The term “Otamagushi” is formed by the Japanese words “tama,” meaning “spirit,” and “gushi,” which means a wooden stick or “skewer.” The idea is that a human spirit being bound or “skewered” to that of the Divine spirit so that the spirit of man and God are aligned. The idea derives from a traditional Shinto ritual in which an evergreen branch is offered to God as a symbol of God and man’s will being in accord.
Within Shumei, an Otamagushi usually takes the form of a donation given before a Sampai or other ceremonies. Financial donations are always welcome and needed, but the amount is not as important as the openhearted gratitude of the giver. The intention is to give back to God a portion of what has been given to the individual and to pledge oneself to following the wisdom of God. If it is difficult for one to give money, Otamagushi can take the form of “Hoshi,” which is a task done for the furtherance of Shumei’s ideals. Such Hoshi could be a simple chore such as washing a sink, mopping a floor, or wiping a table at a Shumei Center.
The word “Otamagushi” also is applied to a ceremony practiced within Shumei that resembles that of the tradition Shinto evergreen bough offering. It is performed on special occasions, such as the dedication of a new Center or Scroll. This usually takes the form of a ritual bough offering, in which a Shumei member places a sprig of cedar on an offering table as a mark of gratitude.