Waka-Dharani Theory

Interesting follow-up reading on the power of poetry: "Reading the Miraculous Powers of Japanese Poetry: Spells, Truth Acts, and a Medieval Buddhist Poetics of the Supernatural," [PDF] by R. Keller Kimbrough (lots more to read at the link, too).

Miraculous poems — specifically those reported to have been efficacious in moving demons and deities — can generally be divided into two categories: those that function spontaneously, independent of the poet's wishes, and those that are reported to have been crafted by the poet with an intent to produce a supernatural result. Of poems in the former category, most are represented as having been effective because of the emotional response that they inspire: a deity, inadvertently moved by the grief or longing of the poet, typically exercises its powers on the poet’s behalf. Poems in the latter category tend to employ a variety of approaches: while many appeal to sentiment, others are composed to flatter, threaten, blackmail, and possibly even confuse. [...]

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It's super effective!

Leonardo Boiko:

Related: http://www.amazon.com/Read-Oral-Poem-Miles-Foley/dp/0252027701

Sample of Slavic magic-poetry, with audio and transcription: http://www.oraltradition.org/hrop/eighth_word


Breen and Teeuwen (2010:140, 142)

"In spite of the reappearance of Amaterasu in the palace, Kojiki and Nihon shoki were not on the reading lists of even the most scholarly nobles in the eleventh century. From the twelfth century onwards, however, the mythical texts quite suddenly resurface in the form of quotations and references – not
in works of history or politics, but, perhaps surprisingly, in treatises on Japanese poetics. In early medieval Japan, poetry was to become the main arena in which myth found a new function."

"In the Buddhist world (especially in the more esoteric schools), teachings and ritual procedures were transmitted to novices in the form of initiation ceremonies called kanjo (“head-sprinkling rites”); now, similar ceremonies were also designed to transmit poetic expertise in closed lineages. These ceremonies were strikingly religious in character. Ultimately, they were based on the idea that the 'way of poetry,' like Buddhist practice, is a method to access the enlightened realm of the buddhas. ... Competition between different lineages created a need for new
insights into the sacred origins of waka. The tale of the rock-cave was one of the myths that was adapted to serve this new purpose."


Speaking of poetic kanjo, there was a 伊勢物語伝授 ceremony in the 16th century (or at least, I think it was an Ashikaga shogun who got it? That or it was 17th century and it was the tenno--the scholar I was reading had a tendency to muck up chronology when the contemporaneous sources weren't enough to prove his point.) One wonders what the details were, and why you needed an onmyoji to schedule it for you.

I have to wonder about "Kojiki and Nihon shoki were not on the reading lists of even the most scholarly nobles in the eleventh century" however. Not Kojiki, but Nihon shoki does get used for legal precedent at least into the Heian Period. Sure, that's not the two Age of the Gods chapters which a Shinto scholar would tend to be focused on, but yet....

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