Notes for Chapter Nine

1 Afterwards I found that the old man had expressed to me only one popular form of a belief which would require a large book to fully explain - a belief founded upon Chinese astrology, but possibly modified by Buddhist and by Shinto ideas. This notion of compound Souls cannot be explained at all without a prior knowledge of the astrological relation between the Chinese Zodiacal Signs and the Ten Celestial Stems. Some understanding of these may be obtained from the curious article 'Time,' in Professor Chamberlain's admirable little book, Things Japanese. The relation having been perceived, it is further necessary to know that under the Chinese astrological system each year is under the influence of one or other of the 'Five Elements' - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water; and according to the day and year of one's birth, one's temperament is celestially decided. A Japanese mnemonic verse tells us the number of souls or natures corresponding to each of the Five Elemental Influences - namely, nine souls for Wood, three for Fire, one for Earth, seven for Metal, five for Water:

Kiku karani Himitsu no yama ni Tsuchi hitotsu Nanatsu kane to zo Go suiryo are.

Multiplied into ten by being each one divided into 'Elder' and 'Younger,' the Five Elements become the Ten Celestial Stems; and their influences are commingled with those of the Rat, Bull, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Serpent, Horse, Goat, Ape, Cock, Dog, and Boar (the twelve Zodiacal Signs) - all of which have relations to time, place, life, luck, misfortune, etc. But even these hints give no idea whatever how enormously complicated the subject really is.

The book the old gardener referred to - once as widely known in Japan as every fortune-telling book in any European country - was the San-re-so, copies of which may still be picked up. Contrary to Kinjuro's opinion, however, it is held, by those learned in such Chinese matters, just as bad to have too many souls as to have too few. To have nine souls is to be too 'many-minded' - without fixed purpose; to have only one soul is to lack quick intelligence. According to the Chinese astrological ideas, the word 'natures' or 'characters' would perhaps be more accurate than the word 'souls' in this case. There is a world of curious fancies, born out of these beliefs. For one example of hundreds, a person having a Fire-nature must not marry one having a Water-nature. Hence the proverbial saying about two who cannot agree - 'They are like Fire and Water.'

2 Usually an Inari temple. Such things are never done at the great Shinto shrines.