Protective Charms
May 13, 2018

Protective charms against evil spirits operate on the priciples of feng shui. There are a number of these charms thoughout Okinawa which are placed in locations where evil spirits are known to exist and which deliver shaaqi (death energy).

ISHIGANTO

small stone tablet fixed to walls or fences typically at T-intersections or three-forked junctions. Ishiganto are believed to prevent evil spirits from entering nearby homes or other structures. The three characters that compose the word ishiganto hold the power to "soothe the spirits" (according to Samurai Archives) thus fending off their evil intent.

The first character ishi means "stone".
The second character gan translates to "daring".
The third character tou means "to strike".
Personally, I don't find those three words "soothing" but that's the way the story goes!

The belief began in China spreading to Japan via Ryukyu. Ishiganto can be found as far north as Aomori prefecture, though they are by far the most numerous in Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures. Some accounts relate that the earliest ishiganto was erected by a governor of a district within Fujian province (China) in the year 770, but the true origins of the practice are unclear.

I bought one, between a couple of shisa, a few years ago. Click the image to see my page about the subject.

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SHISA

Derived from Chinese shisa (shishi in Japanese) they are a pair of "lion-dogs"; figures that are typically placed upon a fence or stone wall. Very commonly a single shisa statue may be found perched upon a roof. Like the ishganto, the origin and mythology of shisa harken back to China. It is said that a horrible creature called Nien was wreaking havoc and terror among the Chinese and no human being could defeat it. In time a lion succeeded in slaying the creature. Some time later "Nien" returned and the country folks created a ferocious-looking statue of a lion-dog and that scared the creature away.

When properly paired the shisa are distinguishable by their open and closed mouths. The open-mouthed figure is on the right and represents welcoming while the closed-mouth figure on the left represents a barricade to unkind or evil spirited entities.

I have a little more on the Shishi HERE.

HINPUN

A hinpun is a short stone (or sometimes wood) wall that blocks direct access to a home. In days of old, and even in many cases today, Okinawan homes were surrounded by high stone walls with a gate to the front. Looking in through the gate one sees the hinpun strategically positioned so as to block one's view of the house. A very practical purpose is simply for privacy as the hinpun doesn't allow anyone to peer straight into the house.

Another purpose is to discourage spirits with malevolent intent. It is believed that spirits are capable of going in only straight-line directions, unable to negotiate turns, bends or arced paths. They can't go around or over an object other than in a straight line. So, with a properly placed hinpun at a proper height a spirit might be able to get into the property but not into the home.

This is a photo that I took at the Nakamura House back in 2015 that shows a hinpun inside the entrance gate to the property.


Click on image to see full-size

These three defenses - Ishiganto, shisa and hinpun - against evil were introduced to Ryukyu by way of Kumemura, the community of The 36 Families - Chinese citizens who emigrated from China and settled in the Ryukyu kingdom in 1392. They established their community in Naha near the Shuri Castle. The families were comprised of scholars and diplomats (yukatchu) whose job it was to be involved in diplomatic dealings with China, Japan, Korea, and other nations in the region. They also had tremendous influence on Ryukyu culture and through their presence they facilitated much to the sinification of the kingdom.

SHIMENAWA


Brought back from Okinawa
and is now in my tatami house
Made with rice straw (or hemp) and paper, the shimenawa is a Shinto device that is believed to ward off evil. A space bound by shimenawa often indicates a sacred or pure space, such as that of a Shinto shrine. Shimenawa are believed to act as a ward against evil spirits and are often set up at a ground-breaking ceremony before construction begins on a new building. They are often found at Shinto shrines, torii gates, and sacred landmarks. They are also used around yorishiro (objects capable of attracting spirits, hence inhabited by spirits). These notably include certain trees, in which case the inhabiting spirits are called kodama, and cutting down these trees is thought to bring misfortune. In cases of stones, the stones are known as iwakura. A variation of the shimenawa is used in sumo wrestling by yokozuna (grand champions) during their entrance ceremonies to denote their rank. This is because the yokozuna is seen as a living yorishiro (formally shintai), and as such is inhabited by a spirit.


2018 Contact: ClickOkinawa.com