A Venus Figure

Dogu: Japanese clay figure               

Handa  Haruhisa

Dogu is a clay figure frequently discovered from remains of the Jomon era throughout Japan. Today’s lecture explores the roles of these figures in the life of the people in the Jomon era. It is obvious that Dogu was not mere decorations or toys. Some scholars claim that they were used for ceremonial purposes, such as praying for reproductive wealth or abundant crops, based on the fact that many of them are in female or maternal forms. Others argue that they were used as a sacrifice to carry diseases and ailments because they are almost always discovered shattered or discarded and very rarely are they unearthed in complete shape.

What was the actual purpose of Dogu? I do not pretend to be an expert of Jomon history or ethnology. I do, however, have a longstanding interest in Shintoism and Shamanism, as well as various religions including Shintoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism and so on. Particularly, I studied Shintoism from late Dr Kenji Ueda and Dr Minoru Sonoda at Kokugakuin University, among other institutions.
For many years, I have studied Shintoism not in its recent form of the State religion, but as an ancient spiritual “back bone” of the Japanese people.

From Amanomakoto okina collections
My conclusion reached from these extensive studies is that Shintoism is a collective term that includes ceremonial customs and religious views present in the Japanese people from the ancient times. The roots of Shintoism in this sense can be traced back to the Jomon era. It is possible, therefore, to deduct religious views of the Jomon people from ancient Shinto ceremonies, customs and religious views that survive today. It is my central assumption that, compared to the modern men and women, the Jomon people were much simpler people, who simply accepted divine existence and constructed their lives around the divine and spiritual existence. Therefore, I believe that shamans, who communicate with divine spirits, were much more common then.
This view may not be popular among academics, but I am convinced that, for commoners in Jomon Japan, shamanism was a part of life.

From Amanomakoto okina collections
All Shinto shrines owe their origin to a shaman, who, by supernatural power, sensed a holy site or an existence (“Miare”) of a divine spirit. These shamans then marked the site with “Himorogi” and gIwasakah. A typical example of this process can be found in the tale of Yamatohime who founded the Ise shrine.

I suggest that it is important to consult psychic mediums and religious persons active today in order to get a more accurate view of the Jomon people’s daily lives, because they are the people who can sense the “existence of divine spirits” just like the Jomon people.

This brings me to today’s topic, namely Dogu. To most people, the archetypical Dogu is what is called “sunglassed Dogu”. I am convinced that the figure is an accurate description of outworldly gods as seen by shamans. Divine spirits that take form of outworldly creatures often possess superior powers.

A venus figure in TOGARIISI Archaeological Museum
The same can be said about statutes of gods and Buddhas enshrined in temples and shrines today. For example, Fudo-myo-oh is often depicted as fanged figure, holding sword and surrounded by fire. Likewise, Taigen-myo-oh and Sanpo-kojin have three angry faces and six arms. Buddha statutes that have eight faces and six arms invariably wear angry expression in order to scare off evil spirits. Hat-hor and the bird-like Horus of Egypt as well as Indian Garuda are all depicted as outworldly creatures. This is how these gods are shown to be divine. As evident from above, gods and Buddahs that have strong spiritual power often take outworldly appearance. I am sure the Jomon people worshipped outworldly- shaped Dogu as a god who scared off evil and malicious spirits, just as people pray to Fudo-myo-oh for the same kind of protection today.

Dogu in the Jomon era had other purposes as well. It is likely that the Jomon people used these clay figures as a means of expression, just like others use drawing and sculpting as means of expression. But why are these figures found broken, missing limbs or shattered?

Some theorise that Dogu was used for sorcery. It was used to capture evil spirits inside. By breaking the Dogu with the evil spirits trapped inside, the Jomon people believed that the evil could be vanished forever.
Similar ceremonies are still performed today.
For example, Shinto shrines perform “Hitogata” and “Katashiro” ceremonies. A figure of young girl is released on the river during the “Nagashi-bina” ceremony, an ancient tradition still carried out at the Minashi-jinja shrine. The Hitogata and Katashiro are writings on a piece of paper, but the Jomon people, who did not have paper, used Dogu instead. They made Dogu from clay and, after capturing miasma, bad luck, curses, evil and vindictive spirits etc. inside, broke them, and either buried, burned or released them in the water. This is how the Jomon people ceremonially cleansed evil. Possibly, the spiral patterns etched on Dogu are the name of the person to be cleansed, just as the Hitogata and Katashiro bears the name of the person concerned. Dogu in the shape of a child and flat Dogu were used to cast away children’s illnesses. In the ancient shamanistic

Sunglassed Dogu
tradition of “Noro” “Itako” and American Indian Shamans, all illnesses were thought to be caused by evil spirits exercising bad influence on the person. Death rate among children was historically much higher than that of adults. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume there would have been numerous sacrificial Dogu for children. A typical example is the flat Dogu in the shape of a cross, with mouth-shaped cylindrical opening, found in great numbers in remains such as the Sannai Maruyama remains. As I see it, that shape and the mouth resemble a child in agony. I cannot help but sensing evil in the broken Dogu. I am sure any person with the spiritual sensibility can feel that evil air coming out of them are exactly the same as that of Hitogata/Katashiro into which the breath of ill person has been blown in.

I sometimes suggest people to get a sunglassed Dogu to exorcise evil and vindictive spirits. I know, for example, that people who get paralyzed in their sleep can be released from the curse by placing Dogu at bedside and by praying to the god of the Dogu. Dogu is also useful in resurrection of the dead, relief from illness and spiritual recovery.
In he terrestrial sense, it has the function of Pluto, which is the governing planet of birth, death, and resurrection. Sunglassed Dogu

From Amanomakoto okina collections
depicts the god of Pluto, and serve as the Himorogi (helper) to the god.

Haruhisa Handa
A chairman of The International Jomon Culture Cinference.
born in Hyogo,1951.
graduate from the college of economic in Dishisha University.
graduate from the college of special completion (Vocal music speciality) in
Musashino Academia Musicae.
completion in graduate school of Edith Cowan university West Austraia
science-of-arts part .
The president of Combodia University.
A large number of his books are published.