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Ohinasama and Oharai

The Hina dolls: a princess and prince on the top shelf, with three female attendants on the shelf below, and an ox-drawn carriage, palanquin, and treasure box on the bottom shelf. All the dolls are dressed for the Heian period.Today, we put up Mayuki’s Hina Matsuri dolls. These dolls are traditionally given to Japanese girls by their maternal grandmothers, and are displayed for the Hina Matsuri every year. The matsuri itself is on March 3rd, but you are supposed to put the dolls away on or around that date, so we put them up about a month in advance. We (with the help of Mayuki’s grandmother) bought them soon after Mayuki was born, and we have put them up every year, so that this was the tenth time.

Mayuki helped me to put them up, but when I told her that it was the tenth time, she drew her breath in sharply.

“That means there’s a curse! On the tenth, twentieth, and so on times that the dolls are displayed, they curse you.”

I have no idea where that idea comes from, but I had a solution. We would perform an oharai, a ritual purification, on the dolls. We borrowed a gohei (a wooden stick with two shidë, pieces of paper folded into lightning shapes) from the kamidana, and I recited the standard oharai norito while Mayuki waved the gohei to purify the dolls. She was satisfied that this would be sufficient to avert any curse.

“I wonder what it would have been?”

This is particularly interesting because the hina dolls have their origin in purification rituals. Originally, the owner’s ritual impurity was transferred to the dolls, and then the dolls were floated down a river or buried to take the impurity away. Although they are far too beautiful, and expensive, to throw away now, they are still believed to protect the girl in some way, and putting them away late is supposed to indicate that she will not get married early. (I don’t believe that sort of superstition, but still, there’s no hurry to tidy them up.)

I think I might well write an essay about purification rituals for the next essay on my Patreon. I have just released an essay about the Japanese Emperor, the Tennō, and his place in Shinto, so I need to think of the next theme.

1 thought on “Ohinasama and Oharai”

  1. Yes, I like the idea of an essay about purification rituals, especially if it includes an explanation of what the whole “ritual impurity” thing actually means…

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