- Depending on context kegare may mean dirt, pollution of a physical or spiritual kind, danger, impurity, sluggishness, spiritual blockage or simply the ordinary state, as contrasted with the purified state of harae. It may also be said that kegare is only a temporary or extraordinary state, from which one may be rescued by harae. It is usual to undergo some form of purification (such as hand and mouth-rinsing) before approaching a kami. For special occasions such as major festivals or rituals priests and other participants may undergo extensive periods of seclusion, abstinence and separation from such things as childbirth, death, menstruation, blood, sex, and illness in order to reduce kegare. The period of mourning is particularly disabling. These impurities affect both the individual and those with whom he or she is connected, and until modern times such taboos severely restricted the participation of women in religious rites, preventing their access to sacred sites including mountains and some matsuri and shrines. Such restrictions were relaxed by legislation early in the Meiji period and are less today but still have some effect. Occupations involving blood (e.g. leatherworking) attracted low or even outcaste social status. Philosophical concepts of kegare often reflect Buddhist or Confucian ideas of mental or spiritual imperfection rather than ritual pollution.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.