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Yokai in Folklore and Art

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Yokai is an umbrella term for the supernatural creatures of Japan. I find them endlessly fascinating and have decided to dedicate a separate post to links and information that may be of interest to those wanting to learn more about yokai. For general information about Japanese folklore I have a separate post here with additional links.

Yonaki Ishi or Night-crying Stones

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 In Japanese folklore, tales are told of yonaki-ishi or night-crying stones. These stones cry loudly at night and it is believe to be because they are possessed by a spirit, usually of someone who has been murdered and is seeking revenge.  'Night-crying Stone at Sayo Mountain Pass- - Utagawa Hiroshige, 1944. In one story, a pregnant woman is murdered by a bandit. She dies, but her baby survives. In an attempt to protect the baby, the woman's spirit enters a rock and proceeds to cry each night because of a desire to seek vengeance on her killer.  Yonakinoishi from the book Konjaku Hyakki Shui - Toriyama Sekien, 1780. The most famous night-crying stone can be found in Kakegawa. Image of a night-crying stone from 1929 book about Japanese geography and folk culture (via Wikipedia)

Vasilisa the Beautiful

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In the Russian fairytale 'Vasilisa the Beautiful,' Vasilisa is sent by her cruel stepmother into the forest to obtain fire from the witch Baba Yaga. She found a house with chicken legs surrounded by a fence made of human bones.  'Vasilisa at the Hut of Buba Yaga' - Ivan Bilibin. Soon after Baba Yaga arrived, flying in her mortar and pestle. Baba Yaga set Vasilisa a series of seemingly impossible tasks which she was only able to complete with the help of a magic doll that her mother had left her when she died.  'Vasilisa the Beautiful at the Hut of Baby Yaga' - Lily Seika Jones. Baba Yaga was impressed and agreed to help her. Vasilisa then returned home with the fire and once there it burnt her stepmother and stepsisters to ashes. 'Baba Yaga' - Ivan Bilibin.

Kitsunebi

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Kitsunebi (which translates as fox fire) appear as small balls of coloured light floating in long chains about a metre above the ground. They are often a sign that a fox wedding or demon parade are occurring. This strange phenomenon is caused by magical foxes who breathe out balls of fire and use them as lanterns to light their way at night. Humans can only see the lights, but the kitsune (foxes) remain invisible nearby. It is important not to follow these lights as they may be a trick, guiding the unwary towards a group of hungry yokai.   'Fox Fires on New Year's Eve in Oji' from the series 'One-hundred View of Famous Places in Edo' - Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857.  'Scene of Foxfire (Kitsunebi) from the play Honcho Nijushiko' - Toyohara Chiknobu, 1898.

Folklore in Art

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Folklore, mythology and fairy tales have long been the subject for artists around the world. In this post I have started to collect some links and resources to explore. 'Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus' - John William Waterhouse (cropped)

Folk and Fairy Tales

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"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." ~ C. S. Lewis ~ 'The Fairy Wood' - Henry Meynell Rheam

Witches

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I've had a lifelong fascination with witches and this may have been one of the things that encouraged my love of folklore. In this post I have compiled a selection of links and artwork relating to witches in folklore, mythology, history, art and popular culture. The Magic Potion - Evelyn de Morgan, 1903. Folklore and Mytholog y 8 Famous Witches From Mythology and Folklore Witchy Folklore - Nifty Buckles Witches Folklore - Occult World 10 Scariest Witches Of World Mythology Witch Ball Folklore 10 Witch Gods And Goddesses From Around The World The Broomstick In Folklore: The Witch’s Ideal Transport The Witch Files: Going to Sea in an Eggshell Witches in Myth, Legends and Fairy Tales Witchcraft in Japan: The Roots of Magical Girls The Cunning Female Demons and Ghosts of Ancient Japan Hecate: Holding Court Over Ancient Greek Witchcraft, the Moon, and Ghosts 12 Most Dangerous Witches In World Mythology And Folklore Finnish Folklore: Louhi, Witch of the No

