Shinki (神器, meaning “sacred treasures”) are items that gods use for various tasks and purposes. They are also called Sacred Treasures, Sacred Weapons, Regalias, and Sacred Tools in English.
A shinki is made from the loose spirit of a dead human (死霊, shiryou). By “loose spirits”, it usually means wandering souls of people who died from being murdered or killed in accidents. From the eyes of the gods, people who died due to these causes deserve a second chance since they still wanted to live; this is probably why these souls are chosen to become shinki.
Since most of the loose spirits die at a young age as a human, it is common for a shinki to look young. However it also depends on the age of the human when he/she died. Yukine, for example, looks like a teenager, Mayu looks like a woman in her early twenties while Daikoku looks like a man in his late twenties/early thirties.
Before a loose spirit is taken in as a shinki, the spirit must not be corrupted in any way, therefore being a pure spirit. A spirit can be corrupted and become unusable when it’s attacked or possessed by phantoms (partially or fully). By “possessed”, it also refers to a spirit who died due to committing suicide.When a soul commits suicide it chose to die and the evil inside takes over. If a soul is attacked and gets impure - even a little - its item form will become partially or entirely unusable; e.g. dull, torn, broken, etc.
Creation of a Shinki
When a god sees a loose spirit and wants to take it as his/her shinki, the god must give a name to it. The name is written in Kanji using the god’s own life, and two alternate pronunciations will be given based on the Kanji character’s way of reading: the Japanese reading (kun-yomi reading), and its alternate reading (on-yomi reading). The Kanji character will then be imprinted on the soul’s body, marking the ownership for said spirit. It should be noted that many of the Kanji used to name a shinki use the older form or an alternate form of the supposed characters, or uses the On-yomi version of the character. Therefore watchers and readers may notice that some of the Kanji imprinted on the shinki’s body look different than the actual character. Their imprint also contains 'The God's Greatest Secret' in which details regarding their past life, including name and cause of death, are sealed.
The first pronunciation is used in the shinki’s human name, and is based on the Kun-yomi for the Kanji character. Using the first name changes the shinki into its human form. Usually another Kanji character of the god’s choice is added to the first name to become the shinki’s name as a person. This Kanji character serves as a shinki’s “family name” or "clan name", and a god can have one or more family names as desired. E.g. Yato’s is “ne” (音), Tenjin’s is “yu” (喩), Kofuku’s is “dai” (大) and Bishamon has two “family names” - “ma” (麻) for Kazuma and “ha” (巴) for the rest.
The second pronunciation is the vessel name, and is based on the On-yomi (reading for said character. Using the second name changes the shinki into its item/weapon form. Usually the character “ki” (器, meaning “vessel”) is added to the end of the second name to become the shinki’s name as an item/weapon.
A shinki’s vessel form varies from an owner god to another, such as weapons, animals, clothing, accessories, etc. For example, Yukine becomes a blade, Mayu is a smoking pipe, Daikoku becomes a fan, Kazuma an earring, Kuraha a lion, Kinuha a whip, Tsuguha a set of provocative clothing, Karuha and Kazuha as guns, etc.
The following is the list of known shinki, alternate names, and their owner gods.
|Kanji||Kun-yomi||On-yomi||Chinese Readings||Means||As a Person||As a Weapon||Owner|
|桜||Sakura||Ou||cherry tree, cherry blossom||Sakura
|囷||Kura||Kin||qūn||a type of archaic oval granary, used for centuries in multiple East Asian civilizations||Kuraha
|秋||Aki||Shuu||qiū||autumn, fall (season)||Akiha
|筒||Tsutsu||Tou||tǒng||gun barrel||Tsutsumi (筒弥)||Touki
|螭||Mizuchi||Chi||chī||a mythological aquatic monster which resembles a hornless dragon||Mizuchi
When a god wants to use a shinki’s weapon/item form, he/she will call the weapon/item’s name; e.g. “Come, Sekki!” is said when Yato wants to use Yukine as a weapon. When the job is complete and the god wants to revert the weapon form back to human, he/she will call the real name of the shinki; e.g. “Revert, Yuki!” is said when Yato wants to revert Sekki back to Yukine.
Responsibilities of a God to a Shinki
After taking a shinki as his/her subordinate, a god is to provide basic necessities for the shinki (shelter and clothing to be precise; other things like food, drink, entertainment etc. is optional). The god is also to train a shinki if the shinki is still new.
