The Necessity of Death

The Twisted Rope

I’ve been reading Carmen Blacker’s “The Catalpa Bow” recently, which is a book on shamaism within Japan.

In this book, Blacker goes over the practices and rituals that a medium or ascetic (her terms) must go through in order to gain their abilities. One of the most common themes within these regimes is pain that would break an “ordinary” person. Pain comes in many forms including a very strict, malnourishing diet, cold buckets of water poured over a person- regardless of the temperature outside, sleeplessness and repetition of numerous norito and sutras. According to the people who practice these routines, they describe the experiences as excruciating- but at the very moment when they think they can’t hack it anymore, they suddenly find themselves filled with renewed energy and gusto.

One evening, after a night of pot stirring, I was musing on the nature of death. It’s very common for me…

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