Red vs Smallpox

Hosogami are smallpox spirits. (Hoso is the Japanese word for smallpox.) For safe recovery to health, the Hosogami must be soothed, propitiated, and sent on their way. Hosogami are pleased to see the color red. Physicians were glad to see the color red too:

  • Purple smallpox rashes indicate the illness is in a dangerous stage.
  • If and when rashes turn red, the patient is expected to recover.

The person suffering from small pox and those caring for him dressed in red to appease the Hosogami. In addition, “red prints” or hoso-e prints, paper wall amulets were posted at the first hint of small pox to propitiate, avoid, and/or banish the illness.

 

Daruma and Shoki possess the power to expel Hosogami and are among the spirits portrayed on red smallpox talismans. They are called “red” because that’s the primary color of these prints. If no print is available, red banners may suffice.

Following the patient’s recovery, these prints were traditionally ritually burned or floated down rivers to signal the departure of the spirit. Extremely few survive and these are now extremely valuable collectors items.

Borrowed from: The Powers That Be

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