九月〈長月〉 September/ Nagatsuki

日中はまだ暑くとも、朝晩は涼しくなり、九月に入った頃から田園では、一段と膨れ上がった稲穂の上を赤とんぼが飛び出します。また、仲秋の名月は町を美しく照らし、稲穂に見立てた芒の穂と団子や里芋等の収穫物を備え、秋の収穫期と重ね、収穫の予祝としての月見が重要な農耕儀礼となっています。

Hot days give way to cooler nights and slightly chilly mornings as September begins. Now the heads of the rice stalks are in heavy bloom and red dragonflies swoop among them. Chushu no Meigetsu is the harvest moon. On that night people bathe in its strong glow while partaking of the season’s offerings: nogi, a sheaf of native grass; dango, rice pasta dumplings with sweet red bean filling; and seasonal crops like the taro root and other local specialties. This is a preamble to the harvest celebrations to come, and has served as an ongoing seasonal acknowledgment of the importance of agrarian culture.

九日

9th

最大数の陽の数字(奇数)である9が重なる日は不吉とされており、それを祓う行事として節句を行っていましたが、後に陽の数字は吉祥という思想に変わり、大変めでたいとされ、重陽の節句は3月3日の桃の節句に対して、菊の節句ともいい、菊の花を飾ったり、菊酒を飲み交わして不老長寿を祈りました。全国的には重陽の行事は減っていますが、京都の上賀茂神社では菊の被綿を神前に供える神事や氏子の子供達による烏相撲が行われ、不老長寿や悪霊退散を祈ります。

There’s a strong numerological element attached to the ancient beliefs, and certain dates, because of their numerical place in the cycle, conveyed either positive or negative associations. The 9th was one such “charged” day, called sekku. At first considered a bad omen because it was the largest odd integer in a given set, it later took on a positive, even celebrated association. The name went from choyo no sekku, which referred strictly to its number, to kiku no sekku, invoking the chrysanthemum, a symbol of Japan that holds vast, sacred meaning. On this day people decorate their houses with the flower, and perhaps drink sake infused with chrysanthemum, and they implore the deities for health and longevity. These days there are fewer choyo festivities across Japan, but one tradition that is celebrated at Kyoto’s Kamigamo Shrine continues to capture the country’s imagination. There the priests offer lengths of kikunose-wata, a special cotton that has been bathed in the fragrance of the chrysanthemum, overnight. Another part of the festivities is to have young boys from the local “parish” engage in the traditional sport of Sumo wrestling (which, it is not widely known, has its origins in religious practice as well). They call it karasu-zumo or “Crow Sumo”, and again, it’s not so much about athleticism as about contemplation of the earth’s wondrous cycle of change, and the hope that our care and respect for it will be regarded beneficently and rewarded with good health and triumph over evil.



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