Special for This Month (March 2005)
Mandala Taught by Forest (13) - Deadly Symbols -

森が教えてくれたマンダラ (13) - 死のイメージを持つシンボル -


. . . .
. このページの日本語

This page includes English and Japanese. (Your computer might not recognize the Japanese parts)



air, hair{ ,}}: feather (羽)
: life/live (生・命)
{ denied, life}: death (死)

Deadly Symbols

Thin branches of woods are making a glowing mosaic of the sky
hiding the setting sun.
The forest inhales warm air and starts to exhale cold air.
A conversation starts between the forest and me.

Yoshiko: I feel like I’m going to melt into infinite
whenever I come here at this hour.

Forest: You looked in deep thought, when you came in.

Y: I find myself here when concerning about something.
Could you listen to my mail friend’s story today?
Let me call her Elm temporarily;
she is a descendant of a Native American and an a painter.
When Elm was raising her children, she happened to meet an elderly craft-man,
who was also a Native American, at his booth at a flee-market.
Let me call him Magpie. They gradually deepened their friendship
through talking about their arts and traditional wisdoms.

One day, she was presented four beautiful owl feathers from Magpie,
with no explanation about them.
Later another native American suggested Elm to burn the feathers,
because an owl feather was used as the symbol of death to invite its holder into death,
contrary to an eagle feather symbolizing awaking vigor often used for many ceremonies.

According to his story, Magpie might want exchange his life for her youth, Elm thought.
Magpie had wanted to do many things, she remembered.
Then Elm got too scared to keep the deadly symbols among her children and family;
and burned the feathers.
Magpie passed away, keeping unrevealing the reason why he gave her such a present.

F: Hum,
An eagle gallantly flies in the blue sky; but an owl acts in the darkness.
Both are just living along with each destiny of the life system;
and no magical power or curse is in the materials of their bodies: their feathers.
Humans are strange creatures, aren’t they?
They create a symbol and imprison themselves in it.

Y: I’m also creating symbols….
Aren’t other animals scared by some symbols?

F: Hmm, they could be reflectively frightened and escape,
when they feel the symbolic situation of their terrified experience.

But humans design and direct symbols of peace and fear.
Even if nothing happened, they intentionally control images by symbols.
With personal experience or not,
they’ve strengthened the system of symbols taking generations to control their images.
Those symbols are sometimes as literary things,
and other times as ceremonial tools like the feathers.

Elm had to be very afflicted.

Y: Yes, the feathers must keep burning in her mind even now, 20 years later...
With my sympathy, I was recalling my parenting period experience too,
to think of the power of spiritual concentrations attached to a tool or object.

One day, I went for an annual event at a Mikkyou Buddhism temple
to sketch a fire ceremony.
The chief Yamabushi/yogi, who was controlling the big bonfire,
was wearing unusually deep color on his clothes.
After the event I questioned him on the color;
and our friendship started as he ordered me to make his portrait.

He, Dairyu, was an ordinary man supporting his family
with farming and fishing until the age of 40, he said.
One day, led by his dream, he decided to devote his life
as the assistant of Fudo-Myo-oh,
whose statue he drew into his house from a disused old temple in his neighborhood.
The wooden statue was powerfully beautiful,
symbolizing another side of the Sun God of this Buddhism,
with its angry face, a sword and a rope sitting in flames of fire;
and made about 800 years ago.
Since then, more than thirty years, Dairyu had trained himself
with his own way of saturating his body with 108 vessels of cold water at a time,
every day even in the heavy snow.
Putting on the Yamabushi clothes after the water purification,
he gave prayers to heal suffering people.

Once talking with him, you had to find out he was lowbrow and worldly;
also far away from a saint image.
Even so, some people, whom western medical doctors gave up curing,
were healed through his prayers; and hearing these bush telegraphs,
his believers were increasing.

His clothes were originally pure white cotton; and he never
washed them for all of more that 30 years of ceremonies and prayers;
and the color grew by his perspiration, aging and sparkles of bonfires.
He seemed to believe that his clothes could suck up the problems
of the suffering people, because his overlaid spiritual power had been
concentrated into them, each time throwing his life out under the cold water.
Because of the one point that he threw his life out for others,
I got impressed by him.

His clothes had only one generation history,
but still worked similarly to the Native American’s ceremonial feathers,
didn’t they?

