FIGURES AND FIGURE CAPTIONS
Fig. 1: Huge columns, monumental, but they are not built for bearing loads, they are
freestanding signs, markers, symbols in space. As signs they imply coordination between
producers, form and specific place. As markers they structure environmental space,
and as symbols they express a spiritual principle embodied in their form.
Fig. 2: Villages A and B erect different forms in front of their village sanctuaries
A and B. The cult signs represent territorial units.
Fig. 3: The two main associations of elderly and young men build different types of
signs. The signs represent those who produced them and deal with them ritually. They
clearly stand for social units.
Fig. 4: 'Standing upright in space', an evidently ancient type of tectonic symbolism.
However, in the whole region this symbolism is contrasted by three antithetic categories:
placelessness, horizontality and movement. Drunk with holy rice wine, cult members carry often considerably heavy columns, or pull them with ropes, in the framework
of ecstatic processions inside the shrine precinct or to secondary sanctuaries outside.
The explicitly dynamic and ecstatic behaviour is clearly a consequence of the non-tectonic (ec-static) condition of the symbols.
Fig. 5: Cult marker of the 'fixed to the ground type. It appears as 'built time':
the radial ropes of the cord network spanned over the surface of the lower part
represent the 12 symbols of the Chinese calendar. The circular ropes and the knots
lined up vertically at the front pole imply the 12 months. The large knot of the thick cult
rope stands for the year. Note that, in the structural sense, the dominant rope can
be considered as the 'cause' of the whole symbol, it is the 'conditio sine qua non'
of the structure. This can be used to explain many similar symbolisms.
Fig. 6: The usual cult rope (shimenawa) hanging at the shrine's entrance gate through
the year is cut into two pieces at this festival. Note that its loosely protruding
ends are called snake heads. The holy rope is thus also a multi-headed snake. Both
halves - now one-headed snakes - are then laid around the cult signs constructed at
the same time with straw and reed. For a short time the markers stand symmetrically
in front of the Shinto shrine. With their snakes wound around their middle part,
they are like guards. At the nocturnal fire festival the snakes die in the cultic fire together
with the fibroconstructive signs. Here too, the snakes, as ropes, are clearly recognisable
as the structural cause of the signs in the constructive sense.
Fig. 7: In spite of modern objects like bicycles and cars, very ancient dragons are
found here. Erected along the village road, they are decorated with twigs and flowers.
They do not look very frightening, these dragons, twelve in all. But they might have been dangerous in the past, as the ritual shows. Tightly bound after lighting, thus
harmlessly gleaming, they are carried over considerable distances. If, however,
at the destination point their strings are loosened, they start to spit fire very
Fig. 8: Becoming and disappearing. Being born and dissolving. This is not applied
to something natural, but related to something formed by the human hand. The symbolic
form is built meticulously, but soon loses its bodily existence during its metabolism
into light form. For the inhabitants of the village this is some sort of an abstract
theatre which shows a deeply philosophical structure and thus forms local identity.
Fig. 9: A licking and moving snake head forms the top of the dragon's body which
is immovably fixed around the cult signs middle part. There is no direct imitation
of a natural snake. Its position related to the symbol as well as its characteristic
movements transmit the idea of snake and snake-head. In fact, the head consists of reed
ears which are moving at the slightest motion of the air. The resemblance of the
artefact to the natural form is given by the analogy of movement. Maybe this type
of thought was originally formative for our own concept of life?
Fig. 10: As in those myths and legends reporting that originally cosmic things were
still on earth: the sun wheel (nichirin) is still close to the human world here,
but high up on the heavenly pillar. Made of reeds, encircled with cedar twigs, it
produces a filigree form against the blue sky. For a short time at night it will unite the
inhabitants of the village with the flooding light of this night-sun.
Fig. 11: Idealised tree form made with reeds, rice straw, bamboo, twigs of Camellia,
oak and sakaki. In some cases these cult trees are decorated with Camellia flowers.
They are always found on sacred grounds, that is on the property of the sanctuary.
Their heterogeneous materiality and other characteristics remind us of ancient concepts
such as life-trees of the Ancient Orient, or the Tree of Cognition in the Garden
Fig. 12: This very strange fish, called catfish, is still strongly indebted to its
specific way of construction. Several fishes are swimming at night in the light of
a fire which slowly eats them up. Carried on the shoulders of the related cult groups,
they are brought to the shrine located in the nearby mountain woods. Deposited there,
they dissolve completely into ashes.
Fig. 13: Signs do not just stand as abstract symbols in books. They are spatial formations
in the landscape, like this hourglass type of double tetraeder. Built in the horizontal
position like an enormous roof, it is not made to protect anything from the sun, wind or rain. It is set up vertically and is open toward the skies. Somehow like
modern land-art, it is a sign in the landscape, a symbol which carries age-old wisdom
into our times.
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