A typical okinawan grave shaped to symbolize the human womb. Life for the Okinawan people centers around the grave. They worship or hold in divine reverence their ancestors and believe that the good and bad that happens to them is directly connected to whether they are properly worshipping their ancestors or not.
The native religion of the Okinawan people is a form of animism and ancestral worship called sosen suuhai. The actual name itself is translated literally "the reverence and veneration of ones ancestors". In this religion Okinawans believe in the existence of a physical and spiritual world. And that both these worlds are governed by ancestral deities that all find their origin in the ultimate god, fire, which in this religion is symbolized by the three sacreds earth, ground and heaven.
The basic aim of ancestral worship in the Okinawan context is to bring a balance between the spiritual and physical world. The tradition of this religion teaches that all adversity of life whether mental, physiological, or natural is the result of ancestors not being able to rest due to something bad that someone living or deceased has done, and that it is now the responsibility of the living to right that wrong and bring proper balance back to the spiritual/physical world.
In order to understand and interpret exactly what has gone wrong and who has done it there is what is called a yuta. A yuta is medium or shaman. It is not a formally learned position, but one that is developed through ones experience and spiritual sensitivity. There are hundreds in Okinawa, usually a woman, and they are the primary links between the physical and spiritual world. They are highly respected and play a primary role in the life of the Okinawan people who flock to them during times of trouble and distress.