Plays DataBaseKanawa (Iron Trivet)

Photo from National Noh Theatre

One night, a low-ranking Shinto priest serving Kibune Shrine (in present Kurama Kibune-chō, Sakyō-ku, Kyoto) receives a divine revelation in his dreams. The oracle says that he should give a divine message to a woman from Kyoto who visits the shrine for worship around two o’clock in the morning [Ushi-no-toki (Ushi-no-koku) Mairi]. In the wee hours, the woman appears at the shrine. She has walked a long distance to Kibune Shrine every night to curse her ex-husband because she cannot forgive him for abandoning her and taking a new wife. The priest gives the woman a divine oracle, which says that if she puts on a red kimono, spreads red powder on her face, puts an iron trivet on her head, which burns with three flames, and holds rage in her mind, she will be able to turn into a demon as she wishes. While communicating the divine message and exchanging words with the woman, the priest begins to be frightened and runs away. As soon as the woman swears to follow the oracle, her countenance changes, her hair stands on end, and thunder rumbles. The woman leaves the words of curse to let her former husband pay for her bitterness and runs away in the thunderstorm.

Meanwhile, the woman’s former husband, living in the Shimogyō area, has been suffering from nightmares every night and thereby visits Abe no Seimei, a famous onmyōji, or yin-yang diviner. Seimei predicts that the husband and his new wife will end their lives tonight due to the curse by his former wife. Responding to the request of the man, Seimei sets up an altar at the man’s house, places human-size dolls which represent the couple to transfer the curse into the doll, and starts exorcising the evil spirit. Then, his ex-wife appears, wearing a lit iron trivet on her head and transformed into a demon. Just as the divine message says, she puts an iron trivet with lighted candles on her head and puts thick red pigment on her face. The female demon laments her bitterness caused by being abandoned, beats the hair of the doll representing the new wife, and attacks the husband’s doll. Seimei however exorcises the demon with his spiritual power. The demon disappears while swearing to seek another chance for revenge.

This piece expresses the horror of the resentment and jealousy of women through the evil figure of a demon. This is also a piece to express magic power, which beats off the curse imposed through “Ushi-no-toki (Ushi-no-koku) Mairi” , which is the style of worship of visiting the shrine around 2 a.m. every night. However, even Abe no Seimei, the onmyōji with extraordinary magical power, is overshadowed by the demon obsessed by jealousy. Although the female demon is fought off, it seems that she lost her power only temporarily. She will wait for another opportunity and might appear again some time in future. The grudge of an abandoned woman is strong enough to overwhelm the existence of the powerful diviner. This Noh drama delivers this strong emotion by sharply changing the speed of vocal and instrumental music as well as by vivid forms of movement.

Kibune Shrine is located on Mount Kurama, which sits in the northern outskirts of the city of Kyoto. It is quite a distance to travel to the shrine for a woman who probably lived in the city center; even walking such a distance is abnormal. The audience will grasp her deep resentment.

STORY PAPER : Kanawa (Iron Trivet)

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