In Japan, gorgeous red flowers are blooming from mid September. About September 22, there is a time unique to Japan called O-Higan (お彼岸). The O-Higan is a period of seven days before and after the Autumnal Equinox Day. Therefore, this red flower blooming at this time is called Higanbana (彼岸花).
Higanbana flower is called “red spider lily”, “hell flower” and “lycoris radiata” in English. Actually, there are many aliases in Japanese, but like flowers of death, most of them are ominous names. Why is Higanbana (Red spider lily) in Japan ominous like the name “flower of death” or “hell flower”?
Higanbana’s name has two meanings, a good word and a bad word. I will explain that secret.
- The red spider lily (Higanbana) has ovr 1000 different names
- Two reasons that bad meaning is used
- A wonderful name is derived from Buddhist scriptures
- It was an emergency food in Higanbana in the past.
The red spider lily (Higanbana) has ovr 1000 different names
As this flower blooms around autumnal equinox day (彼岸), it is commonly called Higanbana (彼岸花) in Japan.
Higanbana use the name of the season as the name of the flower as it is, so it is easy to understand, but this flower has many other names. Many of them is the word that gives a bad impression.
I will introduce the name of a bad impression and the name of a good meaning.
|Good Impression||Bad Impression|
I gave just a few examples. There are few words that give a good impression, and many are terrible words.
It is not possible to introduce all aliases. Because it is said that this flower has more than 1000 names. Please refer to this URL『http://www.kumamotokokufu-h.ed.jp/kumamoto/sizen/higan_name.html』 (Japanese site, A website collecting Higanbana’s name)
Why are there many words of meaning to be hated? I explain the reason for that.
Two reasons that bad meaning is used
There are reasons for this flower to have an ominous name. That hint is the place where this flower is in bloom.
- Buddhist Temple / Shinto Shrine
- Grave (Cemetery)
- Farm Road / Rice Field
- River Bank
- Slope (Hill / Moutain)
The places where these flowers bloom have something in common. And it had a purpose and was artificially planted.
Red spider lily is easy to associate with death
We often see Higanbana flowers are dense in the grave and bloom. It is also commonly found in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines which are religious facilities as well.
A grave is a place that fills a deceased person. In Japan, there is a custom to go to always graves and temples in the equinox day.
Higanbana flowers are blooming so as to surround the tombstone is we think in was easy to be had a very sinister image. The flowers bloom red flowers every autumn equinoctial week.
There is a poison to all parts of red spider lily
Res spider lily (Higanbana) contains poison in bulbs, flowers, stems and leaves.
Higanbana flowers cannot be eaten because they are all poisoned. If you eat, you may get diarrhea and vomiting, and in severe cases your body may paralyze and die.It will be called Dokubana（poisonous flower）for commandments.
This poison is effective not only for human body but also for moles and weasels. Therefore, it is planted as an animal control in important places such as “temple and shrine” “grave” “embankment of a river” “rice field”, etc.
It summarizes the reason why the bad impression was given.
- We often see this flower in places (Cemetery, Temple and Shrine) to burial the dead.
- Flowers which the whole is poison and can not be eaten.
When looking at the red spider lilies, negative images are being used naturally because of poison, death and religion being associated.
More in details
Red spider lily are triploid and do not increase in nature. It was planted in cemetery and paddy fields by human hands. There is a reason for that.
- To avoid roughening the dead in the ground of creatures such as the Mole.
- In order not to be able to damage the banks and ridges.
In old Japan, burial that buries the bodies directly in the ground was common. The burial method by burial is generally a way to fill up the bodies which make up the soil, and the soil is flattened as the corpse inside the soil decays and decomposes normally. However, the buried body becomes corrupt or difficult to decompose properly due to foxes, raccoon dogs and moles that live on the ground.
Therefore it is said that people used to plant toxic flowers around the grave and the banks so as not to bring the animals doing that mischief close.
Red spider lily is a flower that has been appreciated by people in the past. However, in modern times it is buried in the state of bone, so we no longer need to plant red spider lily. As a result, in modern times, seeing the cluster amaryllis in the grave is disliked because it associates with death.
Also it is said to be the color that sucked the blood of the people by the color of that red flowers was buried. It is said that it looks like a ghost, as the flower part moves swaying greatly. In addition, there are superstitions that bringing red spider lily flowers home will be a fire. In modern Japan, Higanbana, which was once useful, has become a flower with a bad impression of being hated now.
A wonderful name is derived from Buddhist scriptures
There are lots of bad impression words, but on the other hand there is also a wonderful name of Manjushage (曼殊沙華).
Manjushage is a flower related to Buddhism. It is a flower that appears in the Buddhist scriptures, and it is a flower that does not exist on the ground.
For example, the following part comes out in Myōhō Renge Kyō (妙法蓮華教).
是時天雨曼陀羅華 摩訶曼陀羅華 曼殊沙華 摩訶曼殊沙華 而散仏上 及諸大衆
When Buddha is trying to talk about Myōhō Renge Kyō, it means that “mandarage” and “manjushage” have fallen from devaloka to the Buddha and the audience. It is a cluster amaryllis（Higanbana） that was named the heavenly flower that does not exist on the ground.
Manjushage (Higanbana) is a flower whose name comes from Buddhist scriptures, so it is sometimes planted as a precious flower in a Buddhist temple.
By the way, Manjushage that appear in Buddhist scriptures are considered white and soft flowers. For that reason, if the flower is red it is called Higanbana, and if the flower is white some people call it Manjushage.
It was an emergency food in Higanbana in the past.
It is red spider lily that has poison in all parts. But in fact, exposure to water for a long time allows poisons to escape and be able to eat.
Therefore it is said that they were eating as an emergency food in the year of food shortage. It grows even in a watery land like a pond or a river, so it seems that in the Edo period many plants were planted together with the effect of eliminating animals in the soil.
Red spider lily are widely known as hardy plants even in the present age. Plants with a poison are often seen in the temple. For example, ginkgo and cycad were also emergency food at the time of the famine.
Because it is not something to eat normally, it is said that an ominous name was given for the admonition.
It is also said that people intentionally made it sinister names so that children do not dig and eat it.
In Japan red spider lily because the bloom brilliantly in the autumn equinox（お彼岸）, it is said that Higanbana（彼岸花）.
There is also a wonderful alias called Manjushage（曼殊沙華） which appears in Buddhist scriptures. However, there are many bad words like hell flowers and dead man flowers in alias other than Manjushage.
Higanbana flowers were very useful plants for the people of the past. In the year of famine they were eating as an emergency food by removing poison. And because it grows on moist land, it was planted everywhere in Japan. However, because now is always blooming in time to go to the grave, from the part of the people has become easy hated plant. The swaying red flowers imagine dead person or ghosts. Some people say red is the color of the blood of the dead. As it was closely related to human life, it has more than 1000 names.
Finally, if we come to Japan in September we will be able to observe this beautiful flower. It belongs to the lily family and you can see that it looks very delicate when you look carefully.
By the way, the middle day of O-Higan (Autumnal Equinox Day / Spring Equinox Day) is the only Buddhist national holiday in Japan.
Related Post: “The meaning of O-higan day, Buddhist temple event of O-higan“