Monthly Poem and Pictograph in EL
and about spiritual world in the Hitomaro's era (December 2005)

. . . .
This is an EL (Earth Language) experimental page to enjoy
the image of a haiku/short poem originally in English/Japanese.
When you can't see the Japanese parts, please don't mind and just skip those parts.

The year 2005 is going to finish. What was your 2005 like?
For this time, how about shaking our souls by imagining the ancient world,
when Kakinomoto-no Hitomaro flourished (the end of the 7th through the beginning of the 8th century in Japan)?
An essay follows after the Hitomaro’s Tanka translations.



Original Japanese Tanka by Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro

The original sound:
hingashi-no no-ni kagiroi-no tatsu-miete kaeri-misureba tsuki katabukinu

English translation:
in the east on the hills, dawn light rises,
and the moon is going to set on the other side

EL translation:

{ preposition, upper direction} : above (〜の上に(の)
  { ,}: east (東)
{ { nature, swollen}: mountain, small}: hill(丘)
(grammatical symbol): the subject indication mark (主語表示記号)
(a picture-like compounded ideogram): light (光)
{preposition, time, back}: before (preposition) (〜の前の)
{ sun rising time}: morning (朝)
: verb mark meaning that the  subject becomes in the condition shown by the following character/phrase;  or the subject does the following action (動詞符)
: existence, be (在)  : appear (現れる)
(grammatical mark): conjunction "and" (そして)
: (grammatical symbol for prepositions); to show the following ideogram(s) modifies the front word or the predicate in the sentence (前の語またはその文の述語を修飾していると示す前置符)
{ opposite, { abstract concept, (facing to)}: direction (方向)}: opposite direction (反対方向)
(sometimes circle/a half circle ...) (a picture-like ideogram): moon (月)
{ verb symbol, heading to}: be going to (今にも〜しようとしている)
{ space,}: sinking sink (vi. with gd )(沈、D動詞:沈む)

Spiritual World in the Hitomaro's Era

According to the book “The theory of early Man-yo” by Shirakawa Shizuka (2002, Chuko-Bunko 857), Hitomaro (late 7th –early 8th century) was a poet, who served for ceremonies of the royal family; and this is the third Tanka (short poem) of one of his masterpieces: “The poem of the winter hunting in Akino wildness” including a long verse and four short poems. These verses were not for just private sketching of a hunting event, and also had the ceremonial and magical purposes.

In Japan, the paternal succession system for Tenno* is continuing since the beginning of recorded history. In 686 (in the western calendar), The Sumerogi (ancient word for Tenno), Temmu passed away. Soon his son, prince Kusakabe died also. So Temmmu’s wife became a middle reliever Tenno Jito to wait for the growing of her little grandson Karu (later Sumerogi, Mombu). This winter hunting was the initiation ceremony for Karu to be the succession prince when he was eleven years old.
(* Tenno is often translated into Emperor in English, but I think it’s not the proper word for it, and use this Japanese term as is.)

As most of the ancient world had a ceremony to shake and renew spirits of lives usually around the winter solstice when the sun became the weakest, the ceremony to take over Sumerogi was also traditionally held in this season staying up all night. This hunting ceremony was for the consolation requiem for the Kusakabe’soul and for Karu’s succession from his father in the Akino wildness where Kusakabe had used to hunt. In the ritual, they stayed up all chilly night to pray concentrating into their ancient time. At the break of dawn, the succession was done; this Tanka expresses that moment. The moon was going to set symbolizing the leaving of the late father’s soul…

The author Shirakawa tells that collecting wild grasses to cook and eat was also a kind of magical ritual as well as staying all night in the wildness in this era. The theory solved my questions why a Sumerogi stayed out at night and picked grasses in some Tanka in the Man-yo poem book. Also I recognized how meaningful the Sumerogi customs were in Japanese culture.

