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Yuu's Notes 3
|"It is mere hypothesis, but I will attempt to interpret these lyrics."|
This article is a fan translation. Content may change if an official version becomes available.
- Holly-Burdened Priestess
The Kuze Shrine was "a shrine at which pain could be offered up". However, this was restricted to pain of the heart - in other words, sorrow - seeming to indicate the pain of bereavement. For the ritual to physically and mentally say farewell to the dead, people would make a pilgrimage to the Kuze Priestess. Records say that when a relative dies, their body is put in a sack made of hemp, and the figures of the people making the pilgrimage to their final parting can be seen.
"In the winter, as the snow falls, all of the worshippers come with covered faces, dragging with them big sacks on small push carts. They appear to be a funeral procession heading somewhere." (Excerpt from notebooks that appear to have been left by Mr. Akito Kashiwagi)
The Kuze Priestess seems probably to have been the model for the priestess in the "Sleeping Priestess" lullaby, but also seems to have been known as the "Tattooed Priestess" due to the fact that she takes on people's grief at parting with a deceased loved one in the form of the tattoos she shoulders.
Reading up on the role assigned to the priestess, there can be no doubt that it is congruent with the Sleeping Priestess in the lullaby. To show the similarities between the song and the Tattoo Master also, the three rituals that seem to have been performed at the Kuze Shrine, the "Rite of Purple Ink", "Piercing of the Soul Rite" and "Rite of Commandment", are described below.
- Rite of Purple Ink
The ritual in which the ink used to engrave the priestess is created.
Those worshippers who visit the Kuze Shrine didn't simply offer up their pain to the priestess by opening up about it or seeking peace, but seemingly by the priestess shouldering the embodiment of their pain. Namely, this involves seeking out the blood from the body (dead blood) and the blood of the person left behind (living blood) and combining it to create "purple ink", which is used to engrave the tattoo on the priestess' body, which allows her to take on the pain from the sorrow of parting with the dead.
In addition, this ritual seems to have been carried out by two central figures - two women known as "Engravers". The women would be summoned from neighbouring villages, and once they entered the shrine lived the rest of their lives there as prisoners, seemingly dedicating their lives to the Kuze Shrine.
"Those who would offer their pain to the priestess must allow the red and indigo of living and dead blood to mix together to become the ink of the soul, which is then used to tattoo their pain onto the priestess."
(From "Rite of Purple Ink Tome")
The "Commandment Tome", which seems to have been stored at the Kuze Shrine, goes on to describe what I would suppose to be the "Rite of Commandment", but also contains many pages that seem to have been used as a registry, on which worshippers wrote their names in their own blood. With regards to the Kuze Shrine, blood seems to represent wounds, perhaps as some kind of special manifestation.
- Piercing the Soul Rite
The ritual in which the "ink of the soul" is applied to the Tattooed Priestess as tattoos.
The worshippers' sorrow and suffering is engraved on the priestess as a holly pattern, with a snake design entwined around it, which gradually begins to seep through her whole body. In this ritual, in which the priestess is represented as a type of shaman or medium, I think it was especially important for the priestess accepting the tattoos herself and the Engravers performing the treatment.
The tattoos engraved during the Piercing of the Soul contain holly, which represents the pain being offered up, which gradually begins to be etched into her body. Perhaps this means that the ritual continues to be performed over and over until the priestess' entire body is covered by the tattoo.
Until the priestess' role of accepting the pain of many people in the Piercing of the Soul is fulfilled (when she is covered in the tattoo and goes to sleep), what kind of circumstances did she live in? I am unsure whether this was in my, Kei Amakura's, dreams, or whether it's from my memory, but I remember the priestess' figure sleeping inside a prison, hanging in a room with a high ceiling. If the cage suspended in midair is referred to in old books as the "Floating Prison", as it seems to be, the priestess should have gone there as she waited for the day of the ritual.
