Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Setsubun II (Kyoto LXXX)

Photos from Sunday's Setsubun (3.2.) at Heian Jingu. One of the most beautiful days in Kyoto in its colorful and light way, if you're into that kind of stuff. Lots of people but they are all part of the landscape, showing the scale of background. Clear sky lighting up the colorful buildings and shrine staff's ceremony clothing and making the white gravel to glimmer like warm spring snow. Witnessing the rituals of old men throwing beans at the devils and maiko throwing bagged beans for the audience (caught one bag but almost got trampled down to the ground by old people in the process). Finally the burning of past years burdens or evil spirits. (Took part in that too - bad blood, begone!)

There is a strong meaning in specific spaces, places and landscapes in Shinto, I think. Whether it's a holy natural spot, the sacred realm of a shrine or the magical area for rituals, it's here, in this world. Border line lifts the profane land from the mass and sanctifies it. A spirit barrier holds back the unwanted ones. Impure hearts or minds filled with evil thoughts are shattered at the gate.

This kind of serious part of Japan is what I feel intrigued by, no matter how superstitious it might present itself. Seeing animistic religion's old rituals and incantations carried out in a 21st century modern society is somewhat sad but at the same time empowering experience, even for atheists like me. I don't know how many centuries from now on this kind of magic can still provide people with  something more than a curiosity show, but I'm glad I could be here to see it and take part in something elemental, that is both the ancient local way to survive with the nature as it is the timeless universal need for rituals to make sense and order into the ever changing world. It's not the belief that makes an impression or sense to me, but the need for it.

The smoke rises into the light,
whispering through the branches

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