||On the identity of Mt. Fuji’s deity: A study on the role of Benzai-ten in the development of the Fuji cult
60 , 2017-03-31
As with many other popular religions, in the history of the cult of Mt. Fuji since the early Edo period many deities were gradually incorporated in a vast and ever-changing pantheon, the subject of multiple scholarly studies. This paper traces how one very popular Japanese female deity, Benzai-ten, may have come to be incorporated into the Fuji cult in the late-Edo period, a fact usually neglected in other studies on this popular cult. The conclusion of this study is that it is important to trace the history of the worship of individual deities within a single cult. At the same time, however, we ought to recognize that searching for a single hierarchy of deities within one cult may not be a significant approach. In fact, different communities of believers within the same cult may find different specific subsets of deities meaningful for their needs, and thus worship them. This paper therefore argues that we should look at any one popular religion as a mosaic of communities of believers devoted to such subsets of deities associated to that religion, rather than as a single system of beliefs.