As is general knowledge, the act of being tattooed causes great physical pain. Currently they considered fashionable, or a means of self-expression, and are primarily used as accessories dyed directly into the skin by young people, and of course this comes with pain. Traditionally, large designs were used, and they were so painful that even grown men would faint.
Furthermore, in the case of the Kuze priestess, the suffering brought about by the ritual is a sacred thing caused by the transfer of people's pain. No measures seem to have been taken to reduce her burden.
It seems as though the ritual in which the young woman would accept that into her body was a certainly a blessed one.
A pair of women.
They created the Ink of the Soul, and used it to tattoo.
The Engravers were in charge of creating the Ink of the Soul, and using it to engrave the tattoos into the priestess, but in order to carry out their duties properly they were forced to sacrifice their bodies.
One reason was to teach them the pain of having their own bodies tattooed, for which their whole body would be pierced with countless needles. Perhaps this refers to the act of engraving the tattoo, which involves inserting needles under the skin, by which the ink is inserted.
The other is that the priestess isn't held prisoner by her worldly desires, so, to replicate this, the women must gouge out their own eyes. This deprives them of light, a formality to remove the priestess' regrets towards this life, as well as that the Engravers must be able to seal in the tattoos, without being misled or led astray by things seen with their eyes, and so that the designs they tattooed would be directed by a more spiritual power. By the women losing both of their physical eyes, they could no longer dedicate themselves to anything else. This also seems to warn that once they passed through the Kuze Shrine gate, they were never again allowed to return to this world.
Incidentally, after the Engravers' eyeballs were removed, it seems as though a hemp rope was passed through the eye sockets, crossing between them, but I have yet to find any data that accurately denotes the reason for this. Rather than simply to cover their eyes, the rope stretched from right to left, binding their eyes shut - in other words, I imagine that it implies the cutting off the physical connection to this world, the only remaining connection the priestess has to earthly things.
I would like to point something out, here - the Engravers were both women of the same generation, who would eat and sleep together, and actually serve the shrine until their deaths. They were treated as a pair, almost like twins.
Originally, twins were often considered special, god-like beings. In many cases, they were considered to originally be one body which split in two inside their mother's womb, and had many meanings, varying from being a good omen to misfortune. For example, of note is the "Twin Festival" in the mountains of the Chubu region, in which the two would participate in a ritual to invoke a certain deity when they reached a specified age. The twins would dress in white clothes, joined by a red obi, with the seeming implication of "returning to one body in which the power of the god dwells".
In my opinion, the Engravers of the Kuze Shrine were not real twins, but rather simply a pair, and as such I do not believe that they used their bodies to serve a god.
The girls who took take of the priestess.
Photo: Some film found in a projector in the possession of Akito Kashiwagi's family after his death. Captured on it are the images of a group of girls who appear to be Handmaidens.
The priestess engraved with the tattoo, whose body aches from the countless needles that have pierced her skin, and who grieves never being able to return to this world, must surely have a heart in turmoil. The one in charge of supporting such a priestess, both physically and mentally, was a young girl priestess known as a "Handmaiden."
There were usually four Handmaidens who, like the priestess and Engravers, were chosen from the girls of neighbouring villages. They were little girls, from the approximate age range of five to nine years old, and from the day the priestess entered the shrine they would take care of her, and seem to have acted as a companion for the priestess, who was not permitted to go back into the outside world ever again. Also, as a ritualistic role, they would hammer dolls to the walls that would serve as replacements for pain, using "stakes" that supposedly soothed the pain of the tattoos that tormented the priestess.
The Handmaidens' final duty was to "impale the priestess' four limbs" as destined. I need to conduct a little more research on this, but if interpreted literally, as frequently appears throughout history, perhaps it would be in a way like a crucifixion.
Charging young girls with such a cruel duty as impalement, without harbouring any doubts about it, being accepted so positively is very interesting. Raised in areas influenced by the Kuze family, the Handmaidens received a thorough education, the results of which seem to be apparent.
