The privilege to be reborn was given to few, and even fewer were reborn with their memories. The spirits chose those few lucky souls.
"Your life was full. There is no reason for your should to be born again," the spirits would explain.
Then, a soul that had lived the fullest life returned. Against every principle of rebirth, the completed soul was reborn.
The rebirth was not peaceful. The mother faced pain, and faded when the child was born. The new child looked like the mother too much. The father became to grief stricken and could not care for the child. The priestess that had blessed the birth took the child back with her to the temple.
"Father! This child, the mother has passed, and the father is to heartbroken," the priestess explained to the head priest. "What shall we do with the child?"
"We shall care for and raise the child, for this is only the way of this temple," he told her. "Now that this child is under our care, we must present this new soul to the spirits."
The two of them walked to the temple shrine with the new child in their arms. When they began their prayers, the spirits recognized the soul of the child. They became angry and wanted the soul to come back. The child began to cry as if in protest to the spirits' calls. The priestess heard the cries of the child and could not let the child be sad. She knew her actions would anger the spirits but she comforted the the crying child and offered her soul in place of the newborn's. When the priest opened his eyes after his prayer the priestess had been spirited away, and the child still cried.
The priest did not understand fully, but the child had been reborn and in its last life, or in the spirit world, it's soul had angered other spirits.
"Iji, come, you've forgotten to sweep the storehouse," the priest called out. The child had grown into a lovely young maiden in the temple of Hokoji in Kyoto Japan. Her hair was full and gorgeous black, her skin was pale and translucent, no matter how long her chores kept her out in the sun's light.
"Yes father," she came running. The priest had raised her to become a shrine maiden, but sense her birth, he never allowed her near the shrine of the spirits. "Father, will I be allowed to dance for the Celebration of the New Year?" she asked, while sweeping.
"No, I'm sorry my dear." He looked at her sorrowfully. He knew that if Iji were to preform the ceremony her soul would anger the spirits, and the festival would end badly. "Have you had any dreams lately?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Yes, my dream last night showed me a man who fell in love with a beautiful dancing maiden. Her kimono was a very beautiful red," she explained.
"Have you determined it's meaning?" The priest knew that her dreams were her memories, but he did not want her to enter the temple's shrine and regain her memories, in fear of her life.
"I believe it meant that the dancer of great beauty will find her love...does that mean Miko will find her love tonight?"
"Haha, yes my dear, she might," he lied to her. Ever sense she could speak at a young age she told the story of her former life through her dreams. A life of a beautiful shrine maiden that had pleased the spirits with her enchanting dance. Then she fell in love with a samurai who took her away. The spirits had even blessed their marriage and she lived a full human life. But it still confused the priest of why the spirits were angry with her. "Your chores are done Iji, you may have the rest of the time till the festival to your self," he told her.
"Thank you father." She left and the priest went to pray for the success of the festival.
After Iji's chores, she ran to the forest where she found peace enough to dance. She had practiced there sense she was very small.
The spirit of the forest did not damn her like the others. In fact the spirit was pleased enough to protect her from the spirits' anger when she danced in it's woods.
The day of the festival Iji practiced the ceremony dance. This enchanted the forest spirit so much that it manifested in front of her. "Dear Sainō, your dancing has pleased me a second life time," the forest spirit said as he stood in front of her in human form.
Iji was very startled, "My name is not Sainō. Who are you?" She asked.
"I am the spirit of this forest, and you are Sainō," the spirit explained. "Only her spirit could please these woods with her dance." Iji was confused. "Your body may have moved on, but your spirit has found it's way here again."
"I'm sorry great spirit, but I am only an orphan child who learned to dance as a shrine maiden."
"And a shrine maiden you are," the spirit told her. It lifted its hands and her yokata began to change into a beautiful sheer kimono that dazzled in the sun's light.
Back at the temple, the spirits began to manifest to enjoy the Festivals of the New Year. When the sun finally dipped below the horizon and the lanterns hung above the shrine were lit, the festival began. Small children began to play and catch gold fish, while their parents hoped for good fortune in the coming year. You fog adults gathered and spoke with each other, while the elderly payed their respects to the spirits. And all the while the head priest was worried. Iji had not returned, and it was very unlike her. Had the spirits finally had her way with her? Had she finally ventured so deep into the woods that she had been lost? It all worried him.
When the time finally came for the ceremony and dance the spirits that had manifested came to watch for it was an honor for them to be entertained. But Miko, the shrine maiden who was meant to dance that night, had fallen ill before she could preform. Everyone who came to watch became impatient and the spirits began to feel offended. This was when Iji finally came back.
"Father, why is Miko not dancing?" she asked after she had found him in the crowd.
"She's fallen ill," he explained.
"But there are no others who could preform the dance," she feared.
"I know," he sighed. He knew that Iji was very capable to preform the dance, but he did not want to anger the spirits with her more.
"Father, not having me dance will anger the spirits more than letting me dance," she consoled him.
"Alright my child, may the spirit of the woods protect you," he said as he worried for her life.
She walked to the stage and bowed. Her raven black hair fell beautifully against her sheer red kimono, and her skin shone brighter than ever before. She began her dance, and the spirits in attendance, and those she had angered, were mesmerized by the talent of her dance. They no longer could be angry with her for cheating rebirth.
After the dance many of the spirits returned to their world, but one stayed behind. This spirit approached Iji. "Dear maiden, Sainō. Please return to me. I know you had left this world before me, but I loved you even then," he told her and kissed her.
That moment her past memories flooded into her soul and consciousness and the spirit of her husband that stood before her rejoiced with her in her reawakening.
"Oh my love! I had to find you again," she cried into his arms.
That night, Sainō was spirited away, and the priestess who took her place returned. The next year was the most bountiful, for the spirits were all pleased with the balanced then returned.