- 民族學研究 (ISSN:00215023)
- vol.43, no.2, pp.156-185, 1978-09-30
Y is a village in the southwest of Gumma Prefecture, consisting of 181 households, rearing silkworms and planting konjak (devil's tongue). Y villagers believe that extremely lucky success, especially economical success, of neighbors can be attributed to two kinds of supernatural forces. One is mystical power of osaki, a folk-zoological term for a small animal resembling a mouse or a weasel, which, by order of his master or his own will, thieve silkworms, cocoon, wheat powder or other properties of neighbors and make his master wealthy, or possess neighbors who then become mentally or physically ill and at times die. Those who keep osaki in their houses are called osakimochi or osaki-holders, and they are segregated in terms of marriage, for osaki-holding is believed to be transmitted to all relatives of the spouse of the osaki-holder and to all the children of the osaki-holders, paternally and maternally. Another is evil magic of sanrinboo, who are believed to practice magical rites secretly in order to deprive properties of neighbors. Usually they are very stingy but on the day of sanrinboo they present food to neighbors generously, and if neighbors receive it, all their wealth wil be taken away. Y is devided into 13 koochi, small local units whose members are bound in co-operative mutual aid relations. These units, however, vary in terms of their social cohesion or solidarity. Koochi which have few or no osaki-holders and sanrinboo keep, in general, strong social cohesiveness, while those koochi which have many osaki-holders and sanrinboo and suffer from much osaki-possession have a looser social structure. These koochi have been increasing in the number of households by new comers from outside and branch families from other koochi. They have co-operative mutual aid relations and religious relations with the members of other koochi, rather than own, and their relations between main and branch families cut across the koochi boundaries. Moreover, the socio-economic hierarchy in such koochi is unstable : old families become poorest and new families become wealthy suddenly. In contrast, those which have few osaki-holders and sanrinboo maintain their social hierarchy or order : old families keep their social and economic prestige, new branch families are organized in patrilinial kinship, mostly in their main families' koochi. As mentioned above, the beliefs of osaki-holders and sanrinboo seem to be related to the weakness and instability of social structure of the local community, and seem to regulate and make clear the individuals' ambiguous social position caused by such social circumstances. The osaki-holders and sanrinboo are believed to be wealthy. In fact, those who are suspected as sanrinboo are rich and, moreover, they have become rich suddenly, mostly by unfair and not traditional means of acculating wealth. On the other hand, the socio-economical status of all osaki-holders are not high, but notorious osaki-holders, whose osaki-spirits have possessed neighbors frequently or brought much misfortune on neighbors, have become remarkably rich in a brief period of a few decades. In most cases of osaki-spirit posession, osaki-holders belong to the middle or high classes economically and victims to low or middle. This fact may be interpreted as : alleging the occurrence of osaki-possession, the victim may try to accuse a neighbor of extremely rapid accumulation of much wealth by immoral economic activity.