It seems as though when the Handmaidens' duties were complete they would return home, living normally with the other village girls without incident. Once the Tattooed Priestess' ritual had been carried out, a very important role to be assigned, they remained in this world without being "silenced", the reason for which was probably their young age, and to seek people who had need of the Sleeping Priestess who served as a sacrifice. Possibly because, amongst the women of the neighbouring villages, there would have been others who had experienced the life of a Handmaiden when they were a girl, they would have had an unspoken understanding of the situation and elevate the priestess to a higher standing as needed.
- Rite of Commandment
The ritual in which the priestess goes to sleep.
The priestess, whose body would be completely covered in the tattoo at the conclusion of the Tattoo Ritual, would descend to the deepest part of the deep pit constructed below the Engraving Shrine, known as the "Abyss". The Abyss is most certainly the entrance to the realm of the underworld, a place where the living may not set foot. At that point, the priestess would completely sever all ties with this world. Eventually, she would arrive at the large cave in the basement, the deepest part of the Kuze Shrine, known as "The Rift", where she would be impaled by the Handmaidens and sealed away in a small shrine, to sleep there for eternity.
Needless to say, this means that the priestess becomes a human sacrifice, a sacrifice to the gods. Inside the small shrine in the underground cave, the priestess is sealed away in her impaled state, and there is no longer any way for her to escape back to the surface, and with the corpses of the previous priestesses she spends the rest of her life bearing the tattoo.
Impaling the limbs is a custom that still bears traces in history all over the world. The best known depiction of this is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but in any case, rather than a ritualistic element it is strongly shown with the nuances of punishment. The rituals performed by the Kuzes were for the purpose of soothing the Tattooed Priestess' heart, and making sure that she was sent on to the underworld - in other words, it seems highly suggestive of them being performed as a means of confining her so that she could not return to reality. That is so that the pain she accepted and had engraved into her could not return, and so that she would not wake up, and her body was tied down so that she could not move from that spot.
Note: Meaning of the priestess' "sleep"
- Connection between the tattoos and the "dream"
- Reason for the "impaling"?
The punishment handed down to an unsuccessful priestess. The revocation of the tattoos.
It could be argued that the act itself has divine significance with regards to a target group of people; though looking at it from a larger perspective it is perhaps meaningless, they would naturally have known their own fate, and many of the shrine maidens would probably have been afraid of becoming a sacrifice.
However, they knew the role they were imposing on themselves, and in the case of those who refuse to continue halfway through the ritual, having accepted the tattoo, or those who cannot break their bonds to the earthly world, they are stripped of the skin which contains the tattoos, the priestess' reason for existence, and "cast away" - in other words, killed.
This flesh-tearing is referenced in the "Tearing Tome". It seems to have been from an era long before the final family head, Yashuu Kuze, and in this tome it is used as a punishment for such a priestess who is unfit, when this act called "tearing" was carried out. The skin that was peeled off seems to have been enshrined in a small shrine, possibly as a warning to future priestesses who endure the Piercing of the Soul.
Photo: Tattoos from the Aomori Ethnological Museum's collection. The snake and holly pattern can be confirmed.
Based on Yuu's research, the action of "casting away" ("nagasu") seen in this region appears to be a metaphor to represent "killing". However, when considering the fact that the verb also has to do with water (also meaning "to wash away"), if anything it seems likely to be from a seaside area. The use of it in this kind of mountainous area is a rare case.
- Meaning of the Tattoo Design
Photo: The Hojo family crest, "Mitsu Uroko" (three scales). It is derived from the three scales left behind by the priestess. Its design is an example of the intimate connection between the priestess and snake.
The snake that symbolises the priestess. The holly that represents the pain.
The pattern engraved into the priestess' body combines the snake and the holly.
