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Monday, May 7, 2018

Dōsojin And The Road Oft Traveled

Dōsojin are travelers guardian deities enshrined at village boundaries and mountain passes. 

They are placed there at the side of a road in an effort by the village to ward off evil spirits and to stop any epidemics from entering. 

The dōsojin are usually carved stone mini monuments with a pair of figure carved on them--a male and a female--usually holding hands.

Of course, the representation of the dōsojin changes from village to village, as they don't always have a sculpted couple... sometimes its a rock hard phallic symbol (yes, a penis... sometimes with testicles)... other times they are slabs with the word "dōsojin" written on them, and other times they are round stones with no wording or sculpture. 

Travelers along the road would stop and provide a short prayer to road kami (spirit) that the Shinto-believing folk liked to believe lived inside the stone. 

The dōsojin deity representations are contained within shrines known as hokora... the stone upon with the dōsojin sits, or is encased. 

And, to show that cultures, no matter how far removed from each other seem to have similar beliefs,
Chimata-no-kami (岐の神, the god of crossroads), according to the Kojiki (古事記, "Records of Ancient Matters" or "An Account of Ancient Matters"), was born when kami Izanagi threw away his trousers to wash himself after returning from Yomi, the land of the dead. 

By similar beliefs, I meant the whole god of the crossroads. In western cultures, a crossroads can be used to summon a demon in order to broker a supernatural deal.

Why would it be important for the events to occur at a crossroads? I don't know. Why is it that we feel that when we have to make a big life-changing decision do we feel that we are at a crossroads? 

I'm at one right now.

Then again, one could state that every time we do what we do and make any type of decision, we do so at a crossroads which take us farther along our route of life. Simply deciding to sleep in for an extra five minutes could get you fired from a job, or it could help you avoid a car accident on the highway, etc. 

And, if you think such things are all hoodoo voodoo or peasant pagan beliefs, many religious folk carry a St. Christopher's medal with them... as St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at top from It shows a dōsojin in Kamakura. Photo by Schumacher.

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