restricted access Chapter 8 Himiko, Shamans, Divination, and Other Magic
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127 The roster of magic practitioners, pre-Buddhist magicians and diviners—using the term “magic” (majinai) in the general sense of trying to achieve a natural occurrence through nonnatural means that includes through the medium of occult forces in nature—is led by the diviners, geomancers, and soothsayers, formally known as urabe. Other methods of reaching these goals are pursued by abstainers (jisai; imibe or imbe), purifiers (specialists in harai), and shamans (for whom the male title has almost disappeared in favor of kannushi, the shrine priest, while female shamans are called miko).The necromancers, who became professionalized in medieval times, are known as itako. Exorcists and conjurors are perhaps better known in their Buddhist roles as ajari and jugon. All were prominent figures in early Japanese life because of the dependence on oracles for future action, preoccupation with signs and omens, extreme sensitivity to potentially hostile spirits and especially to churlish spirits of the dead, and the ever-pressing need to curry favor with the kami in order to invite their benefactions. The loose use of the terms “shamanism” and “Shinto” for Japan has clouded the view with such generalizations as all practitioners of magic were female shamans and all folk religious practices were components of Shinto. Shamanism by definition is genderless. It is rooted in polytheistic beliefs, the shaman dealing with the diseased and with the community’s future through access to the spirit world by various methods of autohypnosis. In an ecstatic state he or she receives the kami’s desired message, which is then transmitted to the participants in the ceremony after a normal condition has been regained.Also, in the spirit-possessed state the shaman is believed to be in the company of fellow spirits and exceedingly persuasive so that they can be influenced to do his or her will. Since the majority of shamans in history have been male, the fact of a substantial presence of female shamans is often noted.Various ways of consciousness transformation are used such as drug taking, extended meditation, selfflagellation , food deprivation, trance-inducing music, dancing, and drumming. Shamanism has a long history in Japan, the earliest for which there is evidence is in Middle Jòmon. Figures with raised arms in a dance posture were appliqued on large pots, especially on drum-shaped vessels. Since rattles are also known, it is most likely that drumming and rattling accompanying dancing were the chief methods then used for achieving an ecstatic condition. CHAPTER 8 Himiko, Shamans, Divination, and Other Magic Many pottery sherds with incised complete or fragmentary dancing figures show much continuity throughout the Yayoi period.They have been dug up in such diverse areas as Nara, Hiroshima, and Saga.The heavy scraping of the surface of the pots to give the walls a more uniform thickness seems to contribute to the crudity of the incision work.The two figures shown, from the Shimizukaze andTsuboi sites of Nara,have billowy sleeves,vaguely reminiscent of the long-sleeved dancers familiar to Han-dynasty art.There is a single hornlike projection from the head of the Kawaki-yoshihara figure in Saga and one of the Karako figures.These are believed to be male individuals. The man who arrived at Tsunoda from Kaya, offering to serve Emperor Sujin, had one or more horns on his head. The best-known Yayoi religious paraphernalia are the bronze bells recovered from random sites.Several of these have little thread-relief figures of leaping shamans 128 HIMIKO AND JAPAN’S ELUSIVE CHIEFDOM OF YAMATAI Fig. 8.1 Shamans illustrated on ceramic vessels. (1) High-relief figure on large pot, Hayashioji site,Atsugi city, Kanagawa. Middle Jòmon. (2) Relief figure on large pot,Tonai site, Fujimimachi , Nagano. Middle Jòmon. Ht. of pot: 51.8 cm. (2 and 3: Kamikawana, Chûki Jòmon bunka-ron, 252, fig. 79/4; 386, fig. 140/9). Incised on pottery sherds: (3) Shimizukaze site, Nara, Middle Yayoi. (4) Tsuboi site, Nara. Middle Yayoi 1 2 3 4 holding a rod, seemingly in a state of ecstasy.The small clay object from the Kawakiyoshihara site, broken at the bottom, with this horned figure on it, is bell-shaped, as though bells in their original use were an important aspect of this process. Haniwa drummers have been excavated, but drumming was probably more of a middle-class technique in Himiko’s time. Undoubtedly various techniques were tried and some combined. Jingle-bell mirrors have been recovered from widely scattered tombs. One...