Photo Fridays! Take 8: discarded gomagi at a Kyoto shrine

discarded signs of protection

Lying in limbo

A large weathered trough on rotting feet holds its place outside one of the shrine buildings at Matsuo Taisha in Kyoto. Hundreds of discarded gomagi lie in a dishevelled nest.

It seems unfit for these formerly treasured strips of wood to be tossed without care, but they have served their purpose. These signs of insurance are renewed as needed for family or business safety, prosperity, health, fortune and success.

Shrine masters will eventually burn the sticks, ending another cycle.

Have you bought a token of good luck in Japan or elsewhere?

7 thoughts on “Photo Fridays! Take 8: discarded gomagi at a Kyoto shrine

  1. Pingback: Signs | Blogged With Words

  2. This picture is very nice – I love the two contrasting colors of the gomagi. It is hard to believe that they are just left there. I love how you can see the writing if you look closely!

    At temples in Taiwan, there are sticks like these in a wooden jar. The person must shake the container and the one that pops up will contain a message about their future or fortune. Are they used in the same way and for the same purpose in Japan?

    • Thank you! I know! Hitoshi will be emailing the shrine to find out more. He had never seen that sort of thing and we were pretty immersed in our own thing at the time to even think to track someone down to ask more. Yes! The writing says that it’s a gomaji and then what the prayer, wish or protection is for. It depends who you talk to… some call them prayer sticks. Anyway, some are for safe driving, good pregnancy, family prosperity, and the like. The ones we have at home are not in this style. They are taller, thicker and have white paper with a red or gold “tie” around them. Then we also have the smaller, cloth envelopes, too! Every time we return to Japan, we return all the charms to be burned and buy new ones. 😀

      Yes! The same sticks are at shrines and temples in Japan. The sticks have a number on them that matches to a piece of paper with a fortune on it. Sometimes you have to ask someone to give you the paper and other times there are drawers and you help yourself. I wrote about this sort of thing in “Help! I need a bad fortune!” Are there other types of fortunes in Taiwan? Do you have any photos of the shaker jars? I bet they are identical!

      • Yes, the sticks you described in the second paragraph are the same as the ones found in temples around Taiwan. I think the method of retrieving the paper depends on how popular the temple is though. If it is a popular temple, you may need to ask someone for it and if it is a temple less frequented, then the paper will be places in drawers.

        • Interesting! I’ve seen the reverse and the same in Japan. Are the fortunes pretty much always saying the same thing but with varying degrees of badness? And do they all use the same categories??

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