F: Yeah, here native shamans had trained in traditional ways, led by their seniors.
But Dairyu seemed to take “death” into him,
hurting himself on his body with his own method.

All individuals have to die; and the death supports new lives.
This natural order, humans hardly get in.
Look at me, here I exist for tens of thousands of years in the cycles of lives and deaths.
You are momentarily on the surface of lives, but soon will be under the shade.
The cycles are like breathing; but humans just don’t want to see it all.
Usually you only see the living side or lightened side,
narrowing the view of natural world.
So that you create stress inside, with unreasonable narrowing
and unnatural breathing; and get sick.

As I often say, humans are also a part of nature.
Digging deep inside, you’ll find yourself just like I am.
Everyone has light and shade;
and there are eagles and owls in each inside forest.
So when contacting the earth, opening your whole life,
you feel like being one with nature;
everybody can smile, released from stress.
Complete harmony makes you really smile, but not by ridding yourself of half a world.
Getting ill or healing yourself, or preparing a peaceful death,
all are made by each individual body as nature.
The healing power is not in words or tools of a healer.
They just help your returning to your natural condition,
letting your spirit realize it.

Yet to do the job, a healer should live holding death together.
The survivors, whom Dairyu’s prayers effected,
passed through the depth of their death,
letting their spirits join in the water with Dairyu.

When a shaman uses an eagle feather outside,
his spirit also holds an owl feather inside to balance it;
this is their fated job.
Whatever Magpie intended by the feathers,
Elm could use them for her own useful way, if she wanted to be a shaman.
She chose burning and deleted the image; and that was a way too.
Symbols are the kind of thing, I suppose...

Y: I see. Symbols can only be alive by user's strong intentional feeling!
That's why a tradition can support the power of a symbol;
and we have to be careful about the system.

Speaking of it, I have a question.
You mentioned literal things and words for symbolic tools.
Did you mean not only spells but also bibles, too?
There are tremendous violent scenes like the end of this world
in the Revelation at the end of the New Testament.
Recently I heard that some American Christian authorities
were going to accomplish violently finishing the world
to follow the description of the bible….

F: Hahahaha, it sounds the same as “the family has owl feathers,
so we should help them die.”
Nature on the earth many times had dropped into
tremendous ending situations; almost with deadly finishes.
But somehow each time a new beautiful harmony was born among survivors;
then lives restarted: that is nature.

Similar things could happen in an individual living body.
Imagine one lost his eyes by an accident.
As long as he thinks his former ability and the visible world is the right way,
he feels all his organs are useless and has to lose
his entire body balance to bring it to the end.
But if he thinks he got a new body with no eyes,
and starts to learn to be in the new world,
all of his organs would try to work their best,
making harmony to see things without eyes.
He might get more beautiful sights and light than before.
Instead of actually losing eyes or life, using a deadly symbol,
humans have tried to imagine this great ability of nature.

Straining after words in a traditional symbolic image is silly.
Nature changes the surface all the time.
See deep inside of the image; catch the truth in the image.
If not, all symbols could be dangerous tools.

written by Yoshiko


Appendix

The Features of owls:
Owls are chiefly nocturnal birds of pray, with large heads and flattened face
with large, forward-facing eyes as a human's, unlikely to birds.
Flight noiseless, moth like. Some species have "horns/ears."
They eat rodents, birds, reptiles, fish, large insects, nearly worldwide.
Because of their unique faces and features, they have become traditional symbols in many places.
<<"Western Birds" by Roger Tony Peterson

Traditions related to owls:
The little owls are regarded as a special ward of the goddess Athena in Greece,
also as emblem of wisdom.
Romans considered owls an evil omen: An owl alighting on a housetop presaged death.
Pima Indians in the America Southwest held that at death the human spirit passed into the body of an owl,
and to help it along they gave owl feathers to the dying person.
<<"Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America" by National Geographic Society

