Is Onmyōdō (陰陽道) still popular in Japan?
Onmyōdō does still exist.
Onmyōdō is a traditional Japanese esoteric cosmology, a mixture of natural science and occultism. It is based on the native Shinto and Chinese traditions with Taoist influence.
The system of Onmyōdō was established around the late 7th century. Onmyōdō was under the control of the imperial government, and later its courtiers, the Tsuchimikado family, until the middle of the 19th century.
The Onmyōdō practices of today was established by Yakou Tsuchimikado (土御門 夜光) who, in the face of growing numbers of fake Onmyōji (imposers without ability), decided to put a system in place to prevent this. Yakou Tsuchimikado created the Imperial Onmyōdō system that would allow the court to regulate and train professional Onmyōji.
Onmyōji (陰陽師) were servants belonging to the Bureau of Onmyō in ancient Japan’s ritsuryo system. People with this title were professional practitioners of Onmyōdō.
Onmyōji were specialists in natural science, alchemy, magic and divination but also medicine and very knowledgeable. Their court responsibilities ranged from tasks such as keeping track of the calendar, to mystical duties such as divination and protection of the capital from evil spirits. They could divine auspicious or harmful influences in the earth, and were instrumental in the moving of capitals. It is said that an onmyōji could also summon and control shikigami (ghosts, spirits, various other supernatural beings and even lower gods).
Onmyōji had political clout during the Heian period, but in later times when the imperial court fell into decline, their state patronage was lost completely. In modern-day Japan onmyōji are defined as a type of Shinto priest, and although there are many who claim to be mediums and spiritualists, the onmyōji continues to be a hallmark occult figure.
Famous onmyōji include Kamo no Yasunori and Abe no Seimei (921–1005). After Seimei’s death, the emperor had a shrine erected at his home in Kyoto.
(Abe no Seimei)
In the 10th century Kamo no Tadayuki (賀茂 忠行) and his son Kamo no Yasunori, made great advancements in Onmyōdō, astronomy and calendar science. From among their students emerged Abe no Seimei, who displayed superior skills in the divining arts of onmyōdō, by which he gained an uncommon amount of trust from the court society. Tadayuki and Yasunori passed on their skills in astronomy to Seimei while their advances in calendar-making went to Yasunori’s son. From the end of the Heian period into the Middle Ages, astronomy and calendar science were completely subsumed into onmyōdō, and the Abe and Kamo families came to dominate the art.
Kamo no Yasunori
According to history in the Konjaku Monogatarishu, at the age of ten, Yasunori accompanied his father to an exorcism, where he was able to perceive the demons/spirits — a sign of talent, for, unlike Tadayuki, Yasunori was capable of doing so without formal training.
He later taught Abe no Seimei the art of onmyōdō. Seimei became his successor in astrology and divination, while Yasunori’s son succeeded him in the creation of the calendar, a lesser task. For several centuries afterward, the Abe clan controlled the government ministry of onmyōdō, while the Kamo clan became hereditary keepers of the calendar.
Abe no Seimei
Seimei worked as onmyōji for emperors and the Heian government, advising on the spiritually correct way to deal with issues. He prayed for the well-being of emperors and the government as well as advising on various issues. He was also an astrologer and predicted astrological events. He enjoyed an extremely long life, free from any major illness, which contributed to the popular belief that he had mystical powers.
The Seimei Shrine, located in Kyoto, is a popular shrine dedicated to him. The Abeno train station and district, in Osaka, are sometimes said to be named after him, as it is one of the locations where legends place his birth.
(Abe no Seimei)
Seimei’s life is well recorded, and there is little question about it. Immediately after his death, however, legends arose, including that he may still be alive.
Seimei’s duties included analyzing strange events, conducting exorcisms, warding against evil spirits, and performing various rites of geomancy. He was said to be especially skilled in divining the sex of fetuses and finding lost objects. According to the Konjaku Monogatarishu, he correctly predicted the abdication of Emperor Kazan based on his observation of celestial phenomena.
The mystical symbol of the equidistant five-pointed star, referred to in the West as a pentagram, is known in Japan as the Seiman or the Seal of Abe no Seimei.
Senji Ryakketsu (占事略决, lit. The Summary to Judgements of Divinations) is one of the texts written by Abe no Seimei during the Heian Period in Japan.
The text contains six thousand forecast and thirty-six fortune-telling techniques based on divination through use of shikigami. Many of these divinations relate to normal daily lives such as determining the gender of an unborn child, finding lost or missing objects, and advice on how to lead one’s personal life.
Shikigami (式神, also read as Shiki-no-kami, 式の神) is the term for a supernatural being, a kind of kami.
Shikigami are conjured beings, made alive through a complex conjuring ceremony. Their power is connected to the spiritual force of their master, where if the invoker is well introduced and has much experience, their shiki can possess animals and even people and manipulate them, but if the invoker is careless, their shikigami may get out of control in time, gaining its own will and consciousness and can even raid its own master and kill them in revenge. Usually shikigami are conjured to exercise risky orders for their masters, such as spying, stealing and enemy tracking.
Generally, a Shikigami is either an “enslaved spirit” or a perhaps a thought-form. Of course, having an enslaved spirit is highly frowned upon unless the Onmyōji and the spirit have entered a contractual agreement — that was not always the case and there are many stories of young/inexperienced Onmyōji who were torn apart by their Shikigami servants after losing control of them.
Shikigami are said to be invisible most of the time, but they can be made visible by binding them into small, folded and artfully cut paper manikins.
Many years were spent learning to use the protective spells and hand Mudra necessary to protect against possession. Their primary practice in this was the performance of Kuji-in/Kuji-kiri (use of magical Mudra).
The Kuji-in/Kuji-kiri (九字切り) are a type of hand Mudra (often depicted in anime) that are meant to empower your chakra energies and provide enhanced protective auras. In magical battle, they are used to strengthen the wielders offensive and defensive capability both physically and spiritually.
Rin (臨) — The strength of mind and body
Kyō (兵) — Direction of energy
Tō (闘) — Harmony with the universe
Sha (者) — Healing yourself or others
Kai (皆)- Premonition of danger
Jin (陣) — Reading the thoughts of others
Retsu (列) — Mastery of Time and Space
Zai (在) — Control over the elements of Nature
Zen (前) — Lighting and speed
The thoughts can also be enough to work.
Taizen Fukan No Sai ( 泰山府君祭)
A powerful spell said to protect from death, grant longevity, and even raise the dead. It is thought that it was Abe No Seimei himself that created the spell.This spell is unique in that it does not follow a specific formula. The Onmyōji would present a scroll with his offering outlined as well as his expectations in return. Often times these offerings involved human lives. This practice was outlawed.
Another very common practice within Onmyōdō is making talismans for home protection. They are called Ofuda and their function is to ward off harms such as home accidents and disease. They are usually made of wood or paper
The kamikaze (Japanese: 神風) literally “divine wind” were two winds or storms that are said to have saved Japan from two Mongol fleets under Kublai Khan.
Onmyōji and other priests performed rituals to ask the kami to protect Japan and the Japanese people. Onmyōji confirmed that Japan will not be conquered.
After these events, the belife that Japan and Japanese people are protected by the kami got widespread and that Japan will not be conquerd by any foreign source.