- A term used for female shamans (also fujo), spirit-mediums or diviners, from ancient Japan to the present day. In modern times miko of this shamanic type (kuchiyose miko) operate largely outside the shrines as independent religious practitioners. Miko in a shrine context (jinja miko) now means an assistant priestess or 'shrine-maiden' (see Shinshoku), often the unmarried daughter of a priest or parishioner. Her duties include taking care of visitors, helping the priest with ceremonies and performing miko-mai or kagura dances. A moderately prosperous shrine may employ several part-time miko. Shrine miko are usually dressed in red hakama and white blouse, or in pure white for special occasions. It seems that today's miko, even the kuchiyose type, only faintly resemble the powerful women shamans such as princess Himiko or Pimiko mentioned in ancient Chinese accounts of Japan who acted as oracular guides to the ruler and communicated with the kami on behalf of the community. The closest equivalents to these women are probably the powerful founders of new religions, such as Miki, Nakayama of TenrikyO, Nao, Deguchi of Omoto-kyO, Kotani, Kimi of Reiyukai or Kitamura, Sayo of TenshO KOtai Jingu-kyO.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.