Clarissa Johal: #FolkloreThursday - Gashadokuro #Japanese #ghost

Thursday, June 9, 2016

#FolkloreThursday - Gashadokuro #Japanese #ghost

"Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre"
Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798–1861)
Creative Commons
The gashadokuro are skeletal giants created from the bones of people who died of starvation. A class of supernatural monster, or yōkai, their teeth chatter and their bones rattle as they walk. If they come across a human at night, they will turn invisible and silently creep up on their victims to crush them in their hands or bite off their head. It is said the victim can hear the sound of ringing bells before they strike.

Victims of famine who die without receiving proper funerary rites are at risk of becoming gashadokuro. Unable to pass on, these souls are reborn as hungry ghosts. When the bones of hundreds of these victims gather together (due to a village famine or soldiers who die in battle) they can form the skeletal monster. Too large and powerful to be killed, it will continue to feed until the energy and malice stored within the creature has completely burned out. The gashadokuro are indestructible, though Shinto charms can ward them off.

The earliest record of a gashadokuro goes back over a thousand years ago. A samurai named Taira no Masakado led a bloody rebellion against the central government of Kyoto during the the Heian period. His daughter, Takiyasha-hime, was a famous sorceress. When Masakado was killed in battle, his daughter continued his cause. Using her black magic, she summoned a giant skeleton to attack the city of Kyoto. Her monster is depicted in a famous print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (shown above).

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