(left)Drawing of a label for Various Ofuda, Paper Amulets of Mokkenshu (Lotus), 2016, graphite on paper, 24 x 18 inches
 
(From the label drawing)

Various Ofuda

Paper Amulets of Mokkenshu

 

Ofuda is a type of household amulet for protection. It is issued by a Shinto shrine and deified in a family altar or hung at the entrance of a home. It is made by inscribing the name of a kami (god) and the name of the Shinto shrine or of a representative of the god on a strip of paper, wood or cloth.

 

The Mokkenshu paper amulets contain a fire hydrant, heartfelt wishes, long tailed birds, cacti, etc.

 

The long-tailed bird is a hybrid of a cardinal and a Chinese phoenix. Umeyama saw cardinals in South Texas, and was amazed with their red color. He considered the bird as a favorable sign, and his report indicated his intention to promote the cardinal as a symbol of high virtue and grace, just like a Chinese Phoenix.

 

Cacti were added to the amulets by Umeyama and became very popular among the Japanese as a symbol of protection of and prosperity for their descendants. The concept of protection derived from the plant’s spines, which Umeyama painfully encountered once accidentally.  Prosperity was conceived from the plant’s robustness, by the way one pad will support the growth of new pads and so forth, a wish the Japanese had for their descendants continuing from generation to generation. In addition, the similar shape of the cactus flower and the lotus flower, which is a sacred flower in Buddhism, made for an easy adaptation into Japanese culture.

(image of a lotus)

Lotus flower

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