It is represented as a kind of floating orb or fireball, which are state to be the souls of the dead.
There are ways to ensure that when the supernatural apparears, your spirit remains insideof your body, so you Hitodama does not leave you.
This involves binding your kimono hem, which we can find mentioned in its earliest form in the Tale of Genji, in the tale the Lady Rokujo speaks through the dying Lady Aoi stating; ‘bind the hem of my robe, to keep it within.’
More detals concernng this practise can be found in the Heian Period poetry anthology known as the Fukuro-sōshi, dating to 1159. Inside it states one should read a specific poem three times over, and then knot the lower corner of your kimono hem for three days. For a man, you must knot the left lower corner, and the right corner for women.
The poem in question goes as follows:1
|tama wa mitsu |
nushi wa dare tomo shiranedomo
shitagai no tsuma
|If you see a soul |
drifting free of its owner
then knot up your hem.
- View the Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki online here: Konjaku Online.
1. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
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