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Once upon

castle of a Daimio named Akechi

Daimio named Akechi Mitsuhide was closely invested by his enemy Toyotomi. At last the supply of water having been cut off, the garrison had to capitulate, but not before Akechi and most of his men had committed suicide. From that time forth, in rain or in rough weather, there came from the castle a fireball, six inches in diameter or more. It used to come to wreak vengeance on fishermen (because a bad fisherman had betrayed to Toyotomi the source of water which had supplied Akechi's castle) by leading boats out of their course and thereby causing many wrecks. a time, a fisherman struck it with a bamboo pole, breaking it up into many fiery bits; and on that occasion many boats were lost. In full this shito dama is called "{The Spider Fire of the Spirit of the Dead Akechi.”

Transformation of Foxes and Badgers into Women. Closely allied to the belief in spirits and ghosts is the superstition widely prevalent among the Japanese that foxes and badgers can transform themselves into women. In Japanese legends, the Racoon-faced Dog (Tanuki) and the badger are credited with the possession of as much powers

of transformation and mischief as the fox. In these tales, the fox, disguised as a woman, gets married to some loving Japanese youth and has a family by him, and, subsequently on account of a little domestic brawl, throws off the guise of womanhood and, reassuming her vulpine form, runs away followed by her litter of cubs leaving the disconsolate husband alone.

In Mr. Smith's collection, there is a story entitled : “ The Snow Tomb”* wherein the hero Rokugo meets a woman who came up to him, with a horrible face and clenched teeth, as if in agony. He thought that she must be a fox who had assumed the form of a woman,

Op. cit., pp 317-8.

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recollecting, at the same time, a fact he had heard about fox-women. It was that fire, coming from the bodies of foxes and badgers, is always so bright that, even on the darkest night, you can tell the colour of their hair, or even the figures woven in the stuffs they wear, when assuming the forms of men or women, and that it is clearly visible at one ken (six feet). Remembering this, Rokugo approached a little closer to the woman; and, sure enough, he could see the pattern of her dress shown up as if fire were underneath. The hair, too, seemed to have fire under it. Knowing now that it was a fox he had to do with, Rokugo drew his best sword and struck the fox with it, killing the fox and consequently the apparition. It is said that, whenever a fox or a badger transforms itself into human shape, the real presence stands beside the apparition. If the apparition appears on the left side, the presence of the animal himself is on the right. The body was found, not that of a fox or a badger, but of an otter.

Similarly, in the story of “ The Dragon-shaped Plum Tree,” * the beautiful girl, the Spirit of the Plum tree is at first mistaken for the spirit of an old fox. In the story of “The Golden Hairpin,” † the knocking at the door of the hero Konojo's house is supposed to be done by a fox or a badger.

Demoniacal Possession by Foxes aud Dogs.-Foxes and badgers also sometimes assume the shapes of men. Demon foxes are also credited with the power of taking up their abode in human beings, just as evil spirits, so often mentioned in the New Testament, are supposed to possess men and women. The Japs also believe that some persons possess foxes (kitsunetsuki),

* Op. cit., p. 324. + Op. cit., p. 5.

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in other words, they are wizards or witches commanding invisible powers of evil which they can turn loose at will upon their enemies.

In the Oki Islands, off the coast of Izumo, dogs are believed to possess demoniacal powers; and the human beings, who are in league with them, are called inu-gami-mochi, that is to say, “dog-god-owners.” When the spirit of the demon dog goes forth on an errand of mischief, its body remains behind, gradually becomes weaker and ultimately dies and falls to decay. If this should happen, the spirit, after its return, takes up its residence in the body of the “dog-god-owner," who thereupon becomes more potent than before.

Badgers as Players of Practical Jokes.--Badgers are believed to play practical jokes upon the people. One of their favourite pranks is to assume the figure of the moon ; but this they can do only when the actual luminary is in the sky. Beating the tattoo on their stomach is also one of their familiar tricks. ese art, badgers are generally depicted as diverting themselves in this way with an enormously protuberant abdomen for all the world like a drum. *

Snow-ghosts.--Another class of spooks, in the existence whereof the Japanese believe, is the “ Yuki Onna” or the Snow-ghost. This belief largely prevails among the inhabitants of the higher mountains in the north of Japan, which are continually snowclad. All those persons, who die by exposure to the snow and cold, become snow-ghosts which put ance whenever snow falls ; just in the same way as those who meet with a watery grave in the sea appear in the sea only during tempestuous weather.

In Japan. falls heavily in the northern provinces of Japan, where many people have lost their lives by getting buried in the deep snows; and their bodies are not found until the covering snows thaw in the ensuing spring. The spirits of these persons are believed to have become snowghosts ; and, even at the present day, the priests in the north chant prayers in order to appease them and to prevent them from haunting their living kinsmen.

Snow

in their appear

Edition.

London :

* Thin's Japanese. By B. I. Chamberlain. Third I Murray. 1898. pp. 105-111

In the story entitled : The Snow-Ghost,” it is narrated that, in the afternoon of the Iyth January 1833, the spook of a farmer's daughter named Oyasu, who had perished in the preceding year's great snowstorm, was seen by a farmer named Kyuzaemon residing in the village of Hoi. She was seen clad in white, with her hair streaming down her back and having no clogs on her feet. She is said to have whirled along over the snow and, sometimes, to have flown through the air.*

Japanese Beliefs about Trees and Flowers having Spirits. --- The Animism of the Japanese finds a charming expression in the shape of their belief about Trees and Flowers having their indwelling spirits. This form of animistic beliei prevailed among the ancients and also among a great many races of people all over the world. The ancient Greeks believed in the existence of Dryads or nymphs who dwelt in trees. The ancient Hindus also were actuated by a belief similar to that for there are, in the Vedas themselves, a number of passages wherein trees are invoked as deities.f It was not the trees as such, but the souls or spirits supposed to dwell in them, to haunt them, that were looked upon as gods. If the soul leaves the tree, the tree withers; but the soul does not die. This belief still survives, at the

a

Smith's Ancient Tales and Folklore of Japan, pp. 307-11. † Macdonell's Vedic Mytholog', p. 154.

present day, in the tree-worship, or dryad-worship, of the modern Hindus.

Among the Japs, the willow, the plum, the cherry tree, the chrysanthemum, the lotus and the peony flower are supposed to have spirits which dwell in them and which, sometimes, assume the shapes of lovely maidens or youths who make love to and marry persons of the opposite sex and have often children by them. Mr. R. G. Smith has collected a number of fascinating fairy tales wherein these tree and flower-spirits play a prominent rôle. Among these are included the story entitled : “The Spirit of the Willow Tree," wherein it is stated that a large willow tree stood before the Temple of Kwannon, the Goddess of Mercy, in a certain village. The villagers having expressed their wish to cut the tree down and use its wood for a bridge, their proposal was greatly opposed by a young farmer named Heitaro, who with his forefathers had lived all along near the old tree. Heitaro also promised to give them as many other trees as they would require for the bridge. The villagers agreed to Heitaro's proposal

One day while Heitaro was returning from his work, he found a beautiful girl standing by the willow. He saw her several times afterwards and ultimately fell in love with her. They were then married. The girl, whose name was Higo (meaning goithe or willow), bore her husband a son named Chiyodo. Thus six years of their married life passed happily, when the Emperor Toba decided to build in Kyoto an immense temple to Kwannon, and passed orders for the collection of timber required for the building. Thereupon the villagers decided to cut the big willow tree. Heitaro again tried to save the tree by offering others of his own in exchange therefor. But his proposals were not agreed to this time. One night, when the workmen

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