Tree fertility ritual


Tree fertility ritual (narikizeme )

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: New Year
***** Category: Observance


On January 15, the day of the "Small New Year" (koshoogatsu 小正月)fruit tree are beaten with special wands (iwai boo 祝い棒) to co-erxce them into bringing rich fruit at harvest time. The men beating the tree shout:

naran ka naranu ka naraneba kiritaosu

Will you bring fruit?
Will you not bring fruit?
If you do not bring fruit
I will cut you down !

Other men take the place of the beaten tree and shout back:

I will bring fruit, I will bring fruit !

This ritual is especially performed in the fruit growing areas of Northern Japan and Western Japan.
Sometimes a hatchet was used to actually nick the tree, and then red beans rice gruel (azuki-gayu) was smeared on the nick.


tree fertility ritual, narikizeme
..... 成木責, 生り木責め, 成り木責め

kizeme 木責(きぜめ)
tree incantation, kimajinai 木呪(きまじない)
fruit tree ritual, kajuzeme 果樹責(かじゅぜめ),
..... nari iwai 成祝(なりいわい)
cheering the tree, ki o hayasu 木を囃す(きをはやす)
naruka naranuka なるかならぬか

Worldwide use

This is a ritual found in other places:

In Romania, there's a traditional Christmas confection called a turta. It is made of many layers of pastry dough, filled with melted sugar or honey, ground walnuts, or hemp seed.
In this tradition, with the making of the cake families enact a lovely little ceremony to assure the fruitfulness of their orchard come spring. When the wife is in the midst of kneading the dough, she follows her husband into the wintry garden.

The man goes from barren tree to tree, threatening to cut each one down. Each time, the wife urges that he spare the tree by saying:
"Oh no, I am sure that this tree will be as heavy with fruit next spring as my fingers are with dough this day."

And in England:

This is the popular image of the traditional folk custom of wassailing fruit trees - a ceremony intended to begin the process of waking the fruit trees from their winter slumber and the first
fertility festival of the folk calendar.

* * *

After dark those taking part proceed down to the orchard, ceremonially bearing the wassail bowl filled with the prepared booze. They also carry large sticks and such items as shotguns, drums,
kettles, pans and whistles - anything which can be used to create lots of noise in fact.

The ceremony generally begins with the tree, usually the oldest and most venerable tree in an orchard, being variously serenaded with traditional "wake up" type of chants and rhymes alternating with speeches by the group's leader in praise of the tree, its fruitfulness in previous years and exhorting it to do even better in the coming year.

* * *

The custom usually continues with the tree or trees being beaten about the trunk (and any branches within reach) with the sticks. This is believed to begin the process of awakening the tree and starting the sap flowing up the trunk. It is accompanied by much shouting and the making of as much noise as possible, and shotguns are commonly fired up into the branches. Again, this is believed to assist the tree in awakening from its winter sleep as well as frightening away any evil spirits which might be lurking in the branches.

Compiled by Larry Bole

Mulled Mead, Wassail ! and haiku

Things found on the way

Rural Japan Reality

He had been tending his many orchards for many years. Getting older, things got more difficult and one by one, he had to cut down the many trees in his orchards.
Today I observed the old farmer below in my valley :

winter cold -
he felled his last
apple tree

Winterkälte -
er fällt den letzten

© Gabi Greve, January 2007


narikizemi kirakira tabi no ura shiroshi

tree incantation -
the white back of my tabi socks
shines and sparkles
(Tr. Gabi Greve)

© sinmik


kyookai no bokushi kitarite narikizeme

the priest from
our local church came too -
tree fertility ritual
(Tr. Gabi Greve)

© www.gendaihaiku.gr.jp/haikukai/result/70_touku.htm

Related words

***** Saijiki of Japanese Festivals and Ceremonies


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