The "wise owl" still appears with witches at Halloween (the Celtic feast of the dead).
The wise-woman or witch had the same name in Latin as the owl:
strix, plural striges, later the Italian strega, "witch."
To the Algonquin Indians, the owl was a bird of death and of the winter, creator of the north wind.
To the Babylonians, hooting owls were ghosts of women who died in childbirth,
calling for their offspring. The time-honored connection of the midwife Goddess
with owls may have contributed to this idea.
In medieval times the owl was sometimes called Night-hag, like the daughters of Lilith
who had been reinterpreted as demonic succubae. Female spirits with owl wings were
feared as potential kidnappers of infants: another manifestation of the mother ghost.
Christian legend insisted that the pwl was one of "three disobedient sisters"
who defied the Judeo-Christian God, and so was transformed into a bird that could never look at the sun.
(Actually, owls' vision is keen in all conditions of light and dark though.)
Attributing to demons is popular superstition in many places,
because of owl's noiseless flight and its ability to turn its head almost all the way around.
<<"The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols & Sacred Object" by Barbara G. Walker 1988 Harper San Francisco

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Japanese

死のイメージを持つシンボル

西日をひそめた空が
木々の梢でモザイクとなって光る・・
森はあたたまった息を呑み、冷気を吐きはじめる。
そして、今回の森とわたしの会話のはじまり。

Yoshiko: この時間ここに来ると、悠久の中に融けてしまいそう。

: 入ってくるときは、なんだか難しい顔してたね。

Y: 考え事があるといつのまにかここに吸い寄せられるみたい・・
地球語サイトを通じて知り合った米先住民の血を引く画家の友だちがいてね、
仮にニレさんと呼びますね。彼女のお話を今日は聞いてください。
ニレさんがまだ子育て中のころ、
やはり先住民でお年寄りの工芸家とフリーマーケットの彼の店で知りあったんですって。
彼をカササギさんと仮に呼びますね。
アートや先住民の知恵の話題を通じて交友が深まる中、
ある日、ニレさんは何の説明もなくカササギさんから
美しいフクロウの羽をプレゼントされたそうです。

そのあとでニレさんは、別の先住民から、
鷲の羽が活力を呼び覚ますシンボルとして多くの儀式に使われるのに対し、
フクロウの羽は死のシンボルとして所有者を死にいざなうという伝承を聞かされ、
焼いてしまうよう助言されたんだそうな。
カササギさんは長生きしてやりたいことがたくさんあると言ってたのを思い出し、
ニレさんは、彼女やその家族の命と引き換えに
自分が長生きするために羽を押し付けたかもしれないと、
恐怖を感じ、悩んだ挙句に、羽を焼いてしまったんだって。
そしてほどなく説明をもらわないまま、カササギさんは亡くなられたの。

: ふーむ、
鷲は昼間に雄雄しく飛び回るが、フクロウは暗闇で活躍する、
どちらも自分の生まれついた命のしくみに沿って懸命に生きてるだけ。
羽という物体そのものには、そんな呪いや魔力なんぞ備わっちゃおらんがね。
ヒトは、おかしな動物だね、
自分でシンボル化し意味付けして、しばられる・・

Y: わたしもシンボルを造る身なんだけど・・・
他の動物は、シンボルに恐れることはないの?

: そうだな、ひどい目にあったときに見た情景や音や感覚が
身体にシンボルとして焼きついて、
近い状況が起きると、反射的に怯えて逃げようとするよ。
動く命たちが何千万年も生き延びた間に育った備えだろうね。

ところが人間の場合は、
そういう恐怖ややすらぎのシンボルを意図的に演出する。
何も起きてなくても、シンボルでイメージを操作する。
個人が経験しなくても、代々かけて組織的に操作のしくみを強化する。
ことばや、その羽のような儀式の道具でイメージを呼びだしてね。

ニレさんは悩んだろうね。

Y: そう、
実際に彼女の周辺で肉親の死が続いた時期と重なったりして。
そんな話を聞いて、物に込められた不思議な力について考え込んでたの。

わたしの子育て時代にもね、こんな思い出があるわ。
ある日、密教寺の護摩焚きをスケッチに行ったの。
火を焚く祭主の修験者の衣の色がえもいえない深さだった。
それで行事のあと彼にその色について尋ねたことから、
肖像画を頼まれるなどの交友がはじまったの。
彼は、家族を抱えた半農半漁のありふれた暮らしから、
40歳のある日突然夢に導かれて、
近所の廃寺の不動妙王像を自宅に引き取り、
修験の道に転じたひと。
三十数年、毎日雪の日も頭から桶で井戸水を浴びる独自の修行を続け、
清めた身体を行者衣装に包んで、
救いを求めてくる人々に祈祷して暮らしを立ててました。
話してみると、知的教養は低く、俗臭芬々で、とても聖者とは思えない。
それでも彼の祈祷で、現代医学に見離された病気が治ることがあり、
口コミで信者は増え、古希をこえても変わらず身体に水打つ日々。

