Ushi no Koku Mairi: the Japanese curse in the hour of the Ox


This Japanese ritual, which can be translated as "visiting the sanctuary at the time of the Ox", is a well-known curse (noroi, 呪い) for which even today kits can be found on the internet to perform it, although in the Western world, Like all Japanese witchcraft, it is barely widespread, partly because it strays outside the formal margins of Western magic rituals.

The ritual is based on sympathetic magic, that is, imitative magic, through the use of a straw figure (藁人形: waraningyo) that represents the person who must be affected by the curse. Inside this doll, or attached to it, there must be some element of the affected future, preferably a literal part of its body: hair, skin, nails, blood, saliva. This will be more effective than other items, which may also be valid, such as an object in your possession, clothing, or a photograph or paper. It is known that this type of rituals were common in Onmyoji since the Heian period (794 to 1185), since testimonies and other wooden dolls have been found, pierced with sticks or wooden nails. Iron was introduced soon after and its economic value was also transferred to its effectiveness in ritual magic.

The individual who practices this magic must dress as the ritual prescribes, with a white kimono and obi, and paint his face and arms also white, usually with makeup powder. On the head should be a trivet or tripod turned around, - in Japanese, gotoku (五徳) - on whose legs lighted candles will be placed. On the feet they must wear the traditional sandals with a single prong or support, called geta. A mirror should be placed on the chest - a sacred object in the Shinto religion -, on the back a dagger - thinking of defense at those ungodly hours -, and a comb between the teeth - there are those who point out that its use is simply preventive of speak or whistle With this appearance, one becomes, in some way, an oni (demon) or yôkai (spirit).

Finally, it will take seven long iron nails, gosunkugi (五寸釘) and a kanatsuchi or hammer to sink them. Every night, dressed as indicated, you will go to a goshinboku, the sacred tree of the nearby shrine - most, if not all shrines in Japan, have at least one sacred tree, where a protective kami lives. Trees are considered paths between the human and divine worlds, so that when performing the spell on them, one is intervening between both worlds and allowing the passage of the spirits that can fulfill the curse. In said tree the straw figure will be nailed with an iron nail, preferably in the invisible part of it, and to the left. This must be done at the time of the Ox, that is, between one and three in the morning. Formerly the hours in Japan were divided into twelve periods that took the name of the zodiac animals. Well, this ritual will only have an effect if it is performed at that time. It is said that at that time the oxen wake up and go to work in the fields, and also the time when spirits and witches roam freely. Some point out that the appearance of an ox, whether real or spiritual, near the place where the curse is being carried out, is an unequivocal sign of its proper development.

The orientation when nailing the doll must be to the northeast, the cosmological direction of the ox according to oriental esotericism, but it is also a direction considered unlucky, since it is the path that demons follow to reach the human world. Thus, you must go as many nights in a row as nails are going to be used, and stick one nail each time, usually the last one in the head. It is said that with each nail the bewitched person will accumulate more pain and/or misfortunes, until the desired greatest misfortune is fulfilled, which is usually the death of the enemy, and that must have been said "out loud" -as much as the comb of the mouth, or at least had them in mind, -while the nails were driven in.

The ritual must be done in complete secrecy and without being discovered, or the curse will be turned against whoever performs it. If someone discovers the magician or magician, they must be eliminated in any necessary way, although this responds more to the fact of protecting themselves from accusations of witchcraft than to a true ritual necessity. Probably the use of the dagger is also for this reason.

