Yakuyoke

Keep my safe

In this stranger’s room

Now my own

I arrived in the gloom

When rain was falling

Over the rice fields

When my body was tired

From nights on mountains

And all I had healed

 

A Japanese country house
Image my own

 

No locks on the doors

No light in the halls

Paper cranes on the table

Handprints on the walls

What happens here

Will never leave

Old feelings linger

Spirits in eaves

 

Image my own

 

Keep me safe

As the rain falls

As I sleep

When the moon is hidden

And my dreams are weak

No locks on the doors

Yet I will not fear

We have told the thresholds

Only good may enter here

 

yakuyoke shrine charm from Japan
Image my own

A yakuyoke is a type of omamori (charm) which you can purchase from shrines and temples in Japan. There are many kinds of omamori. Maybe you need help finding love, or nurturing your current relationship. Or some support for coping with a health condition. If you’re going on a trip, get a travel safety omamori and tie it to your bag. Looking to attract positivity? Get a luck or happiness charm. Whatever your needs, there will be an omamori suitable for you. Put it somewhere you can see it every day, and never open it. As it becomes old and worn, you will see the harm it has saved you from in its fraying edges and loosened knots.

The above image is of a yakuyoke charm I took at house I stayed in in Kamikawa-cho, a rural part of Hyōgo Prefecture. A yakuyoke is for protection against evil spirits. This one hung above my bed. It was an old, mysterious house. Over a century old, made of wood, glass, and paper, with no locks. The washroom was a tiny cupboard with a stool and a cold tap in it. I boiled saucepans of water and took them in with me to wash with. There was a dusty parasol hanging from the ceiling, between the kitchen and a side room with a sunken area which I guess used to hold an irori (Japanese fire pit). My friends and I sat there wrapped in blankets, eating combini cookies & listening to the rain, and singing to mask our nerves at being alone in this peculiar place. I was as scared as I should have been, arriving in the dark to somewhere so isolated. But I soon felt at peace. The walls were happy. They held memories. The yakuyoke would let me sleep. The mountains would watch over us.

Read more about omamori on #FolkloreThursday in this article by Kim McGreal.

 

Solstice in the City

It’s Solstice in the city

my heart is not still

I climbed a mountain

and let my hair down

in the wind’s chill.

I walked very far

on streets I know well

I was tired but smiling

so no-one could tell.

 

View of Edinburgh from Salisbury Crags
Edinburgh, taken from Salisbury Crags. Image my own.

 

I’m wearing a crown

of sunflowers and straw

It doesn’t mean much, really

but I couldn’t ignore

this glowing, this summer

beginning today

in the colour of stones

wherever I stray.

 

Image my own.

 

When later I wonder

where all the light went

I’ll look at the flowers,

memories have such strength,

when your heart is not still,

and needs reminding

of what it loves,

of how to be filled.

 

 

Come, Tie Your Life Away

Munlochy Clootie Well
Munlochy Clootie Well. Image my own.

Come, tie your life away with me

At the Clootie Well

We’ll wander through the forest

Leaving no footprints to trace our spell

Bring that frayed ribbon from your hair,

And the expensive dresses you never wear

Soak them in the water, slow and dark

All the better to pierce a tender heart.

 

If the well is dry, we can cry instead

All that salt is cleansing, or so it is said

Am I your sorrow?

Will you speak my name as you tie the knot?

Am I your ghost?

If so, is that the best you’ve got?

 

There’s cloths for Cancer, strokes, and suicide

Sad thoughts, where daylight cannot abide

For all the ones that never got to meet

For last goodbyes, and shoes empty of feet

These fabric demons, suffocating the trees.

 

Come, tie your life away with me

It will never wither, we will never be free

Two dripping rags, intertwined

Our love, our curse, too late to mind

We’ll be forever, amongst nature’s rot

Am I the best heartbreak that you’ve got?