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Kami Series: San Zen Damashii

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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