01 February 2008

setsubun 節分

an illustration about the japanese holiday of setsubun.
description following the illo.
鬼は外! 福は内!
(Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!)

illustration by cybele(click on the image above for larger version)
The Japanese tradition of Setsubun, which literally means seasonal division, marks the Japanese lunar calendar’s transition from winter to spring. On the third day of February, families practice Mamemaki (the bean throwing ritual), which entails the Toshi Otoko (the oldest male household member born in the animal sign of that year) throwing Irimame (pan-heated or packaged roasted soy beans) around the house and out of windows and doors while shouting, "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" (Demons out! Fortune in!). Throwing the beans is meant to purify the home against Oni (demons), who may bring bad health and misfortune. To bring themselves good luck, each person is supposed to pick up and eat the same number of beans as their age. In addition, families may place a wreath made of sardine heads, garlic or onion, and holly leaves on the entrance of their house to ward off evil spirits; holly leaves are a Shinto symbol thought to sting oni. A contemporary addition to the Muramachi-era (1392–1573) ritual of Mamemaki has children wearing oni masks and shouting and thowing beans at each other.
illustration by cybele
The Japanese can celebrate the coming of spring together by attending Setsuban festivals at Buddhist and Shinto shrines, where monks and celebrities throw beans into the crowd. These are crowded affairs, with throngs of people pushing each other to get the beans and other treats—usually sweets, candies, money and prizes.
There are many stories of how the Setsubun rituals originated, but one of the more famous ones involves an oni disguising his true nature to an old widow. The oni showed the widow a magic mallet he carried and created a beautiful kimono in front of her. Tempted, the old widow plotted to steal the kimono and mallet from the disguised oni. Surprised by the greed of the old woman, the oni revealed his true self to her. The widow was so frightened that she threw the first thing that was nearby, which happened to be Mame (beans). The beans hurt the oni, cause him to flee; however, he took his mallet and kimono with him, leaving her wiser but without the objects of her desires.
illustration by cybele