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Seven Stars of Heaven and Seven Shrines on Earth: The Big Dipper and the Hie Shrine in the Medieval Period
The belief in Sannō, the kami of the Hie Shrine, evolved under the strong influence of Tendai Buddhism during the medieval period. Esoteric scriptures and ritual manuals related to astronomy and astrology encouraged the association of the seven stars of the constellation of the Big Dipper with the seven principal shrines at Hie. The hierarchical grouping of shrines in three units of seven suggests the theoretical input from the Buddhist monks of the Enryaku-ji to the development of the shrine. However the connection of stars and shrines was eradicated after the separation of temples and shrines (shinbutsu-bunri) carried out by the Meiji government in the late 19th century, and little evidence of star-related rituals at the shrine remains today. This paper examines the iconography of the Hie-Sannō Mandara from the Kamakura period in the collection of Saikyō-ji, and considers the significance of the Big Dipper in the context of the Hie-Sannō belief from visual and textual sources.