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Updated: May 4, 2023

It’s time for yet another addition to the Kami Series! This time I bring you another piece dedicated to the most mysterious of spirits: Shini-Yokai. Without further ado: San Zen Damashii.

Roughly translated to “Brilliant Soul,” this painting illustrates a rare phenomena in the world of the Kami. Every once in a while (typically once every decade - though it sometimes doesn’t happen for a century) there is a creature or plant whose soul is . . . special. The reason why is often speculated on, but due to the seemingly random nature of its occurrence no real explanation has been determined. Regardless, when that creature or plant dies the soul that exits the host shines with a brightness that can be seen for miles by shini-yokai and even other Kami (who are typically unable to see souls at all).

Under normal circumstances a shini-yokai need to be within millimeters of a soul to actually see it. It has been determined that they can sense death and the general presence of a soul from miles away, yes. But in order to find the soul itself they must typically sojourn to the recently deceased and comb over the surrounding area/corpse to find it. It’s a process that can last days or even weeks. As timeless creatures they never seem terribly pressed to reach their destination.

But for these special souls all typical behavior is thrown out the window. There is no need to search for the soul when it shines so brilliantly that it can be seen from miles away. Not only that, but the radiance it emits seems to cause the Shini-Yokai to swarm at record speed to reach it. Other Kami who have been witness to a special soul liken it to an eclipse. The Shini-Yokai, all moving so quickly to a single place, can often dim the natural light until the only visible glow is that of the special soul itself.

Which brings me to the oddest phenomena concerning these souls: when the shini-yokai arrive they do not immediately take hold of it. Normally when a soul is finally discovered it is immediately taken. It is unknown where the shini-yokai goes or what it does with the soul- but the time between the discovery of the soul and a shini-yokai claiming it is very small.

Not here, however. Not with a san zen damashii. The frantic rush to be close to the soul is not met with an equally frantic desire to capture it. Instead they merely seem to want to bask in its presence- reaching out to it but not touching. It’s almost as if they derive comfort or strength from the light it emits. This vigil, often visited by thousands of shini-yokai from all over, can last for days or even months. They arrive, they shove their way to be as close as possible, bask in its glow and then eventually peel off to wander in search of other souls. It isn’t until the last remaining shini-yokai (the stragglers who took the longest to arrive) have had their time with it that one eventually reaches forward and seems to reluctantly take the soul.

It is both a frightening and beautiful thing to behold. Shini-yokai are rarely influenced by anything outside their own habits so its generally hard to learn anything new about them. However this special circumstance does offer a differing pattern that gives a new dimension to these often misunderstood creatures.

Anyways, that’s all for now! I’ll be updating the second I get more to show. Any questions? Feel free to ask.

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Updated: May 4, 2023

Welcome! Pull up a chair and get fabulous. It’s time for a new Kami Series post. This one? Please welcome the Kinoko Kami:

The Kinoko Kami (or Mushroom Spirit) tend to come in many shapes and sizes- their appearance determined by the kind of mushroom that they represent. This particular specimen shares the near-cone-like head shape and pale green body of it’s mushroom cluster.

Kami are not beholden to the particular creature, plant or object that they come from. They are wholly independent in mind and body. Many choose to roam fairly far from their physical “representative,” engaging in their own rituals without a single thought given to the physical plane. However, due to the nature of their existence it often behooves them to actually watch over that which created them.

You see, when something is first “born” (or in the case of inanimate objects “created”) the Kami representing them is formed as well. So when the mushroom cluster (shown in the painting above) first sprouted, this particular Kami also appeared in the Spirit Realm. Unlike these mushrooms, however, Kinoko Kami neither age nor grow. They also have no need for food or water. They come into existence fully formed with a consciousness fairly well developed (though entirely lacking in experience). Little is known about just how much knowledge they have to begin with, but their movements suggest a wisdom possibly derived from a communal source.

Here is the catch: when that mushroom cluster withers and dies the Kinoko Kami representing it ceases to exist in the spirit plane. Their existence is intrinsically linked to the thing they represent. This means that certain spirits’ lives are more finite while others can last centuries. And this knowledge is not lost on most Kami.

This is why many choose to act as “guardian spirits” to their representative in the physical plane. They follow them around, or simply tend to them. While it is also unknown just how much spirits can affect the physical world there are many theories that revolve around the idea that these creatures can actually help if/when it is needed. The Kinoko Kami represented in this painting is a Kami that has chosen that role.

The mushroom cap it is examining (represented with gold leaf in the original painting) is unlike the others that grow around it. The spirit seems to be trying to determine if this discoloration is harmless or should be addressed.

The longer this cluster exists and thrives, the more this Kami can experience existence. It is a link that is both lovely and terrifying- and why this particular Kami sees the need to make sure these mushrooms continue to stay healthy.

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This year’s Dragon Con (2018), like so many others, was a fantastic opportunity to receive feedback directly from the people who enjoy (and collect) my work. One thing that I heard consistently: people found the world I am building with my Kami Series fascinating. They really seemed engaged when I would go into the details- and while that may have just been politeness on their part I am going to assume it was genuine and run with it.

So from this point on I will be doing the following:

When a new piece in the series is created I will write up a blog post about it. My goal is to make every new work something that adds a new bit of lore to the world, something that offers a new insight into the strange creatures that inhabit it or how the world functions. This will all eventually be used in a work of fiction I eventually plan on pursuing- but for now the best way to continue to enjoy the world of the Kami is to visit me here or come say “hi” in person when I sell my work at various shows.

With that being said- please also feel free to comment if you have any questions or want me to clarify ideas I present in my posts.

Thank you for continuing to enjoy my work- I’ll try to keep growing, learning and improving.

SEPT 11 2018

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