The term Shrine Maiden (巫女 or 神子, pronounced miko) refers specifically to altar girls of the Shinto religion. They live and work in a Shinto shrine (a "jinja" in Japanese). Shrine maidens are generally virgins and take various rites of purity and chastity, and undergo various forms of physical and mental training. They also practice sealing and purification rituals, which are highly form-based and symbolic, and are used to bless, purify, or exorcise evil spirits.

A shrine maiden's main tool, or possibly simply the most popular one, is a stick with elaborately folded paper on the end, known as a "gohei". Other common tools are small rectangular papers used for sealing, called "o-fuda"; these are elaborately painted with various mystical symbols and rites of sealing.

See also:

  • Wikipedia entry on miko

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