Asian Folklore and Myth

The Far East is where we go now. It always seems there is something new and fascinating to learn about Asia, and the includes the numerous myths and stories involved in their culture. Sections are devoted to each nation. Countries will be given their own pages as more information is published.

 

 

 

Ainu

  • The Ainu people were terrified of loved ones returning from the grave. The grandmother of the home was most feared, for they believed she could return with great evil. They used to burn their houses down after her passing.

 

Burma

  • Akathaso- An evil spirit that lives in trees.
  • Nat or Hmin Nat- Usually an evil spirit. All misfortune can be attributed to their interference. Some are regarded as guardians.
  • Natsaw- A wizard.
  • Leippya- The soul hovers near the body after death, as an invisible butterfly called the leippya.
  • If the lieppya wanders during sleep, a witch or demon may capture it. Fatal illness is sure to follow.
  • The Kachins of northern Burma believe a person with the evil eye has two souls, and the second soul causes the malevolent influence.
  • Seiktha- Forest spirits are the true demons, and can also be called nat. Other names for these entities can be Chiton and Wannein nat.
  • Seikkaaso, Akathaso, and Bommasao are spirit families in the jungle.
  • Every home has a number of spirits.
  • Many fear recently deceased family members.
  • A violent death guarantees the victim will haunt the area of their demise.
  • Ghost of women who die in childbirth are to be feared. The Kachin peoples believe they turn into vampires. If the child also dies, they accompany the mother.
  • Any disrespect or mockery towards the spirit world will result in horrific misfortune or death.
  • Women are exorcists, but are not permitted to officiate festivals of the guardian nats.
  • Weza- wizards. They may be positive or negative.
  • In the late 1880s, the most powerful wizards lived at Kale Thaungtot, beside the Chindwin River.
  • Noise is the universal method of exorcism. In cases of disease caused by evil spirits, the patient was beaten. Natives believed the possessing spirit could feel the pain instead of the individual possessed.
  • Tumsa- also called natsaw- are wise men and women who practice magic, divine, and advise on spiritual matters in private.
  • Than weza- the wise man who works primarily in iron.
  • Some female mediums claim to be married to nats, and will only have their power so long as they are married.
  • Training for exorcists is voluntary or obligatory.
  • Mediumship training is severe and exhaustive.
  • Much of the Burmese spiritual practices are governed by the Deitton.
  • The most effective tool for divination are the bones of fowls.
  • Pyatthadane- an ominous day, in Burmese astrology.
  • Bedinsaya- professional astrologers.
  • Hpewan- a Chinese system commonly found in Burma. It’s nearly identical to the Taoist astrological tables.
  • Burmese magic is sympathetic, and used primarily to fix problems. It was not believed to be performed for ceremonial purposes.

 

Bengal

  • Shout “Ram, ram,” to drive away ghosts.
  • Iron is a charm against ghosts.

 

China

  • One method of determining fortune in old China was through the use of numbered sticks. These were thrown up and “read” by a holy man. This was done three times before a solid answer could be determined. It is debated if this was where the game, “pick-up sticks,” or “jack straws,” came from.
  • If you have a question over your future, leave your meal unfinished. Hide your chopsticks in your sleeve and venture outdoors. Listen for voices. The first sentence in whatever conversation you hear will give you the answer.
  • Corpses can’t be taken through doors in prison. It brings misfortune. The deceased must be taken through their own opening in the wall.
  • Anyone who eats of the Shuimong plant will die immediately, and return as aa shui-mong devil. These devil’s can’t be killed or reborn, unless they find someone who is willing to take their place.
  • It is a “sin” to point at a rainbow.

 

Japan

  • If three people hang mosquito netting together, they will all see ghosts.
  • Japanese ghosts have long hair that hangs over their face. Spirits are usually tall and usually only partially manifest.
  • The Shelf of the August Spirits- In Japanese houses, it is an room in a house set apart for this purpose. A shelf is in the “spirit room,” that holds tablets bearing the names of deceased family members. This was a part of Shintoism known as “Home Worship.”
  • If you hang a bible on a key, and it turns towards someone, that is a warning the person is a thief.
  • Burglars of Izamo once used a rite to steal. They obtained a taraii and performed the ritual in the corner of the potential victim’s garden. He then covers the spot with the tarai, or circular tub boat. This was believed to force the home’s occupants into a deep slumber.
  • The devil hates dried peas and will flee from them. They were once thrown about houses to keep him from entering.
  • Devils are afraid of the holly leaf.
  • Devils fear the head of the iwashi fish.
  • If you nail holly and the head of the iwiashi to your doors, the devil can’t enter.
  • Girls who lose their betrothed to death are more prone to dabble in sorcery.
  • You can raise ghosts by placing 100 rushlights (similar to tea candles) into an “andon” (framed paper lantern), and repeating an incantation of 100 lines.

 

Vietnam

  • Bacoti- common name for augurs and sorcerers in Tonkin (also called “Tonqiun”). They were frequently consulted to communicate with deceased loved ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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