Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Setsubun – Last day of Winter in Lunar calendar

Today, February 3rd is Setsubun in Japanese tradition.

Setsubun (節分) means “the turning of the season”. A day before Risshun(立春 – spring), Rikka(立夏 – summer), Risshuu(立秋 – autumn) and Ristto(立冬 – winter) is called Setsubun. So there are four days of Setsubun in a year.

During the Heian period (AD794-1185), the Setsubun before the day of spring was taken as the most important one. Today, the Emperor still holds a Shinto ritual at the Imperial Court on this day.

Why is the spring Setsubun so important?
In my opinion, it’s because it’s the one right before Shunbun(春分/March, 21st – vernal equinox).

A wide area in the Asian region, the month before and after the Setsubun of spring is a big time of celebration. It’s the New Years in the old calendar. They celebrate this time more than the New Year of the Western calendar. In China, massive people (students, migrant laborer etc.) return to their homeland around this time.

On the day of spring Setsubun, ecliptic longitude is 315°. On the day of vernal equinox it is at 360°, returning to point 0. So astronomically speaking, it’s like the sun has made her last turn.
Just for your information, the summer solstice is at 90°, autumnal equinox is at 180° and the winter solstice is at 270°.

I explained something rather difficult, but to sum it up, the celebration of Setsubun is about Sun worship. I sense that these dates are turning points and changes significant to the Gods.

The sun is born around December 23rd, on winter solstice, and she prepares for full action. Setsubun is the time when she really starts to bring out her power. In fact the plants are getting ready as well toward the day of spring equinox, in parallel to the sun.

For the World of the Gods, the winter solstice is the hidden Yin part of the New Year and Setsubun is the Yan part of the New Year when the actual move takes place. It is a very important time.
And in the World of Reality, we have the New Year’s Day just in between those two. It's all meant to be.

The ancient people worked on their farm, harvested and the whole daily routine was planned by following the movement of the sun. They believed it would bring good fortune. This is still spiritually active today.

Thus, we should also consider today as a special day for ourselves. To refresh yourself in your own way. To restart, working on what is in front of you in the best way possible. It’s the turning point toward the coming spring.

Rather than thinking big, start from cleaning. This is a misogi and harai, a purification and cleansing ritual that will help you spiritually.

The idea of bean-scattering on this day, is to clean afterwards. When you are cleaning the house to gather the scattered beans, you are cleaning off the dust you might have missed at the end of the Year.

The tradition of eating soba on the New Year’s Eve derives from the craftsmen who dealt with gold dust. When they do their end of the year cleaning at their workshop, they used soba dango balls. They made the gold dust stick on the sticky balls that made it easier to pick up.

What? You’ve already done your cleaning before the bean-scattering? Well that’s all good.

Ikashite-itadaite arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live