Saturday, June 25, 2016

Knitted Caps for the Lost Ones

While working on a travel book, I did a little online research on some statues I had seen at several temples in Japan. The red knitted caps on the figures, particularly little children, had caught my eye. These are known as Jizo statues, and are found in the temple courtyards. In the mizuko kuyō (literally meaning "water fetus," ceremony, special memorial services are conducted for families that have lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion.

A bib or necklace is first made, followed by some chants to Jizo, the bodhisattva who protects children.  The ceremony is conducted by a Buddhist priest and may be done to comfort the mourning parents or the soul of the dead child, address guilt from an abortion, or even out of fear of retribution from a vengeful spirit. 

Outside of Japan, different forms of the practice have also emerged. It can be particularly difficult for a family who has lost a child before it has been born, as modern societies often don't address this loss. While the grieving families will never be able to replace the child through a ceremony or any other action, formal acknowledgement and a place/method to mourn can be very therapeutic. 

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