Saturday, February 04, 2006

 

Chasing Demons, Continued


I wrote yesterday about the preparations underway to celebrate Setsubun, and the need to chase away demons, or oni, with soy beans. My mother always made sure I did this every year, though there were a few times when I was living alone and I had to use peanuts or sunflower seeds as a substitute.

I can report that we were indeed successful this year in getting the oni out of Koufukuji temple.



There are three kinds of oni at Koufukuji: red, green and black. After listening to a large group of priests chanting (beautifully) inside the temple, a large crowd of people including yours truly watched as 6 oni (two of each color) danced around on a stage. The oni carried lit torches and generally did their best to frighten and entertain the audience while a drum pounded and an eerie reed/brass-like instrument squealed. The torches were actually a little scary; it wouldn't have taken much for a mischievous oni to rain sparks down on the crowd.

Bishamonten, the guardian of the north and the god of war, came out and "killed" the onis. Ebisu, god of luck, then came out of the temple and threw out small packets of soy beans, or "luck," to the crowd to take home. After Ebisu, emptied his bag, temple dignitaries (including Miss Nara) threw out the remainder of the temple's stash of good luck bags.


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