study. Unfortunately, we are as yet little informed upon the subject. Anciently this worship must have been more definitely ordered and maintained than it is now. Occupations were hereditary; artizans were grouped into guilds—perhaps one might even say castes—and each guild or caste then probably had its patron deity. In some cases the craft-gods may have been ancestors of Japanese craftsmen; in other cases they were perhaps of Korean or Chinese origin, ancestral gods of immigrant artizans, who brought their cults with them to Japan. Not much is known about them. But it is tolerably safe to assume that most, if not all of the guilds, were at one time religiously organised, and that apprentices were adopted not only in a craft, but into a cult. There were corporations of weavers, potters, carpenters, arrow-makers, bow-makers, smiths, boatbuilders and other tradesmen; and the past religious organizations of these is suggested by the fact that certain occupations assume a religious character even to-day. For example, the carpenter still builds according to Shinto tradition: he dons a priestly costume at a certain stage of his work, performs rites, and chants invocations, and places the new house under the protection of the gods. But the occupation of the swordsmith was in old days the most sacred of the crafts: he worked in priestly garb, and practised Shinto rites of purification while engaged in the making of a good blade. Before his smithy was then suspended the rope of rice straw (shime nawa), which is the oldest symbol of Shinto; none even of his family might enter there, or speak to him; and he ate only of food cooked with holy fire.”1

  • 1. LAFCADIO HEARN, “Japan,” 1905, pp. 138-139. See also, for religious ceremonies performed by craftsmen, “Medieval Sinhalese Art”