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Monday, October 13, 2014

You Lucky B@$t@rd

It`s Canadian Thanksgiving Day today - October 13, 2014 - and to celebrate, since the weather has been so damn nice, earlier yesterday I decided to climb up and clean the rear eaves troughs around the house.

I knew it would be bad, because during a recent rainstorm, I happen to glance out a mid-floor window and saw that nothing was going down the spouts. Blocked.

So, I climbed up a ladder that informs me I am over the maximum safe limit for weight it can handle - 200lbs - and I`m 220 or 215 depending on how happy I was the night before.. but my luck held out, as did the ladder.

Up, up and up I went - a not to thrilling sensation for someone who doesn't want to die - believe it or not - and yet hates heights... even though I don't mind being in an airplane... and I cleaned it out.

I wish I had gloves for the job, but I cleaned out all the detritus, including 10 roof tiles that had come away from the roof and had perched themselves into the eaves troughs. Ten. So, my luck isn't holding out.

That`s 10 prospective places where I can expect a leak. Will my luck hold out? Ha! You know that old saying? "If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

I wasn't always unlucky. It seems to be a fairly recent trend, but back in Japan - I was either lucky or good, or perhaps a wee bit of both.

Hmm... perhaps one needs to make one's own luck... but gosh knows I've tried. Thing is... nowadays my luck needs to be spread out over three people, and not just upon myself.

In Japan, someone gave me a set of Japanese Luck God figurines. The Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神, Shichi Fukujin), but we just call them the seven Luck Gods. 

The seven Luck Gods are often depicted on their ship, the Takarabune (宝船), or "Treasure Ship." The tradition holds that the seven gods will arrive in town on the New Year and distribute fantastic gifts to worthy people. Children often receive red envelopes emblazoned with the Takarabune which contain gifts of money around the New Year. The Takarabune and its passengers are often depicted in art in varied locations, from the walls of museums to cuddly caricatures.

They are:
  1. Hotei (布袋), the fat and happy god of abundance and good health;
  2. Jurōjin (寿老人), god of long life;
  3. Fukurokuju (福禄寿 - fuku = "happiness"; roku = "wealth"; and ju = "longevity"), god of happiness, wealth and longevity;
  4. Bishamonten (毘沙門天), or just Bishamon (毘沙門), god of warriors;
  5. Benzaiten (Benten-sama) (弁才天, 弁財天), goddess of knowledge, art and beauty, especially music;
  6. Daikokuten (Daikoku) (大黒天), god of wealth, commerce and trade. Ebisu and Daikoku are often paired and represented as carvings or masks on the walls of small retail shops;
  7. Ebisu (恵比須, 恵比寿, 夷, 戎), god of fishers or merchants, often depicted carrying a sea bream.
As you can see, I have my own Hotei... I just found him hiding in between some LEGO containers. Where's my money? Oh yeah... poor, but content. Where's my content? Read that as you will.
Hotei, whose name means 'Sack Cloth' - a name that comes mostly because that's the bag he is usually depicted as carrying. Known also as the Laughing Buddha, he is what the casual Westerner thinks is THE Buddha of the East, but he's not. He's shown as the fat, bald man wearing a robe. He is seen as being poor, but content.

Jurōjin walks with a staff and a fan. He is depicted as an old man of slight stature, and by tradition, less than three shaku (approximately 90 centimeters (35-inches). He is depicted with a long white beard and often a very high, bald head. He has a scroll tied to his staff, on which is written the lifespan of all living things. The scroll is sometimes identified as a Buddhist sutra. The deer, a symbol of longevity, usually (but not always) accompanies him as a messenger, as do other long-lived animals such as the crane and the tortoise.

Fukurokuju - high forehead and all, but in this netsuke carving, he has a goat with him.
Fukurokuju was not always included in the earliest representations of the seven in Japan. He was instead replaced by Kichijōten (goddess of fortune, beauty, and merit). He is now, however, an established member of the Seven Lucky Gods. He is often confused with Jurōjin - They look similar, but Fukurokuju has an abnormally high forehead. The sacred book tied to his staff either contains the lifespan of every person on earth or a magical scripture. He is accompanied by a crane and a turtle, which are considered to be symbols of longevity. He is also sometimes accompanied by a black deer (ancient legends say a deer turns black if it is over 2000 years old).He is the only member of the Seven Lucky Gods credited with the ability to revive the dead. But, yeah... longevity - same as our boy Jurōjin.

Bishamonten is an armor-clad god of warriors and a punisher of evildoers – a view that is at odds with the more pacific Buddhist king described above. Bishamon is portrayed holding a spear in one hand and a small pagoda in the other hand, the latter symbolizing the divine treasure house, whose contents he both guards and gives away.

Now this is someone who is serious about their tattoo art! Benzaiten - just beautiful.
Benzaiten, is the only female of the group - I suppose someone had to cook and do laundry. She is often depicted holding a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute.
Daikokuten. Rats! There's no mice near him in this ukiyo-e print!
Daikokuten is a n easily recognizable image in Japan. He is depicted with a wide face, smile, and a flat black hat. He is often portrayed holding a golden mallet called an Uchide no kozuchi, otherwise known as a magic money mallet, and is seen seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby signifying plentiful food.

Ebisu - I wonder what he uses for bait?
Ebisu is also transliterated as Yebisu (ゑびす). This is the only Japanese Luck God that is uniquely Japanese, with the rest getting their start in older Buddhist traditions in China and India, where Buddhism originated. He is supposed to be slightly crippled and deaf, but mirthful and auspicious nonetheless (hence the title, "The Laughing God"). He is often depicted wearing a tall hat—the Kazaori Eboshi (風折烏帽子)—holding a rod and a large red sea bream or sea bass. Deaf? That explains a lot of things for me.

Anyhow... here's hoping that merely writing about the Seven Japanese Luck Gods earns me some luck. Lady Luck - come on down!

On the plus side, aside from being bit by some creepy crawling orange insect on my hand that was grasping the muck out of the eaves trough, causing my index finger to swell up a fair bit, I did not fall off the ladder or crash through the roof of my garage when I stood on it to clean off the dead branches that fell onto it from the 30-meter high dead tree beside it that I have to pay the city to take down... or, since I don't have the $3,000 they want, I have to hope I am lucky enough that it doesn't come crashing down onto the leaky roof... although... the insurance would then kick in and maybe take care of both issues.

That would be lucky, right? Riiii-iiiight.
Andrew Joseph

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