Aside from basic necessities, the god bears the responsibility of taking the burden of all the emotions the shinki has, and sins it commits. The burden the god bears is in the form of stabbing pain on the back of his/her neck.
Other than stabbing pain, the area of the god's neck will also become infected by impurities, called blight. If the shinki continues to commit sin and no action is taken against it, the blight will spread all over the god’s body, causing the god to slowly degrade and die.
A god's most guarded secret is their Shinki's name and past life.They must never tell their Shinki details about their former life. Doing so will allow their Shinki to remember their past life and how they died. The trauma and negative thoughts turns the Shinki into a "Karma" ayakashi. At this point, the Shinki is beyond redemption and a purification ceremony will not work. The god's only option is to slay the Karma.
Responsibilities of a Shinki to a God
A shinki is responsible to obey his/her master at all times, control their emotions, and also control him/herself from falling into temptations that lead to committing sins. This is because the name bestowed onto him/her is actually connected to the god’s life, and therefore any kinds of disturbance - intense emotions, sins committed, death - will be sensed by the god in the form of stabbing pain.
It is once assumed that when a soul becomes a god’s shinki, the god and the shinki become one in mind and body, therefore the pain should go in both directions. However it is not so; the pain will only transfer from the shinki to the god owner because the shinki is previously human, and humans have been applied with the concepts of good and evil, sin, heaven and hell. Gods on the other hand are not restricted by this concept and therefore are free to do as they please.
Once a god feels stabbing pain due to his/her shinki’s doing, appropriate action should be taken against the offending shinki. Usually a ritual called the purification ceremony is performed against the shinki, making it confess all of its sins, and depending on the severity of the offense the shinki will also have its name released and banished, or worse killed by the owner god. However the decision to release the shinki’s name and banish it is up to the owner god. For example, Yato didn’t release Yukine’s name even though Yukine nearly killed him with the sins the shinki did; Tenjin on the other hand released Miyu’s name and banished her on the spot when she cut her own wrist once.
It is also unethical for a shinki to bow down on a god when it is already serving another. This action is considered rude towards the god it’s supposed to serve.
Abilities of a Shinki
A shinki is able to use many skills depending on the form it takes. However in human form, all Shinki in general can use a skill called Borderline (境界線, kyoukaisen).
Borderline is a shinki’s only weapon and is used to protect themselves from phantom attacks. This unique ability can only be used by a shinki; it cannot be used by gods, loose spirits, phantoms, nor living beings.
To make a Borderline, a shinki uses his/her right hand’s index and middle fingers to draw a horizontal line between themselves and the phantoms. This gesture will make a temporary barrier, and phantoms cannot move across it. However, if the phantom is too strong the barrier will break, and the shinki will be attacked.
Aside from protecting a shinki from phantoms, the Boundary has another use. If three shinki use Boundary in the form of a triangle, a Prison (獄, goku) is formed and can trap a shinki, a phantom, a human or even a god. Prison is normally used to perform the purification ritual on an offending shinki, attacking the phantom residing on his/her body and cleansing the shinki.
The manga has also demonstrated that shinki may use Songs as another ability. In Chapter 31, a group of children who are the shinki of Ebisu use the song 'Kagome' as a defensive method. Nora also uses a song to call Ayakashi to attack Yukine, which he counters by improvising his own song to send them away.
Shinki can also use higher leveled skills with practice. Kazuma, for example can also use the skills Restraint (縛, baku) and Umbra (陰, in). Restraint is used to bind a target, and it’s done by pointing out at the target and chanting the word, “bakufu”. Umbra is a skill to hide a target from being seen, and it’s done by touching the target’s forehead and saying, “inko”. In Chapter 39, Page 17 of the manga Kazuma uses an ability to force the shinki recently renamed "Saku" to answer his questions truthfully with the command Declare or Sing.
In the manga, a shinki can evolve from its original form to a better form. A shinki with this characteristic is called a Blessed Regalia (祝の器, hafuri no utsuwa, meaning "a blessed vessel") or a Hafuri Vessel. However becoming a blessed regalia is not as easy as it looks; it involves protecting the god with the shinki's own life, risking his/her name to be taken away. It is said that a shinki can only become a blessed regalia in special situations. Once a shinki becomes a blessed regalia, the new form will last forever, and it also gains a power upgrade in weapon form.
