Blessing – Japan

“When a person is having a bad day or week, someone who cares for them may take salt and sprinkle it over the other person’s head and rub it into their scalp to protect them from evil spirits or demons.  While rubbing the salt into the scalp of the person, it is common to say a prayer to ward off the evil.  The person will also make a circle of salt around the one in need of protection or put salt in front of their door so that the person will be guarded from these devilish spirits.”

Chris told me that his grandmother would often practice this blessing on him whenever he was feeling sad, had been injured, or was angry for one reason or another.  His grandmother is fully Japanese, however Chris claims to be only one quarter Japanese.  Chris told me that while she would rub salt into his scalp she would say different prayers sometimes, although they were usually in Japanese.  When she would say the prayer it would usually be a phrase such as “Guard over my grandson” or “May all evil be gone”.  His grandmother was a Shinto Buddhist and she used prayers from her church when she would speak, however Chris could not remember any of the actual Japanese that she used.  Chris’ grandmother was from Okinawa, which is an island right off of Japan and immigrated to Hawaii after the second world war and finally to Redlands, California where Chris and his family live today.

Chris said that he believed that his grandmother’s parents or grandparents had probably done the same blessing to her while she was a young girl in Japan. Chris was not sure whether his grandmother actually believed in the evil spirits or if it was just a tradition that she learned while growing up.  Either way it can be seen as a way that a person can help heal another, as to give their blessing to them and wish for their well being.  Usually this is practiced in a home, either of the person who needs protection or the person saying the prayer, according to Chris this was usually at his home or his grandmother’s.

Salt is an object that is often used in other superstitions and folklore.  One example that comes to mind is throwing salt over one’s shoulder for good luck.  As a food ingredient that has existed for all of human existence, there is a lot of tradition associated with it, not just in preparing meals, but in other senses as can be seen in this example of a blessing.  For this reason it seems that people have given salt some extra ability of being able to cure others or possibly even protect them.  I see this blessing as a combination of the use of salt as an agent to cure, and the prayer that is spoken to protect against these evil spirits that may be harming a person.