Friday, February 17, 2012

The Yurei

If you were born in the 1980s, your teen years were probably filled with cinematic classics such as the Ring, the Grudge, and a slew of other creepy American remakes of popular Asian horror flicks.  If these movies strike a chord, then you're definitely familiar with the concept of the Yurei!

The yurei actually comes from Japanese ghost-lore, and is a term that in its purest form, denotes any being that we would consider a ghost or spirit...and there are definitely plenty of ghosts and spirits in Japan!  According to cultural belief, all humans have a soul or spirit that enters a state similar to purgatory upon death of the physical body.  The spirit must stay in this purgatory until a series of funeral and post-funeral rites are performed...and performed correctly.  If everything goes as planned, the spirit moves on to be with its deceased ancestors, becoming a protector of those still in the living.

However, death rarely has a storybook ending, and things often go wrong.  If for some reason the funeral rites are not performed satisfactorily, the spirit can become trapped here on earth until the situation can be remedied.  Further, those who die a sudden, violent death, or with strong emotions (greed, jealousy, hatred, etc.) can also become earthbound until their consequences are resolved.

There are different types of yurei, classified based on their manner of death and/or their reason for being earthbound.  Further, the yurei aren't just wanderers; they have a very specific purpose and will either stick to the site of their downfall, or follow the one who did them wrong.  They will remain earthbound until either they have fulfilled their reason for being here, or in extreme circumstances, are exorcised.

Luckily, the popularity of yurei in 17th century pop culture, literature, and theater, led to a very detailed description of these beings in an effort to distinguish their presence more easily from the living.  The modern description of the yurei was first described in a painting called the Ghost of Oyuki.  The description of the yurei is as follows:

a. Dressed in a flowing white garment, representing a traditional burial shroud

b. Hair is long, loose, and disheveled.  This represents the idea that woman would keep hair long, but pinned up.  It was let down for funeral and burial.

c. The hands dangle lifelessly from the wrists, and the arms are often outstretched in a zombie-like stance.

d. The feet and legs are completely absent, and the figure is floating.  However, sometimes if the feet and legs are present, the feet will be on backwards.

e. The yurei will be accompanied by several glowing orbs called hitodama.

As seen in the photo above, these creepy image has not only invaded the big screen in a line of hit movies, but has also infiltrated the hoaxed ghost photo circuit as well!

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