Cats in Folklore and Art

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There is something magical about cats. Perhaps that's why they are the most popular pet on the planet and feature prominently in the folklore, myths and artwork of so many cultures throughout time. Believed by many to have special powers, and often the companions of royalty or witches, they are mysterious creatures and hold a special place in our hearts. I've included below some links for anyone interested in exploring more about cats in folklore and art. 'Four Cats in Poses' - Utagawa Kuniyoshi Cats in Folklore and Mythology Cats in Folklore: Not Just a Witch's Familiar  - Icy Sedgewick Cat Folklore and Legends from Around the World 14 Legends About Cats From Around the World Cats and World Mythology Cat Magic, Legends, and Folklore Yokai.com Cats Black Cats Beware of the Cat: Tales of the Wicked Japanese Bakeneko and Nekomata – Part 1 Beware of Cat: Tales of the Wicked Japanese Bakeneko and Nekomata – Part Two Cats Throughout History: Tales of

A Benzaiten Pilgrimage

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My long awaited trip to Japan coincided with a fierce typhoon that passed over the country during my stay in the coastal city of Kamakura. As I lay listening to the wind howling outside and the shutters banging against the side of the house, I began to understand how it came to be that an entire region was convinced that a monstrous five-headed dragon was terrorising the coastline. From the relentless, wind-whipped ocean with waves crashing into the shore, to the ghastly winds that seemed intent on tearing away everything in their path, if ever I had sensed the presence of a dragon, it was that night. And so when I woke the next morning to find the house still miraculously standing and the sky now a clear, bright blue, I too felt a debt to the benevolent goddess Benzaiten, who must obviously have weaved her magic to placate the fierce beast. As promised by the locals, the majestic Mount Fuji that had been thus far obscured by haze was now clearly visible across the bay. A

Tengu in Folklore and Art

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In Japanese folklore, one of the most intriguing yokai is the Tengu. Considered by some to be a type of demon, and by others as a demi-god, the tengu can be found throughout the folklore and art of Japan. In this post you'll find: A quick overview of the two types of tengu Some information and photographs from Mt Takao and the Tengu Shrine Ukiyo-e art featuring tengu Resources and links for further reading about tengu

Japanese Folklore

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Japanese folklore is one of my favourite things and I have decided to gather together some resources and keep them in one place in case any one else is interested in exploring this fascinating topic. I am constantly reading and learning so will update this post as I discover more. 'Urashima Taro Returning Home from the Palace of the Dragon King' - Tsukioka Yoshitoshi Folklore Japanese Folklore and Mythology - New World Encyclopedia Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist and Shinto Deities, Creatures and Demons (Onmarkproductions) Japanese Mythology and Folklore Japanese Folklore: Fushimi Inari-Taisha and Kitsune Fox Legends  - Folklore Thursday Japanese Folklore of the Ocean - Folklore Thursday Uncanny Japan Sacred Trees, Shinto Shrines, and the Takasago Pine Story Lucky Rice Cakes and the Moon Rabbit Sea Demons, Pearls Divers, and Ise Grand Shrine Nekomata, cat myths and cat shrines of Japan 6 Things You Should Know About the Inari Fox in Japanese Folklore Jap

Dragons

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Dragons are one of the most enduring of mythical creatures and hold a special place in the hearts of many people. They have been present in the myths, folklore and art of a diverse range of cultures throughout time, and stories about them continue to this day. This post is primarily a collection of links to resources for those interested in finding out more about these amazing mythical creatures. Japanese Imperial Dragon Robe, Late 19th Century

Scottish Folklore

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Scotland is one of my favourite places in the world. To me, everything about it is magical. From the cobbled closes of Edinburgh to the misty and moody highlands, magic seems to hang in the air. In this post I've gathered together a list of links and resources for anyone interested in Scottish folklore. Glen Coe

Folklore of Cities

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I was reflecting recently on the type of content that had been shared during Folklore Thursday's cities and urban areas theme. It was interesting to me that there was a significant amount of folklore that was of the spooky kind. There were plenty of ghosts, hauntings and the supernatural. I pondered the reason for this, and for the eerie nature of a lot of urban legends. Now, I may be totally wrong, but I can't help wondering if it isn't the case that when a lot of people find themselves together in cities, somewhat isolated from the natural world, that the tone of tales also becomes rather unnatural. Things don't feel right when we isolate ourselves from the natural order of things.

Benzaiten

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Benzaiten, also known as Benten, is the Japanese goddess of all that flows, including water and rivers but also words, music, poetry, speech and learning. She originated in India as the Hindu goddess Sarawati and shares a lot of the same characteristics. Over time she evolved into a Buddhist goddess and is now included as the only female amongst the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. 'Benzaiten Seated on a Dragon' - Keisei