Page:Occult Japan - Lovell.djvu/55

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age antedating the time when the Japanese learned to write; an inference fully borne out by folk-lore. For the ordeal is mentioned more than once in the Kojiki, and seems to have been quite popular in prehistoric times. In those direct days it was applied as touchstone to actual guilt; in these more teleologic times merely as test of theoretic guilelessness.

The arrangements for the rite are primitively picturesque. A huge iron pot, as it might be some witches' caldron, is ceremoniously set in the midst of the garden or court. About it is then built a magic square. Four cut bamboo, tufted at their tops, are stuck into the ground some eight feet apart. From frond to frond are hung hempen ropes. This makes an airy sort of palisade, designed to keep out the undesirable devils. Just outside of the space thus inclosed is placed a deal table, on which one or more deal boxes, open on the side, make consecrated pedestals for the gohei. The gohei are very important affairs, of which I shall have much to say later. For the moment it will suffice to state that they are zigzag strips of paper festooning a wand, and