Tuesday, April 04, 2006

purgatory for stillborn children

the Japanese, in my experience so far, are not as... forgiving? empathetic to the same things?

In Kamakura, in the Hasedera Temple, hundreds of statues are placed to comfort the souls of stillborn children. These stillborn children are caught in purgatory and not allowed to go to 'heaven' because they caused their parents/mothers so much grief by not being born alive...

so parents of stillborn children pray for their souls here. they pray that these tiny souls, represented by stones that the statues hold, will be forgiven and allowed into some version of heaven.

what a heart breaking belief.

some of the statues have tiny hand knit caps or hand sewn tiny shawls. hundreds are lined up like these but hundreds (thousands?) more are scattered up the hill.

there was a special statue that it seemed like maybe it was good luck for children to pour water over his head. maybe it protects them? I wish I had a Japanese speaker/culutral narrator sitting on my shoulder sometimes explaining things. these kids seemed to not be too heart broken by the hundreds of little statues surrounding them and enjoyed bathing this particular one.


inkandpen said...

Wow. That is fascinating. Perhaps such a belief allows parents to express the anger they feel about a stillborn child in the moment, allows them to blame the child (who is dead anyway) instead of the mother/parents (who will grieve anyway) rather than, as we tend to do, only pity the dead child and (implicitly) blame the grieving mother, for having done something wrong that resulted in her child's death.

And then later, when they move from anger/grief to simple sadness, they can pray and feel better about the whole thing, pray to feel better about having once been angry.


Kiki said...

I like what inkandpen said. Very perceptive.