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The Occult of the Rising Sun

Every region has its own bestiary. Although America may not be rich with its own mythological creatures, that doesn't mean they're not useless (or interesting) to learn about. In a part of the world whose civilization was started more than 1,000 years ago, it's inevitable that some imaginative explanations for occurrences were put forth. Science may have proven some of their existances as questionable, but that doesn't stop the traditional spirits and such from making cameos in popular media.
We'll begin the tour with the infamous "Oni". Most people familiar with the Japanese culture will have seen the oni at least once. The oni are basically the equivalent to the Western ogre or troll - they even carry the club and have horns. They are all around the Japanese culture. They still appear regularly everywhere in Japan. They have been used as metaphors for strength and used as reasons for some disasters (which is strangely international in its usage). Japanese superstitions attempt to drive out the presence of the oni and usher in good luck for themselves and their families. They're usually illustrated as fierce and intimidating with an iron club with red or another unnatural shade of complexion. There are even female oni called "hannya". These hannya, however, are not necessarily born as demons. They become deomnic due to an overpowering jealousy and they resemble their male counterparts with sharp horns on their forehead and pointed fangs. The hannya are definitely not the most beautiful either, as their face is supposed to portray their extreme vengeful or jealous feelings.

One of the more interesting monsters is an old umbrella brought to life by its misuse. The "karakasa" is depicted as an oriental style umbrella with one large eye, a disturbingly long tongue, and a leg instead of a shaft. In place of the handle, is a foot wearing a wooden sandal (geta). The reason the karakasa is famous is because it does not particularly search for revenge. The usual portrayal of such a strange monster has it hopping about and doing as much an umbrella with one eye and leg can do. These tsukumo-gami, or creatures derived from artifacts, are all interesting to think about - what if your old, neglected sandals came back to take revenge upon you? The Hari-Kuyou is a festival that takes place in February that attempts to console these sad, used items so that they don't wake us up over our beds with a knife in their hand (or tongue maybe in the karakasa's case).

Theatre in Japan made a profound mark in proliferating the myths around the country in ancient times. The ornate, meticulously crafted masks that depicted the beings over 400 years ago have been reproduced faithfully and allowed modern times to view the myths. Arguably more famous than the oni, the "tengu" and "kitsune" (fox) can be seen even across the seas. The tengu masks are usually created with red skin, and a long nose. They sometimes have menacing, golden eyes and often have flowing eyebrows as well as a moustache and beard combination. There is speculation on the tengu, though. Restaurants may display their masks to ward off spirits - some believe that the tengu are protectors of the righteous. Other people believe that the tengu are mischevous dieties that fly around the mountains creating problems for its inhabitants. By doing a simple image search of "yamabushi" (moutain warrior-priests) it will come up with their wardrobe. A variant of the tengu has a beak in place of a mouth. Both forms are known to fly and carry a fan of feathers that can create tempests. However, tengu are generally believed to work for the good guys. The kitsune, on the other hand, is mostly a tricky creature. Their presence usually means some sort of illusion is being seen or is about to be created. The actual animals themselves supposedly hold lives that nearly mirror those of the humans they can shape-shift into. They are able to learn and acknowledge each other. Beautiful women are usually what the foxes transform themselves into - so watch out.

These are some good ones to start off, but there will be more to come. The lexicon of Japanese mythological creatures is vast. Research some of these on your own and be enlightened, good people!