Reinvented Historical Divination

One of the earliest forms of divination in Japan, thought to have arrived with immigrants from the continent during the yayoi era (traditionally 300 BCe~250 Ce), is called scapulimancy (futomani). Although i have yet to find any girls using this method, which directs fire or heat onto deer shoulder bones or tortoise shells in order to produce cracks that can be interpreted to portend the future, i have found other ancient forms of divination reemerging in contemporary girl culture. My friend's daughter emiko often manipulates and admires some unique divination and magical objects she bought because of her interest in the legendary Heian era (794–1185) wizard or onmyōji (literally, yin yang master) named abeno seimei. Emiko, like millions of other girls and women, became enchanted with the figure of seimei after reading wizard novels and manga and then seeing a feature film about him. Female infatuation with seimei created an enormous boom in books, CDs, games, films, manga, anime, and toys (Miller 2008). Shinto shrines dedicated to the wizard also experienced an increase in the number of visitors, who came to pay respect and to buy newly designed amulets and charms.6

During several visits to seimei shrine in Kyoto (see figure 10.4), i had casual conversations with some of the girls and women who had made pilgrimages to its narrow but refurbished grounds. I talked to one young woman in the shrine's souvenir kiosk, where she had loaded up on many seimei goods, such as a music CD, a notebook, a cotton hand towel, and several cell phone straps decorated with the shrine's pentagram symbol and that she planned to give to friends. She related how she had never learned anything about seimei in school, and it was initially the novels featuring him, written by the science fiction writer yumemakura Baku, which she had read in the early 2000s, that sparked her interest in this Japanese-style wizard. Afterward she sought out anything having to do with seimei and was especially interested in any type of divination related to his craft. She told me his style of divination was attractive

Figure 10.4

Women and girls visiting Seimei Shrine, Kyoto

Because it was so ancient and mysterious. Emiko had traveled from tokyo with two friends and her aunt to visit the Kyoto seimei shrine a year before i spoke to her, and afterward she hunted for books and games related to the sorcerer. Similar to emiko, many girls and women have gained a renewed interest in forms of magic and divination associated with the Heian period wizard, including directional divination, use of scapegoat paper effigies for purification or to cast out bad energy, and taoist spirit writing on paper amulets. Several authors have benefited from this interest and tailored their books to include divination and magical objects that girls could cut out, assemble, and use in their own wizard practice.

One of the most prolific of these writers is Kuyōgi shūkei, who has produced several boxed sets that contain occult objects (Kuyōgi 2001, 2002). The Abeno Seimei Codes: The Wizard's Craft, Circumvention of Directional Taboos, And Charms for the Prevention of Bad Luck (Kuyōgi 2003) come packaged with two patterns to assemble divination dice, eight cards with images of taoist gods, templates for making paper effigies, taoist spirit writing papers to copy, and a feng shui compass. Other seimei-themed boxed sets have cardboard cosmographic divination boards included with them (taguchi 2002). Emiko has several of these boxed sets and appreciates the tactile participation in seimei fandom they allow her. The tactile and aesthetic appeal of the new forms of divination and how they are packaged are a few of the reasons this business has penetrated girl culture, yet critics rarely attend to these critical points.

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