Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Cat Temple Shozen-in

Standing guard in front of the gate to Shozen-in, a small temple in the mountains of Kumamoto, are a pair of cats rather than the more usual nio or komainu. The reason relates to the story of why the temple was founded in 1625

Previously a temple, Fumonji, stood on this spot but was burned down in 1582, and the resident priest,  Seiyo Houin, killed. According to the legend he had been falsely accused of plotting against the local lord.

Following his death, his mother went to a local shrine and there bit her finger and painted the kami statue with the blood and also got her cat to lick the blood. This was all some type of curse and withcraft. A series of misfortunes began affecting the lords family, and some stories involve the cat shapeshifting into a beautiful woman.

Subsequently the lord decided to construct a new temple to pacify the spirit of the son who had been killed.  Pacifying angry spirits and ghosts is a huge part of Japanese religious practise. The disasters ceased.

Earlier I have posted about the Kannon-do of the temple, and of a Cat Shrine in Kagoshima