- Or harai, o-harae, o-barai. Purification, purity, the converse of kegare, pollution. Harae is a general term for ceremonies of purification designed to counter misfortune and pollution and restore ritual purity. Sprinkling water on face and hands (temizu) when entering a shrine is a simple form of harae which helps render the shrine visitor fit to approach the kami. Types of harae are performed at the beginning of all Shinto ceremonies and in situations where there is a special need for purification, e.g. to avert disasters, before starting a new enterprise, after death, at new year (shogatsu), at jichinsai etc.. Water, salt and the waving of a haraigushi are commonly used as purifying agents in harae rites. The concept is central to Shinto thought, with many local and lineage interpretations. Harae may mean an extended process of shugyo or ascetic training including physical purification of the body inside and out (cleansing with salt or water; fasting or eating special foods; sexual abstinence) or purification of the soul (mitama) by forms of meditation, ritual or shugyo, traditionally secret and often derived from Buddhism or neo-Confucianism.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.