Personal Demons (?)

   Nah, nothing like that, I don’t have much from my past that may haunt me. No dead dogs… OK, a dead cat, my first one, I loved her and I watched her die. The truth is, there are some things that may still linger in the back of my memory, I just sorted them out and decided not to cry over them. I won’t change the past, I don’t have the time-travel machine, I can’t fix what has been broken long time ago and all I see now it’s just some pieces. Of course, even though I got rid of all “what if” thinking from my life, there is still this bon’yari shita fuan, as Akutagawa once said. But “what if” thinking leads to nothing, leads to blind alleys, leads to guilt. It’s better to regret doing something than regret not doing something. And most of all, do not regret anything. Pain? It is inlaid in our life pattern, and all feelings are just right. Love, hate, remorse, humility, pride, fear, boldness, devotion, betrayal (wait, I wrote about Queen Seondeok, right??).
Demons I intended to write a bit are just those existing in the minds and literature world.
As some may know, this is my field of research.

Some may say: “Ah, demons, it’s so cool and trendy!”. The reson is different, more prosaic. I started my studies as culture-oriented freak, wanting to know nothing more than every centimeter of Ashura statue and Asuka/Nara period. I finished my studies as a literaure specialist. On the paper. Deep down I still longed to be this culture freak. I somehow managed to maintain my interest in this period of Japanese history, which, with time, shifted towards the Korean Peninsula. I kept the interest despite my hatred towards my studies and everything “Japan-related”. That is why Korea came just in the right time, as some filling of the void. Now, I’m trying hard to change my profession from Japanese Specialist to Korean Specialist. But I guess I will stay as Far East Specialist.

Anyway, demons… So, I fell in love with Akutagawa’s works after (no, no Rashomon, no In the Grove) Bisei’s Fidelity. After that I started to read everything (lucky me, bungo and Japanese^^), and as I wrote earlier, I have something for men born as Pisces. 
I don’t like Japanese literature, but I love Akutagawa. It’s because, even though he took his material from ancient Japan, his style was definitely European, pan-human. So naturally, I became familiar with Konjaku Monogatari. I wrote my disses on one book from this huge compilation of anecdotes. Book on demons.
I mean, in Nara/Heian period, there were some demons you could not even imagine. And the strange thing is – some stories are treated as the truth, and some are written with sarcastic remarks at the end.

There is 45 stories in this 27th book.
  There are demons, like usual demons, from Hell, sent by King Emma to capture and torture the sinners. Those demons are known as ahou, and are described and pictured as ugly ogres with the cow head.
There are mysterious demons whose provenience is not even a once stated in the whole text. They like to kill and eat people’s flesh. They usually leave a head (that is, they don’t need any brain I guess).
There are evil spirits both of dead and alive.
There are the legends of the old parents that turn into demons that want to devour their own children.
There are demons who like to steal olive for lamps and fruits.
And there are spirits of very old households objects.

But there is also Nihon Ryouiki ahead of me.
And still, I’m a sculpture admirer after all. I’m Asuka/Nara period admirer still. Why? Because of contacts with Shilla, with Baekje^^
Pictures from: Gods of Japan from A-Z

About ethlenn

Just usual suspect
This entry was posted in Ashūra, Japanese, Korea, Shilla. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Personal Demons (?)

  1. peggybrad says:

    I am full of admiration for your intensity of thinking, let alone all the necessary reading.

    It is a fascinating field and I imagine it could be never ending. I thought Welsh legends and culture and 'things not to be talked about for fear of opening the door' (into…what???) were skin creeping. Howver these demons you mention have more nooks and crannies. I leave them to you.

  2. Ethlenn says:

    Oh Peggy, I didn't do anything to deserve being praised, really. I just wrote about my research field, in the form of a short sketch.

    But this is actually funny thing you mentioned. There is nothing like this proverb in traditional Japanese demonology. The concept of doors to Hell or Otherworld was always missing. Perhaps one of the reasons is Shinto and its lack of Otherworld? And I don't count those 6 thousands infernal soldiers and few witches from Hell as a real picturing of the Land with No Return. It's too little.
    I think “door” symbolism is more common in those cultures where door were actally used. (“door to my heart”, “door to wisdom” etc.) This is why Rodin made a project for those Door of Hell (based on Dante's Inferno), this is why all gothic cathedrals have portics that are stylized as doors.

    Japanese classical demonology is not as huge as, ie. Babilonian one or even European. There are of course some common traits in those (born out of the fear of the night, death or nature), but some of those demons or “appearances”, as I call them, are typical for Japanese, or maybe even Asian imagination.

    There was never any creature like western vampire, vetala, lilitu, mullo, strzyga (, baobhan sidh etc.
    Blood is one of japanese taboos, but (and this is one interesting fact), demons that harm people always leave after them a pond of blood.

    And that's all for now^^
    Thank you again, dear Peggy.

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