Yamabushi and The Hero’s Journey

Yamabushi training very closely follows The Hero’s Journey. In The Hero’s Journey, there is a call to adventure, a reason to head out on an intrepid journey. There is an initiation, or an ordeal to overcome. There is the transformation. Finally, there is the hero’s return.

The call to adventure could be construed as any number of things, but I think these days people feel some sort of want for recognition from a higher being, or maybe just to feel content with themselves. This I think depends on the person, but there is a certain ordeal or initiation we go through on the mountains, this could be symbolise by any number of the rituals we undertake on the mountains. And then the transformation comes.

Yamabushi training is all about the transformation. You go into the mountains, which we regard as the mother’s womb, and you train your soul while out there. The journey starts in the present, represented by Mt. Haguro, and then we go back in time, to the time before we existed, or we were just a twinkle in our father’s eye. That is Mt. Gassan, the mountain that represents the afterlife, where our ancestors reside, the past (which always reminds me of Dad whenever I’m there). And then, when we’re ready, we emerge ‘reborn’ once we make it to Mt. Yudono. This is where symbolically our souls are said to reconnect with our bodies.

Then, once we leave the mountains, we jump over fire which represents christening water. This is when we are officially reborn, a sort of homecoming. And so the cycle begins again, just like on The Hero’s Journey.

All the while we embody a philosophy that has profound implications for life. Sort of like ‘May the force be with you’, ‘Hakuna Matata’, we have Uketamo.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 


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