Looking for the Shino (Japanese) equivalent of nymphs and natures spirits, I found Kami.

they can also be the spirits of venerated dead persons. Many kami are considered the ancient ancestors of entire clans (some ancestors became kami upon their death if they were able to embody the values and virtues of kami in life)

This says in order for a human to become a Kami, they must have had the virtues and values of a kami. But in the next paragraph...

In Shinto, kami are not separate from nature, but are of nature, possessing positive and negative, and good and evil characteristics.

... it says kami can be good and evil. So, how are the virtues measured? If you can be either good or evil, does that mean everyone can become a kami?

1 Answer 1


I don't have sufficient depth of knowledge of Shinto to definitively answer from that perspective, but the virtues (and vices) will surely reflect cultural mores.

There may be an element similar to Taoist thought, re: yin/yang, in that nature spirits (unlike Buddhist saints) are unlikely to be entirely "good" or "evil". In the yin/yang symbol, the "eyes of the tadpoles" are the opposite colors, showing that yin has some yang and visa versa.

The scope of what a kami seems a bit wider than Nymphs, though Nymphs would certainly be a valid reference.

The Greek daimōn (δαίμων*) [dæmon in Latin], seems much closer to the concept of kami in that these entities are understood as forces of nature (nature spirits), could be the souls of long dead heroes from the Golden Age, or even abstract concepts.

Wikipedia has a useful description related to the virtue/vice question:

The Hellenistic Greeks divided daemons into good and evil categories: agathodaímōn (ἀγαθοδαίμων "noble spirit"), from agathós (ἀγαθός "good, brave, noble, moral, lucky, useful"), and kakodaímōn (κακοδαίμων "malevolent spirit"), from kakós (κακός "bad, evil").
SOURCE: Wikipedia [Perseus links added]

Also worth noting that "good" and "bad" probably didn't have the same absolute qualities in polytheistic, agricultural societies, which tend to be preoccupied with nature due to the importance of the natural cycles on planting and harvesting.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.