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CCBlog — kotodama

The Japan we fail to see - Dynastic tables

Francesco Baldessari animism animismo Francesco Baldessari history japan kotodama magic religion travel

The Japan we fail to see - Dynastic tables

As soon ancestor worship kicks in, dynastic tables appear. The unenvied privilege of noble houses in Europe, detailed birth records going back many generations are a normal feature of family life in animistic cultures. To worship your ancestors you must know who they are. Things get very complicated pretty soon, so writing them down is indispensable. But here comes the interesting part. In dynastic tables nobody has an equal. Because of a combination of blood affiliation and age, everyone has a unique position. Consequently, this type of society has strong hierarchies, but weak interpersonal relationships. They develop complex language to...

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The Japan we fail to see, part two

Francesco Baldessari animism Francesco Baldessari giappone history japan kotodama travel

The Japan we fail to see, part two

Many of those who have been in Japan, even for decades, have never heard of ancestor's worship, or, if they have, like me until recently do not have a clear idea of what it is. It is therefore a sobering thought that the Japanese spend more time on ancestors worship than on all other rituals put together. ¥270 billion are spent every year on the altars used to the purpose. Chances are good that most of the Japanese you know practice it in a form or another. Nor is it just a quaint tradition. Ancestors worship reshapes societies that practice...

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The Japan we fail to see, part one

Francesco Baldessari Francesco Baldessari history japan kotodama magic science travel

The Japan we fail to see, part one

One of the most surprising (indeed, I find it shocking) facts about Japan is that its inhabitants, while masters of technology (but mind you, technology is not science), do not share our essentially Newtonian world view. In Japan magic exist. The world view of the Japanese is closer to that of Merlin the magician's than to ours because they do not truly believe in science. Unlike the illuministic West, they find it practical, but do not consider it an absolute truth. According to science, the behavior of things is at least in principle predictable. Things fall down, not up. In...

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