Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Six Months of Gunk

People are sticky. Some stickier than others. I've been told by a Shinto priestess/exorcist woman that I am particularly sticky. And that isn't a good thing.

Over time bad energy, disgruntled spirits, what-have-you sticks to your person causing well, bad things to occur. For example you can get sick, have a run of bad luck, or just feel icky and down. There are all sorts of ceremonies to freshen you up and get rid of this bad gunky.

One such ceremony is held every June. Half the year is gone and you've probably collected quite a bit of nasty energy without even knowing it. The Powers That Be come around with these little red paper dolls to give to all the houses that belong to a certain Jinja/Shrine area. Here is what one looks like:

The red paper doll is tucked inside the white paper envelop. I've heard them referred to as ningyou gata or hito gata. What you do is grab the little fellow by the head and gently brush him all over your body. He is doing his part by sucking up all your bad energy. Before you pass him over to another family member, you breathe one big exhale, Ha! on him. When everyone is done you write your names on the back, return him to his envelop and take him to the shrine for them to burn and pray over. Thus destroying all that icky gunk that was attached to you and your family. You're clean! But you aren't clean enough.

On the day you're supposed to take him to the Shrine they have a special festival. A giant circle made out of straw is set up and decorated. To further cleanse yourself you walk through it in a specified way -- something like a figure eight but a bit different.

Here are the directions. You don't even have to read Japanese to figure them out. You follow the line with the little arrows. Simple enough. Nonetheless, I totally walked the wrong way, doing weird loops and then back tracking, turning around, and in an effort to erase my mistakes walking backwards the way I came. Meanwhile, the whole time everyone around me, complete strangers, are yelling, "No! Not that way! No! Oh my God!"

Okay, maybe they didn't yell "Oh my God!" But there was a lot of "No"s and quite a bit of giggling behind open hands. When I decided I could blaspheme no more and had better cut my losses, I jumped away from the circle and asked a nearby priest what would happen if I did it all wrong. He raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders and told me he didn't know, no one's ever done it wrong before.

I can't read maps either.


Pat said...

Hi KNH! I think I could use one of those red paper dolls myself. Do you think it would work if I just cut one out and rubbed it all over myself?

I would probably get lost on the maze too. That just means you and I are special, I think.

Anonymous said...

Lol! I can see me walking the pattern all wrong as well. I cannot line dance to save my life. I'm hopeless.

But laughing at yourself has to be soul-scouring too, right?!

Thanks for these glimpses into Japanese culture.


Anonymous said...

Listen up to

Great concert in Chicago put on by Eric Clapton to benefit his drug rehab place in Antigua.


jean said...

Kappa, WHERE in the world do you get all this cultural info??? Yet another Japanese 'thing' that I had never heard of, although I have noticed and wondered about your stickiness... :)

Kappa no He said...

Pat: I've always wondered too if I could not use a Barbie doll and get the same result. Thanks for saying I'm special. *wink*

Jamie: Soul searching...I like that.

Imomo: I adore Eric!

Jean: I wish you were here. I'll have to give you a blow by blow about what happened at the PTA the other day. I'm missing you terribly!