Itako イタコ the Japanese Shamans
The Itako, also known as ichiko 市子 or ogamisama オガミサマ, are Japanese figures who practice divination and communication with spirits. These women, who can be considered the Japanese version of shamans or mediums, are often seen as mysterious, powerful and controversial figures.
These shamans are mainly present in the Tohoku region, located in northeastern Japan, and linked in particular to Mount Osore in the Aomori prefecture, where they gather twice a year to celebrate a particular festival during which, through rites and ceremonies, recall the spirits of the dead.
The peculiarity of these shamans is that they are blind, this particular condition of theirs, according to popular belief and tradition, allows them to have a better perception of people's fate and facilitates communication with spirits or the dead.
Itako have a long history in Japan and have been described in historical accounts dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868). Their presence and tradition can still be found today although their practices are not without controversy, as some consider it a scam or an illusion. However, for many high-ranking people in Japan, the itako are revered and highly respected figures, and are seen as providing a connection to the spirit world.
We can recognize them from other religious figures by their traditional clothing they wear. They are mostly dressed in a white kimono, a black veil that adorns the kimono and a straw hat with a red ribbon. The attire is completed with beaded bracelets and an intricately decorated "staff" called a shakujō, which represents their spiritual authority.
The practice of divination of the Itako involves the use of techniques such as reading bones, cartomancy and consulting oracles. Additionally, they use trance techniques to communicate with the spirits of the deceased and receive messages to pass on to loved ones.
In addition to the practice of divination, they are also engaged in charitable and healing activities, such as supporting the terminally ill and participating in funeral ceremonies. For this they are often involved in religious ceremonies, such as the Shinto ceremony of "Setsubun", which takes place every year in February.
In conclusion we can say that the Itako are powerful and respected figures in Japanese culture, known for their ability to communicate with spirits and provide a connection with the spiritual world, but this ability also leads them to be viewed with suspicion because in the past there have been cases of fraud related to these people.