Here’s a topic we’ve all probably heard in one form or another: Yurei (幽靈) or simply, a spirit or ghost.


In Japanese folklore, this spirit can apparently be divided into two categories:

Goryo (御靈) is a vengeful spirit of an aristocrat. In general, vengeful spirits are referred to as Onryo (怒靈), the stronger the sense of injustice and hatred in the person, the stronger the spirit is. But if the person was once of a high status, they’re referred to as goryo. During the Heian era, people thought of plagues were a result of these spirits and often held rituals to placate them.

Boryo (慕靈) is a spirit that carries no thirst for vengeance, but still has a connection with the living world that prevents them from passing over. If they’re strong enough, they are capable of possessing people (kind of a popular theme in manga and anime), of course it’s not good for the person they’re possessing…

There is a popular concept that when referring to yurei, they are portrayed as women. And their stories are the prime example of hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. They are usually portrayed with their hair is long and loose, they wear a white funeral robe (presumably the one they were buried in) and looking pale and grey.

There is a common theme in most of these yurei stories. There would be a woman, who sacrificed much for her lover, who would forsake this sacrifice and betray them. When the woman realises she’s been tossed aside, love becomes hate and she dies wretchedly of a broken heart.

And then the woman comes back to haunt her betrayers.

Generally, ghosts are not usually considered to be able to harm just anyone – there is always a certain set of rules or criteria you must meet in order to attract their attention. No doubt there is some aspect of this that was used during historical times to teach children what not to do and where not to go. This is all balanced by the concept that the ghost is tethered by their human life and the feelings involved in them. Whatever item or location crosses their threshold, was usually something they had a strong connection to when they were living.

More to come on this topic! It’s a big one with a lot of individual tales.




日本神妖博物誌 作者: 多田克己 譯者:歐凱寧

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