Ubume, the yōkai who was once human

And now we have come lớn the kết thúc of our week of element-based yōkai. Today"s yōkai features that most crucial element of all, the human element (a neo-Japanesque thought if ever I had one).

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I"ve sầu stated before that yōkai are unlike anything else in any other country"s lore, & even within Japan. They are not revered like kami, they are not feared like ghosts, they are not avoided lượt thích demons. Ghosts are one thing, monsters another, and yōkai are just yōkai. They"re kind of the lower rung of odd Japanese beasts, as the humourous stories many possess show. They may attempt to lớn explain or personify a natural phenomenon, they may just be mischievous being who wants khổng lồ mess with humans, or they may just be some random, distinctive sầu creature who happens to live in nhật bản. Like I said in this week"s first entry, just because we don"t see yōkai so much anymore doesn"t mean that they aren"t still there. Today"s yōkai is no exception.While yōkai are just inhabitants of the country, be they natural or supernatural, the creatures themselves are simply different than most things that roam Japan: that"s what makes them yōkai. However, we"ve seen Tesso, who was once a man that let his unnatural death turn hyên inlớn an onryō, except that it became rather monstrous, so he is viewed as a yōkai instead. But that is a single happening: there is only one Tesso, & he only really wanted lớn spook one or two people. So he isn"t a breed of yōkai, he"s just a guy that became monstrous in death. That"s pretty common in nhật bản.What is uncommon is that certain element of humanity that enables anyone to become a yōkai. There are only two such yōkai that I can think of, and today I will discuss one of them.What is it about the human spirit that holds such quality power? Today"s yōkai exemplifies this quandary. Japanese live sầu in a wonderful country inhabited from great gods to lớn lowly demons to bugs lớn pesky yōkai khổng lồ ghosts to wolves khổng lồ people. Everything lives there và interacts with one another on different levels. We know that some animals can be born, or some objects can be improperly purified và cared for and, after a long time, they become yōkai. Some humans live sầu unfortunate lives and have sầu no power to control their own destiny until they are dead, wherein their spirit lingers on, hoping for some retribution.But what if a human spirit is able lớn pass on, their body properly purified và cared for, but their feelings remain? What if those feelings then manifest themselves inlớn something frightening? What if those feelings are able khổng lồ change themselves into a yōkai all its own? While incredibly rare, this sort of transformation is exclusively human. What makes a human being become a yōkai? Let"s let the ubume tell us.Ubume literally means "woman giving birth" (産女). The most comtháng story associated with Ubume is as follows:You"re walking along, doing whatever it is that you vày, & you see a woman standing in a swamp, or near some toàn thân of water. She looks upset and somewhat distracted, not lớn mention the fact that she"s naked from the waist up. From the waist down, however, her kimono or underclothes are draped carelessly around her genitals, & they"re covered in blood. She"s also holding a sobbing baby, or else setting it down and walking away from it. She either begs you khổng lồ take the baby from her, or wades inkhổng lồ the water và drowns herself before you can stop her. So now you"ve sầu got a baby.Perhaps you"re afraid that the baby is going khổng lồ turn to lớn stone và grow extremely large extremely fast & crush you to lớn death, in the mode of the Konaki Jijii? Well you should be afraid of that, because that"s exactly what it"s going lớn vì. But the baby itself isn"t a Konaki Jijii. It was the mother who was a yōkai.
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Sekien"s Ubume.The story I"ve sầu just told seems a little rehashed, doesn"t it? In fact, it leaves out much of the crucial elements that form the Ubume, and why Ubume are such unusual yōkai. This story is more Edo-period Hundred Ghost Story Night style, designed for a quiông xã scare. But the reasons that Ubume exist have sầu been around forever, and tales of the Ubume have sầu been preserved from as far back as the 12th century. The key is in the name of the Ubume that Sekien used. If you look, you can see that the kanji is different. It reads 姑獲鳥.Sekien relates this name to lớn be pronounced as "ubume," but from the time and the readings, we would want lớn Gọi it "kokakuchō." However, it doesn"t make any sense put together. That"s because it comes from the name of a Chinese detháng. The kokakuchō sometimes appears as an onryō who steals babies. In reality, it is a shape-shifting bird demon who uses its human-esque size to lớn enable it to lớn take the children và raise them as its own in its nest. Though it is not related to lớn the Japanese Ubume, the significance of Sekien choosing lớn name it and adapt it speaks to lớn the original story of the Ubume, before it was an Edo-period curiosity.
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Sawaki Suushi"s Ubume, from his famous Yōkai Picture Book. His book is another well-known example of 100 Story Yōkai art, và I"ve sầu used a few of his pictures before, lượt thích the crazy-eyed Onyuvị and the Kamikiri. Most depictions of Ubume follow his example.When the Ubume first became well-known, it was at a time when child mortality rates were extremely high. Women would just as often die in childbirth as they would live, & many children were stillborn, or even forced to be aborted. I can"t imagine the trauma of these events whatsoever, but the Ubume reminds us all of the critical bond a mother has for her child. The woman would die giving birth to lớn her baby, or else she would suffer severe postpartum depression at losing a child. It"s a horrible situation, but not supernatural. Essentially, she dies as everyone else does.The difference is that a part of her lives on. Her toàn thân và spirit go lớn wherever they are bound, but her regrets at losing the child, or being unable to care for it due lớn her own death remain. The human element causes the regrets of a mother unable to be a mother khổng lồ become so powerful that they manifest themselves inkhổng lồ a creature that is no longer human. That creature is the Ubume.Those regrets become monstrous, and are a type of yōkai since there is no human controlling it any longer. It simply is a breed of strange creature. The unyielding "nesting" và "empty-nest" feelings the mother was clinging khổng lồ change the manifested regrets into lớn a bird-like creature, who lingers near the houses of pregnant women or its own former trang chính, cawing lượt thích a bird "wobareu, wobareu," which means "Come out! Be born!"But as the situation varies, the regrets vì chưng not always appear so abnormal. Some simply become a ghostly image of the mother, albeit, unlượt thích yūrei, the woman will be covered in sores, open wounds, blood, and just be generally nasty-looking.
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In these pair of images by Hagihara Kyouka.
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A distinctly more birdlượt thích Ubume from the video game Ōkangươi.

