Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kami 髪 (2)

We've talked in class a bit about the division of the body into the upper half, which is pure (or masculine) and the lower half, which is impure (or feminine). One of the things that has captured the religious imagination across Asia is the possibility of interpreting the upper and lower halves of the body as mirror images, and so perhaps it's not surprising--since we've seen so much interest in the hair that grows from the head--that we also see some interest in other instances of body hair, including sosoke.

In his 2003 Power of Denial Bernard Faure tells us of two Buddhist temples said to have enshrined sosoke, and one Shinto shrine that claimed to possess the sosoke of the deity Benzaiten (or Sarasvati). In contemporary Japan, there is a shrine associated with a new religious movement which is also said to have enshrined three thousand samples of sosoke. Good heavens.