彼の行者衣装は、最初は純白の木綿だったのが、
洗濯を一度もしないまま行や祈祷のたびに着つづけ、
歳月と汗や火の粉で自然着色されたもの。
彼は、自分の命を水の中に投げ出すことで、
念力を積み重ねたこの衣が、人々の痛みを吸いとると信じてるようでした。
命を投げ出せるという一点で、わたしは感動しました。
彼の衣には、彼一代の歴史があるだけだけれど、
米先住民の儀式の羽とも通じる役割をしてるでしょ?

: ふむ、こちらの先住民のシャーマンは、
伝統や先輩の手引きに導かれながら修行を積むのだが、
その修験者は、我流で自分を痛めながら死を取り込めたんだね。

命ある個体はみな死ぬ。そして死が新しい命を生かす。
この当然のことをヒトはなかなかわからない。
わたしを見たまえ、万年もずっと生と死が循環する中にわたしはいる。
きみたちも、その一瞬の表にいるが、やがてまた陰に入り込む。
呼吸のように単純なこのしくみを、ヒトは見たがらない。
生だけの、片方だけしか観ず、光のあたるほうだけに世界を閉じて考える。
だから無理があってストレスをつくって病む。

いつもいうように、ヒトも自然の一部、個人の中を掘り入ってみれば、
わたしと同じ。誰の中にも光と陰があり、鷲もフクロウも棲んでおる。
地球とじかにつながって、その全体を感じるとき、
だれでも、解き放たれた幸せな気分になれる。
病むも直るも、安らかに生を終える力も、みんな自分の中にある。
ヒーラーやその道具や詞に直す力があるんじゃない。

ヒーラーは、身体の中の自然に気づかせ、
すなおになれるよう手伝っておるだけ。
しかしそれができるには、自ら死を抱えて生きてこそだ。
その修験者に救われた人は、修験者を見ながら、
自分の魂もまた水に打たれて死の淵を潜りぬけたんだね。

カササギが何を意図していたかは、ニレさんにとって問題じゃないんだ。
彼女さえその気になれば、フクロウの羽を自分の修行に使うこともできたと私は思うよ。
焼いてシンボルを消すというのも、その時の彼女にとっては手だっただろうがね。

Y: そうか、シンボルは、使い手の心があってこそ生きるものなんだ。
ところで、シンボルとしての詞って言われたけれど、その中に聖書なども入るのかな?
黙示録には、凄まじい終末のイメージが描かれていたりするの。
聖書を絶対的なものと信じる人々の中には、
今そんなふうに世界を終わらせようと図るリーダーもあると聞いたんだけど・・

: ハハハ、「あの家族、フクロウの羽を持ってるから
死ぬのを手伝ってやろう」というのと同じだね。
何度も凄まじい断末魔状態に合いながら、新しいハーモニーをみつけては
這い上がってつづいているのがこの地球自然なんだよ。

そして、個々の身体にも同様のことは起こる。
事故で両目を無くした人が居るとしよう。
それまでの目に頼る世界が正当なものと考えるかぎり、
彼は、事故やその後の自分の体を恨み、命の終末へ飛び込もうとする。
しかし、彼が、これまでとは違う新しい命を授かったのだと観方を変えるなら、
新しい発見で身体が蘇りはじめる。
すべての器官が、世界を感じるために新しい力を絞り、
協力し、響きあい、彼に元気をもどす。
目で見ていた以上の美しささえ、彼は見はじめるかもしれない。

ヒトはたぶん大昔から、自然のこのすばらしい備えに気づいていたんだね。
そして、実際に死や災害を体験するかわりに、
それをシンボルに置き換えて、そこから立ち上がることをイメージし、
身体や社会のハーモニーを保ってきたんじゃないのかね。

シンボルを文字通りに見、詞の語句にこだわるのは愚かしい。
自然は刻々と変化する。
変化の中でイメージの底にある真実を汲まなければ、
シンボルは危険をもたらす道具にすぎなくなる。

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