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Yoshitoshi"s ghostly Ubume, as seen in Kagrra,"s Kotodama PV. And of course, the ultimate source of Ubume speculation...
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Kyogoku Natsuhiko"s novel, Ubume no Natsu, or Summer of the Ubume. As I mentioned in the Tesso entry, Kyogokubởi vì writes about yōkai with much philosophical và historical discussion, but then ties it into lớn a detective or mystery story that vaguely represents the yōkai, but without seeming too supernatural. Often, it will be a completely realistic albeit frightening story that has disturbing connotations khổng lồ the titular yōkai. Summer of the Ubume is fantastic, and available in English! I highly recommend you read it if you can. Kyogoku is one of my favourite authors. I"ve sầu seen some of the English translation, & I think it"s quite good, although you may need khổng lồ have sầu some idea as lớn what a yōkai is before taking on the novel. Luckily, you have sầu me. If you can read Japanese, Kyogoku also has covered many different yōkai in other books, as well as nonfiction accounts of yōkai & a Reviews of Suushi"s art that I mentioned.
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An alternate cover of Ubume no Natsu, which features the outstanding papier-mâché art of Arai Ryo.
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I don"t know about you, but I think this is how I will always picture Ubume. I hope I never see one.After Kyogoku"s novel was released, Ubume became very popular in Japan. I don"t know if it was the adept combination of two things Japanese people love sầu to be entertained by (creepy monsters & human empathy) or because Kyogoku"s novel was just so captivating (it really is, I can"t bức xúc this enough). Regardless, nhật bản recently experienced an Ubume fascination that culminated in such things as "Ubume Conventions," wherein people would gather to lớn hear about, discuss, và be creeped out by stories of the Ubume.

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Seriously, I never ever want lớn meet an Ubume.I"ve been wanting to vì this entry for a while now, especially since I started discussing yōkai. There are so many yōkai và they each have such unique forms và habits. However, the Ubume makes up one of two yōkai I know that actually exist due to the astounding nature of humans to lớn become something other than nothing or a ghost after death; khổng lồ size inkhổng lồ something that is not human và is not beast, that no longer contains any of that person"s life essence, and yet represents everything that they held dear while alive. It"s such a fascinating idea that humans possess the capability lớn become something. It"s why I find folklore, myth, and religious studies so intriguing: what makes us the way that we are, & how are we capable of preserving, changing, & keeping these beliefs, these gods, these yōkai? Hearn re-sparked interest in Japanese culture worldwide và amongst Japanese themselves; Kyogoku has written literally thousands of pages on the subject; Mizuki has captivated children và adults alike with his records và stories of yōkai; Isshi saw the significance of it all và sought lớn preserve the traditions while analysing the nature of humans và demons.I too hope khổng lồ do the same.
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Happy Halloween!!