Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Spider Lily-Higan Bana

These are spider lilies.




I've always loved them. They shoot up seemingly overnight right around the autumnal equinox. This, I suppose, is why they are called higan bana in Japanese. Higan meaning the equinox and bana, flower.

My husband hates them, says they creep him out. He's like that about butterflies too. He explains that butterflies are too "powdery". But he never had such a good (*cough*cough*) explanation for the flower-hatred, so I did a bit of reading and asking around.

First, I found a handful of other names the Japanese have for this beauty. Here they are: Hell Flower, Ghost Flower, Razor Flower, Fox Flower, and Flower of the Dead. There is said to be up to nine hundred different monikers for the higan bana. Since they are pretty much believed to be bad luck, I imagine none of those other names are the Flower of Positive Thinking or the You-Have-a-Good-Day Flower.


They are also supposed to be packed full of poison. I was told they used to be planted around rice fields and houses to keep away rats, moles, and the like. Now they just grow wild.

The autumnal equinox is a time to visit family grave sites. So in a very general way ohigan is associated with death. There was some sort of joke ages ago that stated the reason the flower was called higan bana was not because it bloomed during the equinox but because if you ate it, all you had to look forward too was...ohigan, or death.

I went out taking pictures last weekend, hoping to give the blooms a little positive PR. How could anyone dislike a flower, I thought.



It was probably the exact moment that thought flittered through my mind that I snagged my foot on a root while maneuvering the slippery river bank and took a spill, a camera in one hand and a dog leash in the other. I'll admit Cha Cha Maru was most likely just trying to save his own life from a fast and tumbling Me, but his running full speed in the other direction truly mitigated what could have been a very wet fall.

Flower of the Dead indeed! Humph.

20 comments:

Bk30 said...

okay,my thoughts of what should be done with anything that has "spider" in the name aside,and when I quit laughing at the thought of you rolling down the creek bank, I will agree that the flower is pretty. I love the color. Do they have other shades?

Kappa no He said...

BK: Luckily no one was watching... Mostly red but I've seen white and yellow!

Hilary said...

Nice pics and interesting background to the flowers. Glad you managed to stay dry. :)

Kappa no He said...

Hilary: A bit muddy, a smacked knee and a skinned palm. But a really nostaligic feeling, falling down. I mean how often do adults do that? Really?

Hilary said...

Kappa, that depends on whether or not alcohol is involved. ;)

Kappa no He said...

I totally didn't count those times...I guess it wasn't as nostalgic as I thought...ha ha! Maybe it was different because I actually saw the ground coming up.

Pat said...

That flower/your photos are too cool. The color looks enhanced. Isn't nature wonderful?

Craig and Lotta said...

I think the flower is amazing, but I understand your husbands point of view, for instance I have a deep seathing hate of puppies, and sunsets, and don't even get me started on the so called "miricle of life" ewww creepy.

P.S. hope the sarcasm was thick enough.

Kappa no He said...

Pat: Doesn't it though? They really are striking, especially in the autumn sunlight.

Craig and Lotta: What about whiskers on kittens? Don't those just piss you off too? Grrr...

Truth be told, if I'm in a bad mood I bring up the butterfly thing to my husband, get him started. It makes me giggle uncontrollably.

Decaf, please said...

I think that these flowers are beautiful from a distance, but a little creepy up close. But I'm just going by your photos.

Thanks for the colorful post.

Kappa no He said...

decaf: That would probably be the consensus here as well. They are quite stunning when lined against a golden, ready-to-be-harvested rice field. Of course, I took the pictures too late and all the rice fields had already been plucked.

Jim Melvin said...

Those flowers look beautiful to me. You always have the most interesting posts. I love the way your mind works.

Kappa no He said...

Jim: You, my dear, have just made my day!

Right now I'm in the throes of our local harvest festival. Lordy! The next post is gonna be a doozy.

Also, there is some Buddhist legend relating to those flowers that I found (and knew) years ago. I wanted to post that for you but the book with the story is missing. I'm still searching for it. I know there is a Buddhist flower mentioned in one of the sutras that is believed to be the Higan Bana but there was something more, something really fascinating...that I've forgotten.

I'll trade minds.

Jim Melvin said...

Would you please email me at jsmhimes@yahoo.com? I have a question for you.

Virginia Lee said...

We had spider lilies in our yard in Coldwater, Mississippi. Most of them were waaaaaay at the back, but a few were scattered haphazardly throughout the yard. I love them and all lilies really. I get that from my maternal grandmother who never saw a lily she didn't like.

For a rental house, it had some lovely flowers. Honeysuckle abounded. There was a gorgeous flowering quince too and crepe myrtles in three different colors. We even had a few lilies of the valley.

Virginia Lee said...

Terrie, I loved this post, btw. Sorry I didn't say so a moment ago.

When will you be doing another folklore article? That was fantastic!

Kappa no He said...

Jim: Sure! I need to order a pizza this second but I'll mail you after that has been...um, eaten.

Viginia: Thank you! And I love the flowers of the south. I wish I knew more flower names. That would be such a worthwhile hobby.

The next one should be in two months, every two months. They are so much fun to research and write. I am having a ball. I'm so glad you liked it. You are making me smile very big right now, and I have a nasty cold so that is a feat really.

jean said...

I love them too! And you're right about how they seem to appear out of nowhere. (Guess it's cause they don't have any leaves.) I was reading recently that they did have medicinal purposes as well, for example they were made into a paste and used to induce vomiting. And then someone asked me, why on earth would you need to induce vomiting? And I was at a loss. 'You know, sometimes you just need to induce vomiting...' It had a bit of a Middle Ages feel to it, or at least a John Belushi as the Medieval Barber feel...

Frank Baron said...

Nifty flowers and nice pics. I think the fall was good luck because you didn't break anything. You're still young enough to be nimble. :)

Kappa no He said...

Jean: Cool! I guess if they are poisonous they would induce vomiting. Maybe it was a kind of middle age bulimia thing. LOL! about John Belushi.

Frank: Now that is looking at the bright side! I'll take good luck over dementia any day.