Hemp stalk prophecies in Japan
Posted by ampontan on Saturday, January 19, 2008
SOME PEOPLE SMOKE HEMP to get kaleidoscopic visions in their head. At the Itakiso Shinto shrine in Takayama, Gifu, parishioners cook hemp stalks in rice gruel to get prophetic visions of the year ahead. Maybe THC has some properties that modern science hasn’t discovered yet.
The Kudagai ceremony is conducted at the shrine every year on 14 January. Four young men cut the hemp stalks into six-centimeter-long pieces with diagonal slices on the end. The stalks are placed in kayu, or rice gruel, along with soybeans and azuki beans, and boiled.
After the mixture has fully cooked, the hemp stalks are removed and cut open. The four parishioners—who dress in kimono made of hemp for the ceremony—scrutinize the amount and the condition of the grains inside the hollow stalks and render that in drawings on pieces of paper. They use these drawings to divine events in the upcoming year. It is considered to be a particularly favorable omen when a large amount of azuki beans is found inside the stalks.
There are no reports, however, on what other criteria they use to make their determinations.
This year, the participants put together predictions for about 100 different subjects ranging from the weather and the crops to the results of the Beijing Olympics. According to their forecasts, the weather next winter will be typical, except Takayama residents should expect more snow than usual. They’re not very high on the harvest in the coming year, but the wild mountain vegetables should be plentiful. And Japanese athletes have a chance in the marathon, softball, and wrestling competitions during the Olympics.
I’ve heard about people getting loaded and giving tarot or I Ching readings, but putting out prophecies for agriculture and sporting events is a new one on me.
The Kudagai ceremony has been conducted for more than 600 years. The story goes that it was originally used to determine the amount and types of grain to be planted in the spring.
When they’re finished with the predictions, the four men eat the mixture and drink sacred sake, which is supposed to prevent illness in the year ahead. They probably won’t feel any pain for the foreseeable future either!
This year, the local Hemp Association for Local Industrial Use also participated in the ceremony. They made offerings to the divinities of paper made with hemp fiber and ink made from hemp stalks. The association is eager to use hemp products to provide a fillip to the local economy. The chairman said, “Due to prejudice and legal regulations, hemp products have fallen out of use in Japan, but at one time it used to be an everyday part of life. Using this environmentally friendly product will give the economy a lift.”
People come up with some remarkable ideas when they’re down to stems and seeds again!