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Goryo (御霊) are vengeance ghosts in Japanese mythology.


The name consists of two kanji, 御 (go) meaning honorable and 霊 (ryō) meaning soul or spirit.


Arising mainly in the Heian period, the belief was that the spirits of powerful lords, especially those who have been martyred, were capable of catastrophic vengeance, including destruction of crops and the summoning of typhoons and earthquakes.


The only way to quell the wrath of a goryo was with the help of yamabushi, who could perform the necessary rites that would tame the spirit.


An example of a goryo is the Shinto kami known as Tenjin. Government official Sugawara no Michizane was killed in a plot by a rival member of the Fujiwara clan. Immediately afterwards, the capital city was struck by heavy rain and lightning, and many of the leading Fujiwara died, while fires caused by lightning and floods destroyed many of their residences.

The court drew the conclusion that the disturbances were caused by Michizane's angry spirit. In order to placate him, the emperor restored all his offices, burned the official order of exile, and ordered that he be worshiped under the name Tenjin, which means 'Sky deity'. A shrine was established at Kitano. With the support of the government, it was immediately raised to the first rank of official shrines.


  • Iwasaka, Michiko and Toelken, Barre. Ghosts and the Japanese: Cultural Experiences in Japanese Death Legends, Utah State University Press, 1994. ISBN 0874211794
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.