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Bibik A.N. Japanese and Slavic folk demonology. Comparative analysis Печать E-mail
31.03.2014 г.

Japanese and Slavic folk demonology. Comparative analysis

Bibik A.N. (Donetsk National Technical University)

Comparative analysis as a research method has gained exceptional relevance within a modern framework of globalization and cross-cultural communication extension. Such researches often helps gain a deeper insight into each cultural pattern inquired reveal common points and therefore boost cross-cultural dialogue.

Comparative researches is also up-to-date in Japanese studies as motivation to induce literal perception of japanese culture outside Japan stays one of the major scientific goals for Japanese study as a scientific discipline. Analysis of cultural phenomena that are significant within each cultural area compared is important for such researches.

Demonology possesses such an importance within many cultural patterns. It has a specific feature of penetrating daily routine and influence the design of folk mindset. Demonology influences on the social mind deep enough to be taken as a relevant subject of comparative analysis.

One of major problems within the analysis of demonology is a classification of its basic creatures. Japanese demon creatures can be divided in two groups: yurei (幽霊) - afterworld inhabitants, souls (from «rei» (霊) - soul, spirit) and «yokai» (妖怪) - phantoms, ghosts, everything «magical, wizardly, mystical» (from «kai» (怪) - miracle, wonder, phantom). Slavic demon creatures are percepted as «spirits», «evil (supernatural) forces». Both Japanese and Slavic notions share the idea of something «extraordinary» that lies beyond human «profane» world.

Japanese demonology structure is based either on creature location (spirit of water (水の怪) - «mizu-no kai», of mountains (山の怪) - «yama-no kai», of house (家の怪) - «ie-no kai», of roads (道の怪) - «miti-no kai»), or upon its' connection to certain natural phenomena (雪の怪 «yuki-no kai» - spirits of snow, 音の怪 «oto-no kai» - spirits of sound, 火の怪 «hi-no kai» - spirits of fire). Slavic demon creatures are located in woods, houses, water and fields. Besides separate groups of spirits belong to cemeteries, barns and stove.

As we look at the creatures belonging to one of these two demonologies one by one some similarity in functionality, localization and appearance can be traced. We can draw parallel between Japanese Zashiki-bokko (座敷ぼっこ) and Slavic Domovoy, Yamamba (山姥) and Baba-Yaga, Yuki-onna (雪女) and Badzula, Yamabiko (山彦) and the Forest King Oh, Kura-bokko (蔵ぼっこ) and ovinniki, etc.

Both names Zashiki-bokko and Domovoy indicate that the creatures' belonging to a dwelling house «zashiki» (座敷) - dwelling room, «bokko» (ぼっこ) - «kid». Zashiki-bokko usually has the appearance of a short nimble boy. Slavic Domovoy is also short (appr. 30-40 cm high) however its' body is covered with brown or grey hair.

Domovoy and Zashiki-bokko are people-friendly creatures yet they can harm people in case they are not satisfied with house masters' behavior or home setting. In that cases Zashiki-bokko's are normally can frighten children, cause visual or audial hallucinations, Domovoy takes more active part in peoples' life: it can cause fire or simply throw items around the house. When Domovoy is pleased with home setting it can be helpful for the mistress while cleaning or cooking.

Another Japanese popular folk creature is Yamamba - «mountain beldam». Slavic culture has a similar character - Baba Yaga, who sometimes is associated with Forest Lady.

Both characters look monstrous: Yamamba is described as an old lady in rags with mouth corners that reach roots of her hair, the hair itself can any moment turn into snakes. Baba Yaga is somewhat similar being a blind old woman in rags with flabby breast bony leg and wild hair.

We can't but mention functional similarity of the two characters. Meeting this creature is normally leads to a tragic situation although it might be of use. Unlike Baba Yaga Yamamba has not a clear connection with the world of the dead. Evilness cannot be considered this creature's main feature while both cultures see it as a combination of kindness and cruelty, beauty and monstrosity.

Difference of life habitat of Yamamba and Baba Yaga (mountains and forest) is subject to natural environment of the two countries. Both characters have much in common. Bedsides Yamamba is sometimes seen as Forest Lady. Both Yamamba and Baba Yaga can change location due to a storyline.

This example clearly demonstrates    presence of common features in Japanese and Slavic folk demonology:

 - Japanese and Slavic folk demonologies classify creatures upon similar criteria such as natural location (house, water, forest, mountains) hosted by spirits with similar features and functionality.

- Some characters demonstrate similar features (functions, appearances) such as Zashiki-bokko and Domovoi, Yamamba and Baba Yaga, Yamabiko and Forest King Oh etc.

Further detailed comparison of the characters of Japanese and Slavic folk demonology along with a study of their impact upon people's mindset and folk culture is subject to further research.

For full text see: IOCS Works («Orientalia et Classica» Series) History and culture of traditional Japan. 7 / Ed. A.N.Mesheryakov, 2014, RSUH. Moscow)
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