From ancient times, the relationship between the priestess and snake have been extraordinarily deep. The snake is considered an incarnation of a dragon that serves the gods that descended to earth as a dragon, which was the subject of awe. The most notable example of this is probably the shaman Himiko, who is said in legend to have the a snake scale design depicted on her skin. She tried to harness the power of the gods by turning a part of her body into that of a snake. Not only limited to the age of mythology, since humans began to dominate nature, it seems to have been carved into people's hearts. Tokimasa Hojo was guided to prosperty by a priestess who was an envoy of the Dragon God, and began to use snake scales as his family crest, represented in the form of three scales. Furthermore, in old literature there are often despictions of avatars of a supernatural power, frequently shown as people being attacked by a snake god. Serpents were often used as a symbol of supernatural disasters, and powers that surpass human intellect. The snake used in the design that covers the priestess of the Kuze Shrine is also thought to be faithfully based on cases such as these.
There are also theories about the holly. As described earlier, due to its jagged leaves, which are prickly to the touch (the world for "prickle" also meaning "to ache"), since ancient times it has been known as the "Aching Tree" (疼木, hiiragi-gi), and a general theory is that it is a comparative representation of the aching of the pain that the priestess shoulders the burden of. Also known as "Demon's Eyes", at Setsubun time it was used as a symbol of warding off evil along with the head of a sardine, and also seems to have possessed the power of a talisman to ward off evil spirits. Perhaps the earnest way year-round blooming plants live, even in the snow, led to the image of divinity. The motif of the priestess' design seems to have arisen from these features.
- The Unleashing
When the priestess awakens.
This seems to refer to when the pain engraved as a tattoo appears in a dream and returns to the people.
When the pain returns, the snake in the tattoo that possesses divine power is considered to attack its original owner, something that is absolute taboo, and any and all means must be taken to prevent it.
The Unleashing is spoken of figuratively in legends, but I have not found any documents which clearly describe it. Initially, records of the Unleashing occurring were found only from the time of the final Kuze family master, Yashuu. In other words, the event was an irregular one that should not have occured, and the Unleashing of Yashuu's time was probably due to the hopeless failure of the ritual.
In the legend of the "Tattoo Master", the priestess takes on the pain with her entire body, but there is a passage that states a number of things led to it returning to its original owner, and the snake from the design of the tattoo actually materialising and devouring them. Along this line, I would guess that the event by which the snake-burdened priestess causes the Unleashing to occur would be the paranormal event spoken of in which the priestess is said to "bring about a catastrophe by way of a curse".
There is speculation as to what triggered these events:
- The rejection of the one responsible for the holly (i.e. the priestess)
- The tattoo entering the eyes (from the description of the "Tattoo Master")
Perhaps it was a combination of the two.
The meaning of "the tattoo being engraved upon the eyes" (whether or not it is viewed as something that would actually be put into practice) does not literally mean "actually engraving the tattoo on the eyes", but rather probably refers to the etching of the "wounds" into the priestess' eyes - in other words, etching the wounds and pain caused by connections to this world into her eyes, by way of her regrets being seared into her eyes.
If interpreted this way, this would be congruent with the cause of what I believe to be the actual occurrence of the Unleashing, as described below.
A building to stem the spread of the Unleashing.
If by some chance the Unleashing were to occur, in order to stop it spreading to the outside world, it sees as though the entire shrine would be enclosed inside a large building. This building served as a wall, known as the Rift Shrine, which seems to connotate the sealing of the Kuze Shrine away "from the other world".
It did not simply act as a physical boundary isolating the shrine from the outside world, but it seems as though measures were taken using human sacrifices in a shamanic manner, and containing the priestess who brought about the Unleashing.
The Rift Shrine completely covered the Kuze Manor, and further extensions were made two or three times, in order to completely fence it off. This transformed the manor into a huge, very complex structure. I do not think that there can be any doubt that the structure of the house can be verified as that of the "House of Sleep" from the testimony of Kaname Ototsuki and other patients.