Thursday, September 9, 2010


I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.
--Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Today, September 9, is Chrysanthemum Day (Kiku no Sekku), a national holiday in Japan honoring the royal dynasty. For that reason, I thought today would be a perfect occasion to visit Musubi (Becoming/Blooming), one of the virtues of Shinto, the traditional religion of Japan.

To better understand the meaning of Musubi, I consulted the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics at Kokugakuin University, who define it as

the spirit of birth and becoming. Birth, accomplishment, combination. The creating and harmonizing powers. The working of musubi has fundamental significance in Shinto, because creative development forms the basis of the Shinto world view.

In other words, Musubi stands for the power of creation. In the sacred text the Kojiki, which relates the myths and legends of ancient Japan, it is said that three Musubi deities--the God of Sky, the God of Earth, and the God-Who-Rules-the-Center--gave birth to all things in the Universe. Many Shinto worshippers revere these three creator Gods, along with the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, above all others.

As Shinto is the state religion of Japan, it also honors the Emperor, whose family chose the chrysanthemum, symbol of perfection, to represent their seat of power: the Chrysanthemum Throne. For over a thousand years, the Japanese have featured chrysanthemums in their main harvest festival, held on the ninth day of the ninth month (9 being the highest number and so associated with full bloom). A single petal of the celebrated flower is placed at the bottom of a wine glass to encourage a long and healthy life. In some areas, cotton is draped on chrysanthemum blossoms, and the following morning the dew caught on the cotton (kiku-wata) is used to bathe the body to impart the “bloom of youth.”

In an era of supermarkets stocked year-round, the meaning of the diverse harvest festivals that populate this time of the year has waned for many of us. Still, the sentiment of the harvest--in which the energies of the natural world combine with our own sweat and labor to bring the fruits into being--is worth remembering. Even if we are not farmers, we all in one way or another have watered the stories of our lives--our jobs, studies, relationships--with our blood, tears, and laughter. The stories have bloomed. And hopefully, so have we.

So, take a moment to celebrate the virtue of Musubi. How have you manifested this beauty of creating, and being created? Sprinkle some chrysanthemum petals on your food and wine, and enjoy your harvest.  

May we see the gates of Musubi, and perhaps make a home there.  

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