I’m still appreciating to eat wild grasses, starting from my starving childhood after WW2. The custom saves my economy to continue the EL project, but it’s not the only reason. When picking grasses sprouted out of the earth, and tasting each particular flavor, my heart is filled with appreciation of mercy of the nature. Differently from commercial vegetables; also I feel like thousands of years flow into my body with them.

I only have a few experiences of staying up under the night sky. In wildness when only moon and stars are the sources of light, I was very sensitive for a dim sound and scent. Lying still with those senses, I felt like my soul was floating in the eternal space far from the daily life, forgetting life or death, as if I had been there thousands of years ago too.

Even a person of today feels that way; in the seventh century, why couldn’t the practices of picking wild grasses and staying out at night be magical methods to be away from personal interest and to contact with far/late love’s/ancestor’s soul or infinite nature? I believe that these customs had been practiced for thousands or tens thousands of years among human beings; and humans could survive by sharing that eternal dimension and connecting to the origin of their lives in their souls. An important ceremony of old Japanese shrines even now makes the ritual fire by rubbing between wooden pieces. This practice also recalls us the origin of human creation. Also the present Tennno family is raising rice and silk worms in the ancient ways in the courtyard every year as important ceremonial practices.

Thus Tenno (Sumerogi) was the existence to practice old traditional ceremonies to connect with the origin of being to play Nature for people’s harmonious lives. Therefore 125 generations of one blood family could have kept their position. Unlike the English culture that has always sought frontier, Japanese culture has kept the consciousness to touch with the origin, I think.

In Japan, they have discussed about making changes in Tenno’s paternal succession law or not, because the family has no male direct descendant. But I think it must be the first thing to clear the historical meanings of the Tenno tradition both inside and outside of the nation before deciding the succession way. The translated word Emperor makes foreigners easily think that Tenno has mighty power. Japanese people were also cheated into that way in their history. I read a theory about the importance (?) of keeping clearness of the original Tenno’s Y-chromosome. But I guess ancient people more trusted to intuition. In the succession ritual like above, imagining spiritual combining with an opposite sex might not be easy, that’s why the paternal succession might become the tradition.

In ancient times, explorers drifted against the Japanese islands from the west and south over the ocean. It was needed to unite various peoples into a nation to build a new stable country. For that, sharing the consciousness of the origin of lives must be effective; also it has supported to sustain people’s lives in the limited lands. Contrary to it, Native Americans were in the huge continent, while having the similar culture: they have respected the original spirits of each land and each other’s also. So the tradition had kept hundreds of tribes without big wars. After being invaded, even now, they appeal for world peace standing on their tradition. Recently I was thinking like that while joining in their Peace Walk touring Ohlone shell-mounds and sacred places.

By Yoshiko McFarland
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白川静著の『初期万葉論』(2002 中公文庫857) は、著者の中国古代文化の知識とさまざまな万葉文献とを照らしながらこの歌の背景を明かしています。これによると、人麻呂は皇族のおそばで儀式を支える詩人でした。そしてこの歌は、長歌と短歌4からなる「安騎野の冬猟の歌」中の3番目の短歌で、それは単に催しを詠んだ私的な表現ではなく、次のような儀礼歌だったそうです。









大陸や海から到着した多人種の吹き溜まりだった古代日本の国家建設には、多様な民を一つに結び同化する必要がありました。それには、いのちの源に共につながる意識を深めるのが効果的、またそれは、後世狭い国土の平和維持を支える芯にもなりました。比べて、アメリカ先住民は、広大な大陸にあってもこれに似た束ねのしくみをもち、それぞれの大地に染み込んだ部族の祖霊に敬意を払いあうことで調和を保つ伝統を築いていました。そして侵略された今もその伝統を踏みしめながら世界に平和を呼びかけています。最近私は アメリカ先住民の聖地と貝塚を訪ね祈る平和Walkに参加し、彼らとともに歩き祈りながら、こんなことを思いめぐらせたのでした。

By Yoshiko McFarland

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