So far, there are only three blessed regalia in Noragami:
- Kazuma evolved from a black nail earring into a sakura-shaped earring, due to the sacrifice of his shinki clan in order to save Bishamon, risking his life and status in the process.
- Yukine evolved from a single blade into dual blades with ragged bandage as the hilt, one shorter than the other. The cause of his evolution is due to his desire to protect Yato from Bishamonten's attack.
- Nana was previously a blessed regalia. She turns into a full set of clothing, including skirt and bindings around the breasts for Bishamon. She turns into a mask that covers Bishamonten's eyes; and becomes a type of sword that is curved at the end of the grip. It is unknown if this is also her form when she was with her original owner god. And the outfit of Bishamonten's is like a silver suit with a purple skirt
Releasing a Shinki's Name
When a shinki wants to quit his/her job and serve a new master, it is common practice for the god owning it to release the name given to the shinki. By writing the name in Kanji character and say, “I release you,” the name imprinted on the shinki will disappear, making the shinki available for another god’s use. The abilities obtained as the god’s shinki will also disappear. However, it is unknown whether the shinki in this form is still able to use Boundary.
When the shinki is given a new name under a new master, it is possible for the shinki to take a different form, thus having different abilities. The best example for this case is Mayu; as Yato’s weapon Tomone/Hanki she takes the form of a dagger; however as Tenjin’s weapon Mayu/Shinki she takes the form of a smoking pipe.
A shinki’s name can also be released by force; usually through the purification ceremony or when the shinki is killed. However these methods cause pain to the gods owning them.
A shinki’ released once cannot be given a second name by the same user.
There are cases where a shinki has more than one name on its body, indicating that it’s owned by more than one god. The shinki with this characteristic is called a "Stray" (“Nora”, 野良). A shinki becomes a "Stray" when a god gives a new name to it while it’s still having the name given by a previous master. One known "Stray" is a Shinki merely known as Nora. In the manga, aside of Nora other known Strays are Bishamon's shinki Kugaha and the majority of Ebisu's shinki. Kazuma later becomes a Nora in chaper 78 in the manga.
Later in the manga, it is revealed that Strays are feared due to the fact that they own more than one name, and it is due to this reason that they are despised by the gods and shinki alike. A Stray cannot be bound using any technique that links to their names easily; unless all names of a Stray is known, other shinki cannot use Restraint or any other binding techniques. Strays can also change hands from one god to another should their names are called, literally betraying the master they were serving at that time. Killing the Strays might also end up backfiring as all the gods linked to a killed Stray will feel the pain of losing a shinki.
A Shinki's Lifespan
A shinki’s lifespan is still unknown; however they can live for as long as hundreds of years. Although they can live for very long, a shinki can die like any other living beings. One known cause for a shinki’s death is from being killed; however it is unknown whether they can die from natural causes. When a shinki dies, their name disappears and the owner god will sense it.
One known shinki’s death is all of Bishamonten’s shinki under the clan name "Ma" except Kazuma, who were killed by Yato using Hiiro (Nora). Another known one, is most of Bishamonten's shinki under the "Ha" name. By Kuguha's masked phantom/ayakashi.
A God's Greatest Secret
A god's greatest secret ("Kami no Himegoto, 神の秘め事) is a shinki's real name from when they were human. When a god names a shinki, the name bestowed by the god seals the memories of the shinki's human life, including their real name. The god sees these memories upon naming the shinki and must keep them a secret. If a shinki learns their real name, the posthumous name given by the god is destroyed, and the shinki becomes instantly corrupted by the memories of their own untimely death. At this point, the shinki's soul is unsalvageable and the only thing that can be done is to kill it.
Gods have a strong instinctive aversion to revealing any information regarding a god's greatest secret, however they are not entirely physically incapable of it, as demonstrated by Nora goading Yato into revealing Sakura's real name to her, despite his internal objections. A god's greatest secret can also be revealed by Father's technique "Liberation" while wielding Nora, as was done to Tsuguha.
Nora herself seems to be immune to a god's greatest secret, as she is able to discuss it, invoke it, and witness it to no ill effect, whereas it is stated that if normal shinki become aware of even the existence of the secret, their curiosity about their pasts becomes all-consuming until they degenerate. However, the only one that knows about her real name and how she died, is the first one to give her a shinki name, in her case Father.