This past weekend marked the beginning of Spring in the Shinto calendar. Spring, called Risshun, began on Satruday and Setsubun marked the day before spring on Friday (the day before the start of a new season is always called Setsubun). In the old calendar, this was the time of the new year. A time of renewal, much like with any other major holiday. So I set out to see what I could do to celebrate this at home.
Typically, in a shrine the activities include shooting three arrows to help purify your mission, your life and your fate (one arrow for each) for the next year. Afterwards, at least at our shrine, you’ll take your soybeans and throw them at oni (closest word I know is ‘demon’). These oni will become purified by the soy and help to make your next year successful (as I understand it). While doing this, you will shout “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” or “misfortune out, Come in happiness”. Afterwards, you’re supposed to eat as many soybeans as you are old, plus one extra to represent the next year of good health. Unsure what to do to bring these activities home (honey, I need to go buy a bow…) I asked Barrish sensei what would be the best activities to do at home. He told me to clean my house thoroughly, to open the windows to allow fresh air in, to pray to the kami, and to toast, throw and eat roasted soybeans.
Slowly I am learning that every Shinto holiday consists of at least three things:
- Cleaning your house
- Praying to kami
- Eating/offering a food that is specific to the holiday
So on Friday and Saturday, we cleaned the house up. We dusted, picked things up off the ground… made sure everything was in fairly good order. We left the windows open most of the weekend to allow the nice cool breeze to come in. And on Sunday, we got down to business with making roasted soybeans.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like these beans. It really was a tough call, but I thought I’d give them a shot for tradition’s sake. First you need to get your beans, we bought the prepackaged kind. You’ll need to de-hull them. For us, that meant taking off a layer of clear-ish skin. Then, you’ll place them onto an ungreased baking sheet. Afterwards, put them in the oven at 350F. You’ll need to keep a close eye on them. We had to roll them around every few minutes to ensure that they wouldn’t stick or burn.
Once they look as brown as you want them, you’ll pull them out of the oven. Spray some oil on them, and follow that up with salt.
After that, we placed them onto our ‘honorary ozen’ and took them over to the kamidana. We also added some Vitamin Water to our offering cups. Not necessarily the healthiest, but at least the Other could partake of it, unlike sake. After we said our prayers, we took a few handfuls of beans and threw them around the house, chasing out hidden demons. We then sat and ate our 26 beans. They were actually quite tasty.
I personally love that Shinto has spring so early. Down here in the desert, it’s already warming up. You can go outside in your shorts and sandals. It’s almost like winter doesn’t even happen down here. So for me, it’s great timing. I also like the reinforcement of renewal. I feel like many things are on the cusp of change, like spring is going to bring a lot of awesome stuff. I can’t wait to see what happens.
Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!