The great family of monsters

For Catholicism, revenge is a vile sentiment, more deplorable than any wrong suffered. Those who contemplate or desire it are guilty of not having turned the other cheek.

Instead, in Japan it is a necessary act to restore a balance that transforms injustice into equity. Resentment is the detonator that enchains the souls of innocent victims, turning them into ghosts and almost always from victims into perpetrators. These are yūrei ( meaning both evanescent and dark, and rei standing for soul or spirit).

The spirits of old people abandoned by their families who no longer want to take care of their livelihood become Kubikajiri, neck chewers. They feed on fresh corpses by devouring their necks and heads.

Even more impressive is the Gashadokuro, a colossal skeleton that roams the countryside; it is composed of the rancorous skeletons of soldiers who died in battle, of famine or pestilence.

Yūrei can be exorcised by priests, or appeased by ending their grudge, or by properly ending funeral rites.

However, when the grudge lingers too long, it operates as a pathogen and possesses the spirit itself. If this happens, the Yūrei will no longer stop, even if one completes the rites correctly; and even if it eventually succeeds in killing its target, it will continue to unleash its blind rage even on innocent people.

Taken from – Yōkai. Le Antiche Stampe dei Mostri Giapponesi – Published by Skira

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The legend of Oiwa

What I will tell will be a legend of spirits and revenge.

Near Kyoto lived a girl named Oiwa who led a humble life and derived what little she could to survive from rural life. Believing she had finally found love, she married a shrewd young man named Iemon Tamiya. Iemon actually proved to be more interested in worldly pleasures than in looking after his new family.

Meanwhile, Iemon began an extramarital affair with a wealthy widow named Oume, coveting her riches and luxurious life. Oume’s father, however, enforced the celebration of a regular marriage. At that point Iemon came to the conclusion that the only way he could remarry and embark on his desired life was to get rid of Oiwa and his future unborn child.

So one evening the man decided to poison his wife. The poison used was powerful enough to make the girl lose consciousness and even disfigure her face. Oiwa, however, did not die and awoke the next day, having lost the child but unaware of her husband’s guilt.

As time passed, Oiwa’s hideous appearance became more and more unbearable for Iemon, who one day, during a walk, decided to throw her off a cliff, thus being able to remarry Oume.

But he hadn’t come to terms with Oiwa… The night before the wedding Iemon heard a eerie laughter echoing in his room, where the lantern took on Oiwa’s disfigured features and shouted the word, “Traitor!”.  On the wedding night again Iemon heard that sinister laughter, and this time he saw that the face of his the second wife was taking on the features of the first wife’s, who looked at him and shouted, “Traitor!”

Frightened, Iemon beheaded Oiwa but soon found out it was Oume instead. Later, panicked, he hid in the first house, but Oiwa was already at the door waiting for him. Again he decapitated her, but blinded by fear he did not realize that he had actually killed his father-in-law.

Realizing his mistake, he fled to the edge of the same cliff where he had previously killed Oiwa, throwing himself into the void.

Some bystanders who witnessed the scene recounted seeing two people plummet: a man followed by woman. They later added that a sinister female laughter resounded in the air.