Kaoni Musashi is a Yamabushi from the Muromachi period. For
those unaware of the role of Yamabushi in Japanese culture,
they are referred to as mountain ascetics. They are also sometimes
referred to, in some literature, as a well organized group of hermits.
Most consider Yamabushi to practice a form of Buddhism, although
there is documentation to support the existence of Yamabushi
before Buddhism came to Japan. The main duties for Yamabushi,
then and now, were to assist pilgrims as they journey through the
mountains and keep them safe. They would also accept many of the
duties that more mainstream temples would reject, such as changing
one's luck, the casting out of evil spirits, etc.
ancient times many in the peasant class regarded Yamabushi
with some apprehension. Their practices were unknown and seemed
mysterious to the locals. During the winter months, when most individuals
would leave the mountains, Yamabushi would gather in the
mountains until spring. Yamabushi are said to follow the
ancient Japanese religion called shugendou. A follower of
this faith is called shugenja. Modern interpretations of
shugenja are loosely translated as "magic user"
or "wizard". These are not to be considered accurate translations.
A more accurate translation would be "a person of training
and testing". Yamabushi have a long association in Japanese
culture with supernatural beings, as is evident in the tale of Soujoubou.
clothing of Yamabushi is quite distinct, starting with the
head dress which is referred to as tokin. The tokin
has decreased in size over time and is now represented in modern
times as a small pill box sized hat, worn on the forehead. During
the middle ages it was significantly larger. A good representation
of this can be found at "The Costume Museum" [http://www.iz2.or.jp/fukushoku/f_disp.php?page_no=0000093].
Another distinct feature is called yui-gesa. This garment
is a modified gesa or kesa, meaning "a Buddhist
monk's stole". The Yamabushi garment is distinctive
as it has a number of yui-gesa-no-bonten which appears to
be pom-poms. Sometimes they are mistaken for "fuzzy balls".
The last distinctive garment is the hisshiki. This is a piece
of fur affixed to a belt that covers from waist to knee, worn in
the rear. Hisshiki's primary function is to protect the rest
of the clothing when the Yamabushi sits, as the mountains
can be cold and damp frequently. When on pilgrimage, the Yamabushi
can sometimes be seen wearing a black and white checkered garment
called suzukake. The primary purpose for this garment is
to be able to be seen at great distances by pilgrims that may have
have also been known to take up arms and have fought alongside Samurai
and Sohei (warrior monks). In late period it was not uncommon
for warlords to have Yamabushi advisors in their court, while
maintaining their shamanistic traditions. This is perhaps why Yamabushi
are sometimes still represented as "magic users" or "wizards".
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 21:48
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