For this week’s I-themed Alphabeasts entry, we travel to the far shores of Japan and observe it’s native dog spirit, the Inugami. An Inugami is a sort of “familiar” that takes the shape of a dog and, most often, is created by ritually mistreating an actual canine. The instructions to create an Inugami suggests burying a dog in the ground with only his head remaining visible, then place a bowl of food just outside of the animal’s reach. As the buried dog begins to hunger, his fixation on the food will become very powerful and the animal’s master may then speak to the spirit of the dog, entreating it to serve him or her. When the dog dies, either from starvation or, in another extreme, by the master sawing the dog’s head off with a bamboo saw, the canine’s spirit will be released as an Inugami and will serve it’s master, the inugami-mochi.
An Inugami may be used most often as a tool to carry out acts of vengeance and to act as a guardian to the inugami-mochi. However, the dog spirits exhibit a will of their own as well and may sometimes turn on their masters or possess a human being. Possession by an Inugami is said to cure illness but will also result in the person behaving like a dog.
For my Alphabeasts drawing, I combined a reference photo of Toshiro Mifune with and adorable and ghostly pug and, finally, a favorite line from the movie “Stand By Me”. Sayonara!