Japan

Organized Panel Session

(72) Omenology and Ritual Responses to Disaster among Heian-Period Elites

3/23/2018
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Thurgood Marshall South, Mezzanine

Omens and rituals concerning both personal and collective disasters preoccupied the elites of Heian Japan.  By examining the interpretive apparatus surrounding a particular type of disaster and/or portent, each paper in this panel adds to our understanding of how the explanation and manipulation of such inauspicious phenomena determined the fortunes—or rather, misfortunes—of those elites.  Andrew Bernstein focuses on the divinations and other rituals surrounding Mt. Fuji’s eruptions—frequently viewed as omens of epidemic—to better comprehend the culture of fear that shaped the dynamics of the Japanese court.  Alessandro Poletto looks at the tenth-century development of a new astrological discourse about earthquakes to shed light on the roles played by the court-appointed yin-yang specialists (onmyōji) who promoted it.  Kristina Buhrman also turns our attention skyward, in her case by showing how single-tailed comets, or “broom stars,” were interpreted as signs of impending—and for those invested in the status quo, catastrophic—regime change.  Taken together, these papers not only illuminate the ritual politics of Heian Japan but also contribute more broadly to our understanding of how disasters are both experienced and interpreted.

Presentations:

Andrew Bernstein

Lewis & Clark College, Oregon

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D. Max Moerman

Barnard College, Columbia University, New York

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Andrew Bernstein

Lewis & Clark College, Oregon

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Alessandro Poletto

Columbia University, New York

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Kristina Buhrman

Florida State University, Florida

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Mimi Yiengpruksawan

Yale University, Connecticut

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