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On the Subject of metals (Thread Split from Embellishment of Mo)

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  • sigrune@aol.com
    Please keep in mind I am at work while writing this one so I do not have access to my sources to quote, (or check spelling) Metal in Japan has a very
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26, 2004
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      Please keep in mind I am at work while writing this one so I do not have access to my sources to quote, (or check spelling)

      Metal in Japan has a very interesting history and focus of views by the Japanese people. It is yet another disparity of culture.

      Metal is both viewed as beneficial and melevolent, Shito has longstanding traditions of bans/taboos on metal on the person, on hallowed ground, and within the shrine.

      Bhuddism also has views as metal as taboo, but is also frequetly used in offerings, iconagraphy, and holy objects. From what I have read, closeness to the Bhudda-force can purify metal and remove the taint from it.

      However steel/iron and copper transformed some of the taboos of Shitoism and certainly impacted bhuddist thoughts as well.
      Iron in a state of carburization or dense hemitite like form, was regarded as purified and worthy of respect. The tatara or smelting furnace as well as the forge were consicrated since early times. The practice stems most likely fro continental practices, but there are similarities to the traditions of refining copper used by the Ainu/Emishi.

      Copper is also found in abundance in Japan, it is frequently called "Mountain Metal" and has an importaint significance in certain aspects of Shinto. It and iron were thought of as the bones of Japan, for some refrences point the the sacred kama beads being from the bone-iron of an important mountain (forget which one) and the mirror the mountain metal of another. (Note the sacred sword was supposedly forged of Heaven sent steel, which would happen to be meteoric iron, a highly prized commodity in sword manufacture, since lump iron deposits were not known or used much in Japan until the Edo period)

      Raw metals, bare copper, bronze, brass, silver, steel, unwrought iron, tin, zinc, lead, were not encountered much outside certian applications. Many of these things were regarded as "base" and artisans from all periods worked these in various ways, by methods of alloying, texturing, patinaing, laquering to remove the stigma that was assosicated with them. Gold enjoyed a special place, this was more than likely due to it's seemingly untarnishing nature, and continetal values that were imported at the time of Japanese exapnsion. (Pre-Nara)Gold never quite obtained the stigma as a base metal, but there are several stories in which common folk when presented with raw gold shrunk from it, regarded it as suspicious, or unclean and would not except it. (Maybe it was common sense on their part with all those crafty kitsune and tengu lurking about)

      Demons and scarry things were though to be attracted to the raw materials. Early craftsmen were known to call on diviners to ward their workshops to prevent the spirits from being angered bu the presense of the metals. But strangely well worked metal also became holy and valuable. There is a story of a farmer who discovers a perfect nail or spike which is described as bright but newly rusted, who takes it to a smithy to toss in his forge to purify.

      More to come later,
      -Takeda
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