Omamori

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” 

– Samuel Johnson

https://www.tokyoweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/asakusa-omamori.png
Image by Natalie Jacobsen

I think I need a good luck charm. Just a little help.

This week I have found myself writing fewer words but absorbing many, many others. At every turn I seem to encounter a new subject that warrants research, sparks my interest, or leads me off the straight path.

That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. In fact, I find that a paragraph written with understanding and background knowledge is so much more satisfying than simply ploughing ahead with a vague idea of what I intend and returning later to say “I can’t believe I wrote that, it’s all wrong, gotta start again.” (And yes I have actually restarted the WIP once already.)

Today I followed the rabbit hole into Shinto practices and beliefs, a subject of which I admit to have had zero idea previously. A world of new information has moved as if by osmosis from Wiki after Wiki into the void that is my brain. Suddenly I am filled with new knowledge and ideas.

One idea is that perhaps a talisman for knowledge wouldn’t be a bad plan.

As my new knowledge tells me, all over Japan you can find omamori – small amulets, talismans or blessings for luck and protection.

Wikipedia describes them thus:

Originally made from paper or wood, modern amulets are small items usually kept inside a brocade bag and may contain a prayer, religious inscription of invocation. Omamori are available at both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples with few exceptions and are available for sale, regardless of one’s religious affiliation.

Omamori are then made sacred through the use of ritual, and are said to contain busshin (spiritual offshoots) in a Shinto context or kesshin (manifestations) in a Buddhist context.

While omamori are intended for temple tourists’ personal use, they are mainly viewed as a donation to the temple or shrine the person is visiting. Visitors often give omamori as a gift to another person as a physical form of well-wishing.

“Gakugyou-joujou” ( 学業成就 ) are knowledge acquisition talismans, often used by students for encouragement in studies and exams. I think this would work for scholars as well, and people like myself who are learning for, well, it seems for the sake of learning sometimes!

Perhaps a good luck charm to help with the most efficient, effective and beneficial learning experiences would be a grand advantage to this newbie writer.

Whilst omamori are supposed to be obtained from shrines and temples which produce them and have certain associations, there are modern commercialised versions (Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse have got in on it, for example) that have no typical spiritual connections. Being a white person, would it be cultural appropriation if I got ahold of one of these? Would it even work? If the effectiveness of the talisman lies in the placebo effect rather than divine intervention, perhaps I could make some use out of it. The other question is, do I buy one myself or does it need to be a gift? So much I don’t know.

I’m open to trialling it.

But… maybe it’s just cheating. After all, “good luck happens to people who work hard for it” (says Patrick Duffy).

And if that’s not the truth, the world is a sad, cruel place. (Which it is, but let’s ignore that for now.)

I’m off to look on eBay. If I get sidetracked by other good luck / knowledge acquisition talismans, that’s okay. After all, who says I can’t make my own luck however I choose?


How do you make your own luck?

Have you ever gotten an omamori? I’d love to hear about it.


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