Oct. 1st, 2010

zuki_san: (Default)
Many pagans and any sensible magical practitioner will have their own rituals and practices for protection, warding, and psychic hygiene. People carry rocks or mojo bags, etch bindrunes and sigils, smudge with sage or other herbs or incenses, sprinkle blessed water or oil, or other more elaborate sequences. At least one individual I know likes to use techniques from a number of different traditions and cultural sources. The idea makes good sense to me--there are more people strongly versed in a single tradition than strongly flexible eclectics, so most people will probably only know a few counters.

So I'm going to write about one of my own personal traditions.

I collect shisa. You'll probably know them better as foo dogs, foo lions, chinese guardian lions, shrine dogs, komainu, shishi, 'that beast in her avatar image,' etc. I specifically say shisa, because that's the name for the regional variant found in Okinawa and the Ryuku islands, and that's the kind I like best.

For as long as I could remember, Dad had a pair of foo dogs, which he bought and brought home from Japan. They're a dark red terracotta, and one of them once broke in half and had to be glued back together, and I love them dearly.

But I could never find another foo dog that looked quite like his pair, until my early years of college. I spotted a singleton in a nearly identical style, but in a heavy white ceramic, with a shiny painted glaze of green and white and copper-brown. I snatched it up from the antique store, learned that it had had a matching left-hand partner dog, but that someone else had bought it a few weeks ago. I was a bit upset that someone would split up a pair like that!

On the other hand, I finally had a foo dog of my own.

Eventually I learned, through one lucky day digging around wikipedia, that the particular liondog variant I liked so much was called a 'shisa,' and that they originated from Okinawa. I would periodically search for the matching partner for my shisa, and I gradually accumulated a collection of other shisa and shrine dogs when I saw the particular arrangment of facial features I like, when I can convince myself to spare the money or wanted it badly enough to tighten my belt, and so on. I think I have enough for now.

I have four 'pairs'/eight statues (one is a left-side singleton to match my original right-side singleton, but it's of a different style) in all by now, and my friends have joked that I can't get any better protected from evil, with all the ceramic guardians I keep around.

Sometimes I just burn incense for the smell, but when I'm in an offering or smudging mood, I give the shisa special attention. Each statuette is picked up in turn and thoroughly 'fed' or wreathed with smoke. Most of them are hollow inside, and one can see the smoke wash out of the open eye, mouth, and noseholes. (It's a neat effect! I'd like to try and find an appropriate cone incense and do it on purpose with the larger statues.) I've also given them good dark chocolate when I have it, candied ginger, and, today, the shared out slices of half an orange.

I suppose you see similar practices in Hinduism, and sometimes in Shinto (people often leave treats or gifts for the fox statues that flank Inari shrines, but I can't find any record of same for the more common and typical statues), but I didn't start doing this out of any conscious choice of emulation. Still, I'm going to keep tending to my little pack of guardian spirits--they've seemingly shown up in visualizations/guided meditations for me a few times now, and I think I'd like to develop this relationship further.

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zuki_san

October 2010

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