Page:A Daughter of the Samurai.pdf/263

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they were always of paper. Later, extravagant families sometimes made them of brocade or crêpe, but however rich the material, they were called paper dolls and were always folded in the same crude shape of the primitive originals. When the set is arranged for the celebration, these dolls have no fixed place, as all the others have, but may be put anywhere, except on the top shelf reserved for the Emperor and Empress.

The origin of the Doll Festival reaches back to the crude days of Shintoism. At that time a sinful person would seek purification by bathing in a stream. As time passed, and power or riches brought independent thought, it became customary for the lazy and the luxurious to send a substitute. Still later, an inanimate sacrifice in human form was considered satisfactory, and from anything near and dear as a part of one’s own self the two images were made. There were tiny wooden spools, two cocoons or simply shaped bunches of floss, the most valued possession of weaving villages; even crudely cut vegetables in farming districts. There were always two, supposed to be male and female, thus representing the entire family—both men and women members. Gradually, dolls rudely cut from paper—a precious material in those days—came to be universally used and were called kamibina which means “paper dolls.”

In time one fixed date was decided upon for universal atonement, and the “First Serpent Day of Spring” was chosen, because the time of the dragon’s change of skin is symbolic of the slipping from winter’s darkness of sin into the light and hope of spring. That date is the one still observed.

In the days of shogun power, when the Emperor was considered too sacred to be seen, this festival represented an annual visit from the invisible ruler to show his personal interest in his people; thus it encouraged loyalty to