Kodoku, japanese witchcraft


Despite the popularity of this country, much of its religious culture and folklore is totally unknown in the Western world. Perhaps one of those branches is that of magic, which can be seen partially drawn in many books, in manga and anime, but to which at the moment of truth not much attention is paid. Magic in Japan does not necessarily have a negative link, rather a positive one, but it was branded superstitious and even prohibited in the 19th century, surviving hidden in religion. The most common name given to Japanese esoteric culture is onmyōdō, although according to authors such as Pang (2015), in Japan, magic, closely related to the entire esoteric and religious culture of China, could be brought together under the name of jujutsu, this was not It takes away from the fact that the different purposes of magic could be separated and identified in the manner that Ichiro (1968) did, in five groups: the magic of omens, of divination techniques, of superstitions and taboos, of black or malefic magic and elemental magic. On this occasion, we will focus on a specific case of magic, which can be called witchcraft from the Western concept of a malevolent intention, the kodoku.

Kodoku has its equivalent in magic called Gu or Jincan, from China, focused on the development of poisons, later identified with spiritual poisoning or will and possession, that is, with the control of the bewitched by these means. It is difficult to specify whether the person who performed this type of malevolent magic was mostly men or women, although negative female examples abound, perhaps because in China it was also common to believe that those affected were mainly men who had gone to war. This contrast, however, with the idea of ​​high pay and knowledge of reading and writing.

The kodoku, also called kodō, kojutsu or fuko, is explained by its own etymology, related to toxicity and insects such as worms, snakes, spiders, toads or scorpions. This technique was popular from the 7th century, that is, from the Tang Dynasty in China and the Japanese Nara and Heian periods, until it was banned and condemned around the 14th century. Even today in certain regions of southern China and Japan, in areas such as Shikoku, family trees are reviewed, following superstition, to prevent the engaged or contracting parties from having a "mochi" relative who practiced this type of black magic.
The main ritual of the kodoku, as well as its Chinese counterparts, consisted of enclosing a group of insects or other poisonous animals, such as snakes, scorpions, spiders, etc., in a jar or box, without feeding them, so that they were killed and devour each other. The last one left, therefore, collected in itself all the energy and hatred of the rest, becoming very powerful, as well as its toxicity was increased.

For the last one who survived, there were different destinations: among the most popular was to bewitch him and feed him so that his poisonous power would attack the enemy whom he wanted to conjure. Sometimes, it was understood that the food of the survivor was the energy of the conspirator. The fact of stopping feeding it brought dire consequences for the sorcerer, since the survivor's energy would turn against him until he rewarded him by multiplying his favors, in some cases, even economically or through liberation.

Curiously, one way to get rid of a curse of this type was to find the culprit and free the animal, or leave it inside the boat along with a lot of money, gold or jewels on the side of a road. It is understood that this money was a claim so that whoever found it and took it, would also take the curse with them. Going to a priest, exorcist or medium, or an onmyōji to identify evil and purify it is also liberating. The death of the animal, of course, was also an instant remedy.

A second option was to kill the surviving animal to use its body or fluids within as part of poisons or potions, intended for the physical, mental and spiritual discomfort of the enemy towards whom the evil arts turned. Parasitic ointments could be created that caused plagues in crops and deadly diseases to humans and livestock, but they also served to create love philters, to obtain someone's favor, wealth or power, and for the witch himself to protect himself and avoid any evil, and a long etc. It should be noted that sudden illness has always been taken in most cultures as a clear sign of being under a spell.

The remedy in these cases of physical illness, medicinal remedies were used, but also homeopathic, looking for predatory animals of those with which the poison has been made to create an antidote.

The third option was to kill the animal and turn it into a magical object, fetish or amulet, which could be carried or hidden for rituals. The spirit of the animal, full of hate, poison and power, could manifest itself in the form it had in life, or also directly possess the individual who is bewitched, forcing him to comply with what his master required, or perform acts of his nature. animal, not humans, which can alert about its possession. Due to the infestation of objects, it is identified with the tsukimono, spirits that possessed people and sometimes objects, such as the jatai, the obi or kimono belt, which was said to be used by jealous witches to strangle their ex-lovers or enemies while they slept.

As an explanatory point, the nature of the aforementioned tsukimono was varied, since here we find what in the Western world we call "relatives" within the world of magic, and which are called shikigami, as entities invoked for a specific purpose. , who could also own objects. Among the tsukimono could be found pets or kitsune -folkloric foxes with transformation abilities- and other yokai or spirits that helped their master or magician whom they served, often possessing objects or taking the form of the person, animal or thing that the master or magician served. owner needed for his purposes. However, these spirits could also be completely independent, and carry out enchantments and possessions on a whim, with a much more folkloric and popular character such as stealing merchandise from a traveler or being allowed to spend the night in a human home.
The tsukimono were not necessarily associated with evil practices of witchcraft, but even so, to own one, to be a tsukimono-suji, meant to be in a higher social status, although marginal, commonly relegated to the link with some sanctuary, where that family tradition was continued. , and of which, as in witchcraft, the membership of the members is reviewed in the family tree, or cases such as those of the miko, Shinto priestesses very close to the religious treatment of mediums or shamans.

For the release of a spell in which a spirit is directly involved, people went/go to an exorcist or onmyōji, or to Shinto and Buddhist priests who can pray and conjure up that spirit and move it away from the person, freeing it. In the event that the evil amulet is located, its destruction leads to the end of the curse.

There is a well-known variant of kodoku or kojotsu in relation to the inugami spirit, literally a dog-god, which is the clearest example of the fusion between tsukimono and kodoku. It is the spirit of the dog that has also been subjected to the ritual of being locked up with others of its kind until it is killed and devoured. In this case, the neck of the surviving dog was cut and it was this that was used as an amulet or ritual element. The dog's head could be further enchanted if buried in a busy place, to add further fury to the spirit for relentless burial. This system meant that one could become an independent spirit if too much time passed before conjuring the spirit for personal service.

It allowed it to be invoked to request help, to harm an enemy, to find something or someone, to take on a real appearance or that of another person, in order to deceive someone, and also to be possessed to acquire their strength, health, vitality and power... however, the person could suddenly become rude, violent, dirty, among other doggy characteristics. Perhaps the most interesting point of this practice is the idea that a dog can turn against its master and therefore an inugami can attend to the sorcerer's pleas or ignore them, even attack him directly, as happens in more than one legend where the dog, in addition to the memory of his master, he also remembers the torture to which he was subjected for an evil and selfish interest.

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada - pietrocarracedo@gmail.com

-Clarke, Peter B. (Ed.) Japanese New Religions in Global perspective, 2000, Curzon Press, Richmond, Surrey.
-Ichiro, Hori. -Folk religión in Japan: Continuity and Change. Chicago University Press. 1968. Chicago.
-Richey, Jeffery L. (Ed.) Daoism in Japan: Chinese tradiition and its influence on Japanese religious culture. 2015. Routledge, NY.
-Encyclopedia of Shinto (online research-Kokugakuin University) https://k-amc.kokugakuin.ac.jp/DM/dbTop.do?class_name=col_eos