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Posts Tagged ‘Hallowe’en’

Hallowe’en Redux

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We headed out with all the little ghosts and goblins last night.

A Christmas elf…

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and a big bad cowboy bank robber.

With a paper roll Smith & Wesson.

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Bad guys always possess a certain charm.

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whereas Santa’s elves are just funny looking.

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Post-collection the loot astonishes even the collector!

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An embarrassment of riches!

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And then — yee-haw! — the sugar kicks in!

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Perfect post-candy pre-bedtime exercise.

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And back at home, the perfect Montessori child must catalogue and sort.

A good year for Coffee Crisp and Smarties!

last

Still little and it’s still fun.

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Things that go BOOOOOO!

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Seasonal decorating is very exciting around here.

Liliana begs for  d a y s —  last thing at night or first thing in the morning — if we may  p l e e e e e e a s e  take the Hallowe’en decorations out of storage.

And out comes the tub, with its creepy bits and pieces, and the house transforms into one of imagination and (pretend) terror.

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Round about the cauldron go,

In the poison’d entrails throw.

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Fillet of a fenny snake

In the caudron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog.

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Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

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Double, double toil and trouble,

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Two days to go!

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Creepy Japan

Rick Newton and I taught English in neighbouring Japanese villages in the early 1990s. Following our tenure overseas, Rick returned to his home in Alabama where he now practices law, imports Japanese antiquities, and more recently, provides personalized tours of the traveller’s Japan.

Here Rick shares some particularly gory and grossed-out tales of ghostly Japan, in a charming intro to the last week of October.

In October 1990 I was living in a small mountain town in Hyogo Prefecture.  I write about this town in the stories “Etsuko” and “Enlightenment” (LetsJapan).

I was a middle school teacher.  It occurred to me that in the spirit of cultural outreach I should find a pumpkin and carve a Jack O’Lantern for and with the students.  My Japanese counterpart teachers (of English) liked the idea and a big pumpkin was found without much trouble.  I carved it in stages, in a hallway, throughout the school day as students gathered around, amazed.  When, towards the end of the day, the job was done and the candle was lit and placed just so in Jack’s now-empty skull, I gave a signal and the lights were extinguished in the hall.  Gasps rippled up and down the flock of students nearby.  They had never seen such a thing.

While that wasn’t that long ago, it was long ago enough:  Hallowe’en — with its origins dating back well more than a millennium with the Celts of Northern France and the British Isles, brought to America in fits and starts during the 1700s, popularized by Irish immigrants during the latter half of the 19th Century, and supremely commercialized in the States after WWII — is now a Japanese holiday, in the strictly commercial, kitschy sense.

"The Ghost of Koheiji".  Woodblock print.  Hokusai.  1830.

The Ghost of Koheiji, 1830

But ghosts and goblins have their own long tradition in Japan (as is the case in every culture).  Celebrated Edo Period wood block artist Hokusai (1760-1849) created a series of Kabuki-inspired “ghost story” prints around 1830, Hyaku Monogatari.

Above, the print The Ghost of Koheiji is based on an 1803 story-turned-kabuki-play by Santo Kyoden.

Koheiji was betrayed and murdered by his wife. So, naturally, he comes back from the dead to torment her and her lover by slipping under the mosquito netting around their bedding and joining and doling out horrific justice on them.

Below is one of the most famous, The Ghost of O-Iwa,  a woman murdered by her husband who came back in phantasmic form to haunt and exact bloody vengence on her loathesome husband.

The Ghost of O-Iwa. On the lantern is the Buddhist prayer, "Praise to Amitabha Buddha"
The Ghost of O-Iwa. Lantern writing shows the Buddhist prayer, “Praise to Amida Buddha.”

Going back a good thousand years into early Japanese Buddhist tradition are the tormented “Hungry Ghosts” or gaki. Gaki are the spirits of those whose lives were consumed with avarice, greed and narcissism (today’s “social climbers”) while leaving their humanity on the back burner (or no burner at all).

In death they were resigned to wander through — but never visible to –  the living world, all disgusting with their distended bellies, wracked with hunger and able to eat only the bowel movements of those in the corporeal world.  They are all around us today, in fact.

Quite the disgusting ghost story and morality tale, all rolled into one and very reminiscent to me of Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, where in death the Rich Man begs Abraham, “‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things and Lazarus in like manner received like manner of evil things; but now he is comforted and you are in anguish. . . ’” (Luke 16:24, 25).

"Gaki", or Hungry Ghosts. Late 12th Century.
Gaki  (Hungry Ghosts). Late 12th century.

After decades of bouncing from job to job and occassionally living in poverty, Lafcadio Hearn arrived in Japan from the U.S. in 1890 and began teaching Middle School in Matsue  –  a town not far from mine — and fell in love with Japan.  Hearn became one of the first Western “Windows on Japan” and Japanese culture through his books and essays on every day life, Japan’s educational system (which is not too different 100 years later) and . . . Ghost Stories he collected over his years living in Japan.  Note:  one of the world’s largest Hearn collections is located in the Rare Books section of the University of Alabama.

Just for this week I’m putting together (check back throughout today as it grows) a Gallery of Creepy Photos from Japan I’ve taken over the past couple of years.  Not all of them are “scary”.   Perhaps “bizarre” is the better word.  Note that several of them are, well, “cute”.  But cute can be bizarre, cute can be creepy, cute can be disturbing.  Just recall that next-to-last scene in Brazil . . .

Happy Hallowe’en Week.

You can visit Rick’s website at LetsJapan.

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