Organized Panel Session
The Japanese Buddhist folk deity Datsueba appeared as an old hag by the Sanzu River, which people cross after death. According to medieval religious texts, she forcibly takes the clothes of deceased in order to weigh them and estimate their deeds, for those with bad deeds are supposed to cross a deeper, harder-to-navigate point of the river. While clothes in this context signify the deeds of the deceased, by the Edo period cloth came to be incorporated into practices venerating Datsueba. Clothes and pieces of cloth were presented to her as offerings, and some Datsueba images were dressed in real fabric clothing or covered with floss silk. These customs may be explained by relating them to memorial services for worshippers, who wish not to be stripped of their clothes after death. Although this is certainly one motivation to offer cloth to Datsueba, considering her roles described in religious texts, not all worship practices can be understood by this theory. For example, cloth is sometimes utilized to lead participants to transcend reality in Datsueba-related rituals, or to establish a karmic connection with her for salvation and worldly benefits, and in the modern era she came to be worshipped as a deity who aids female tailors to advance their sewing skills. This article explores how “cloth”, a keyword associated with Datsueba, came to be re-interpreted and resulted in the diversification of Datsueba’s persona and worship practices.