34 Days – Ofuda for the Road

Like the Compostela on the Camino de Santiago, the Kumano Kodo has Ofuda. Ofuda is a type of talisman or amulet commonly used in Shinto, a traditional religion in Japan. It is a small wooden tablet or piece of paper that has been inscribed with prayers, religious texts, or symbols and is believed to have the power to protect, bring good luck, or ward off evil spirits. Ofuda are usually kept in homes, businesses, or shrines and are sometimes displayed on altars or attached to doors or gates. In Shinto, it is believed that the power of the ofuda is derived from the divine spirits that are believed to inhabit it. The use of ofuda is an important aspect of Shinto belief and is considered a way for individuals to connect with the divine and ensure their protection and well-being.

In the context of the Kumano Kodo, an ancient pilgrimage route in Japan, ofuda play a significant role for many pilgrims. The Kumano Kodo is considered to be a sacred path and is visited by thousands of people each year who come to pay homage to the three grand shrines of Kumano, which are dedicated to the Shinto gods of creation, fertility, and healing.

Along the Kumano Kodo, there are many smaller shrines and temples where pilgrims can obtain ofuda, which are believed to offer protection and blessings during their journey. These ofuda are often stamped with the emblem of the shrine or temple where they were obtained, and they are typically carried by pilgrims in a special bag or tied to their backpack or clothing.

The act of obtaining ofuda along the Kumano Kodo is seen as a way for pilgrims to connect with the divine and to show respect for the sacred nature of the pilgrimage. The ofuda serve as a tangible reminder of the blessings and protection that the pilgrims have received along their journey, and they are often kept as keepsakes or placed on family altars after the pilgrimage is completed.

Talisman to ward off evil showing the Japanese monk Ryƍgen (912-985) as the Horned Great Master (Tsuno Daishi). These folded envelops contain a small sheet of paper with Sanskrit characters depicting the “Seven Evils” or some magic words and are sold by (Tendai-) temples throughout Japan. — From Wikimedia Commons

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