-The Legend of Hashihime

However, the price for performing this ritual is actually becoming an oni or kijo. The differentiation in oni or kijo is in the gender, since the properly feminine demon is known as kijo. The development of this curse was common among jealous women, and since it is not a closed ritual -because the important thing does not lie in the praxis, but in the hatred that is manifested in the simple fact of doing something similar- it was accessible. Even in the region of Uji, Kyoto, there is the well-known legend of the Heian period, that of Hashihime, also known as the Princess or Maiden of the Bridge on the river. Actually, Hashihime is a generic name that the protective divinities of the bridges received, since a bridge is a double path, the one you come and go by, the one you leave your home but the enemy can reach. There was a male counterpart, a Prince of the Bridge, precisely because of this duality, but finally water and femininity gained more popularity, until Hashihime's story centered as a Yôkai typical of the area. She anxiously and painfully awaited the return of her husband, who had supposedly left for the war, but not long after she discovers that he was seeing another woman. According to another version, Hashihime was simply a very zealous courtesan. In any case, consumed by jealousy, she visits a shrine, which some point to as the Kifune Shrine, where divination is carried out using sheets of paper and water. The woman stays there day and night, with the clear intention of obtaining a divine answer on how to take revenge for said infidelity. He wished he could express his hate, he wished he could kill. Kifune's own Kami, or according to others a priest who had dreamed of her request, approached her and revealed a curse very similar to the Ushi no Toku Mairi: she had to "transform" into an oni (Japanese demon) and remain for a long time. 21 days on the Kawase River, in Uji. To do this, he had to twist his hair, forming five or seven horns on his head, dress in red and anoint his arms and face with cinnabar, so that they would also remain red. On his head he also had to carry a trivet (three-foot brazier), lighting three torches on it, and carrying another two in his mouth. After the days have elapsed and the ritual is over, Hashihime becomes a spirit linked to the river bridge, where she will appear before the couples to cause them to break up, threatening them with death if they do not.

But there are also other famous shrines for jealous lovers, such as Jishu, also in Kyoto, where love divination rituals are performed, and Ikurei in Okayama, also a love tradition. Another common one is the Seimei sanctuary, consecrated to Abe no Seimei, one of the founders of esoteric doctrines.

-Modern Japanese Ritual

Today the ritual is much more popular than it was in the past, where witchcraft was much more feared and often taken for a literary device. The straw doll, the nails and even the makeup or the comb are commissioned for preparation and sale by an onmyoji, the Japanese sorcerer. This sale has intensified over the internet. However, the main problem faced by those who try this ritual today is that the waraningyo or straw dolls are commonly removed by the priests and guardians of the sanctuaries, so this step is replaced by a sacred or ritualized wood, usually made of Japanese cedar from shrines (because the sacredness of the shrine can extend beyond the limits of the gates and the torii, throughout the natural area that usually surrounds them).

In addition, these kits include a chandelier on which to rest and light the candles, instead of the gotoku on the head, and protective amulets so that the magician does not end up affected by evil forces, since, technically, only an onmyoji should be able to. perform the ritual with sufficient efficiency and tranquility. These amulets include a wooden Japanese nenju or rosary, similar to Buddhist mala, or a protective stone called reiseki, also marketed for its ability to attract spirits, but often sold to a larger audience with a battery. and a light that changes color if they detect a good or bad spirit nearby, detracting from its charm. The need for these protections is not due only to the skill of the practitioner, but because, in the same way that spirits are allowed to enter the sanctuary, when performing the ritual in a non-sacred place, what is done is "request" to the spirits to come, so it's not exactly the same and it's more dangerous.

The price of these kits varies depending on whether the buyer is going to perform the ritual himself or prefers an experienced onmyoji to perform it on his behalf, a much safer possibility, but obviously more expensive.

There are also many variants of this type of execration rituals, (for example, before the straw, a figure cut out or made of wood was used directly on which the face of the enemy was painted, make up the face of red-oni, in instead of white; or carry the nails in the mouth as if they were teeth, etc.) to adapt it to the needs and circumstances of each one, in the same way that this type of practice can be found in many other cultures, each one with its system: the Greek wax figurines whose use continues in Western magic, especially with the use of candles; Egyptian texts of execration, Roman definitions, Arab witchcraft with hair, gypsy imprecations and oaths, Haitian voodoo or the ligatures and restraints of current witchcraft. Examples of all of them can be found today and products intended for use by those who may be interested, and in all of them there is always a formula or element of protection. The greatest protection, however, is not to be found out. In many parts of the world, including Japan, being caught performing one of these rituals is prosecuted and can carry a considerable legal penalty, and in countries where there are no laws against these acts, they can be considered threats and premeditation.

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada -


-Alvarado, D. The Voodoo Doll Spellbook. A compendium in Ancient and Contemporary spells and rituals. Weiserbooks, San Francisco CA 2010.

-Jiménez Murguia, S. The Cursing Kit of Ushi no Koku Mairi. Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural. Volumen 2(1). Penn State University Press. 2013.

-Toriyama, Sekien. Guía ilustrada de monstruos y fantasmas de Japón. Madrid. Quaterni, 2014.

Related posts:
> Kodoku: japanese Witchcraft
> Greek Magical papyri (III). Subjugation practices
Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.