Tag Archive | SCA

Yamabushi and Sōhei Headwear

This is from the SCA Japanese Facebook community–I was answering a question regarding yamabushi and their headwear. The original question was whether yamabushi would wear the same kind of cowl that sōhei wore into battle, and also if anyone could recommend books/sources on the subject of yamabushi.

[A quick definition: yamabushi 山伏 were/are mountain ascetics, usually solitary monks who adhered to Shugendō, esoteric Buddhism which mostly descends from the Shingon sect, but had other influences as well, including Tendai Buddhism, Shinto, and Daoism. Sōhei 僧兵 were warrior monks that were usually attached to a monastery. Yamabushi would sometimes fight, but they were mostly loners and fought in loose confederations, whereas sōhei were groups attached to monasteries.]

The Teeth and Claws of Buddha by Mikael S. Adolphson is the most thorough book I’ve found on the subject of warrior monks. Osprey has done two books on them, one on the Yamabushi and one on the monasteries. Interesting general reading, but start with Adolphson’s book if you want to go deeper into the subject.

What the sōhei wore on their heads was called kato no kesa 裏頭(か[くわ]とう)の袈裟(けさ), and they were kesa (usually worn on the chest) worn on the head–that is technically what kato no kesa means. The yamabushi would sometimes wear kato no kesa, but the headdress more identified with them is the tokin 頭襟, which looks kinda like a small black box. The Japanese Costume museum has it larger and covering the head, but I’ve seen pictures of it being smaller and worn near the forehead, as it is today. Here is a site that has some description of yamabushi clothing. It starts with doctrine, scroll down to see the parts about clothing.

As to whether a tokin would be worn in battle, I am not sure. The emaki depictions that I’ve seen of yamabushi have often just been of them traveling, and they did wear the tokin at those times.

Here’s a picture of a yamabushi from the Japanese Costume museum. Note the hat:

from the Japanese Costume Museum

Now compare to this modern Yamabushi–these are the small tokin I’ve seen in emaki scrolls:

from the now-defunct homepage of Kannonji Temple, Shiga Prefecture. Photographer unknown.

And this is an example of the kato no kesa that sōhei wore:

From the Taiga Drama, Yoshitsune, scanned by me.

Update and Correction: when questioned by HE Master Ii Katsumori regarding the modern Yamabushi (who I first identified as a reenactor), I dug deeper to find the origin of the picture, which had been uploaded to Pinterest. The picture is from a now-defunct Japanese webpage (the company hosting it closed, but the Wayback Machine caught it) here: http://homepage3.nifty.com/huayan/temple/event06.htm. I can’t link directly to the Wayback Machine’s page, but that’s the original (defunct) page. Just plug that in the Wayback Machine to see the text (not pictures) of the original.

This used to be the homepage of Kannonji temple. Some more digging showed that the man in the picture is Professor Yoshida Eirie, a professor of Buddhism at Hanazono University in Kyoto and a priest of Kumano Shugendo. Also a martial-arts master of Kukishinden Tenshin Hyoho Ryu. So yes, he IS a modern Yamabushi.

Cornificia Project

I signed up to do an outfit for a project that one of my fellow Calontiri, Cecilia, is doing: she is creating photographic portraits recreating the illuminations in Richard Tessard’s version of Boccaccio’s “The Lives of Famous Women”. You can see the pictures on this Pinterest page. My first two choices were already taken, but I settled on the portrait of Cornificia, who was a 1st century BC Roman poet. The dress is plain compared to some of the others, so I think I can manage it, plus with that pose and the cloak, it won’t matter that I’m so fat.

Boccaccio writes of her that “She was equal in glory to her brother Cornificius, who was a much renowned poet at that time. Not satisfied with excelling in such a splendid art, inspired by the sacred Muses, she rejected the distaff and turned her hands, skilled in the use of the quill, to writing Heliconian verses… With her genius and labor she rose above her sex, and with her splendid work she acquired a perpetual fame.” Her work is lost, but St. Jerome mentions her in his chronicles in 4th century AD, so her work was good enough that it was being read 400 years after her death, and by St. Jerome to boot, who was not an easy man to please.

Here is the picture she will be recreating:


Although color substitutions are being allowed, I think I already have linen in both that blue and the light purple. The tight sleeves look like those of a Gothic fitted dress, but those gathers in front resemble a houppelande? But those tend to have big or hanging sleeves and women mostly wear those belted. This dress is NOT belted. It might be some kind of loose gown?

There’s a similar dress on the Blessed Virgin Mary in The Calvary Triptych by Hugo van der Goes (@1468). Sleeves are a bit different, but the shape of the dress looks similar.


Here’s another example by van der Goes from the Monforte alterpiece. He puts the Virgin Mary in this same style of dress consistently.


So anyway, have some research to do. I’m going to try to finish this outfit by December, 2017. I will be making the dress, underdress, veil, and shoes (unseen in picture).

Kestrel’s Lullaby

Kestrel’s Lullabye

Words by Tace of Foxele/ Ki no Kotori
Music: Blessed Be That Maid Marie (tune: Staines Morris in William Ballet’s Lute Book @1590)

The original “Blessed Be That Maid Marie” performed by Telynor. The song begins at the 1:40 marker.

Dedicated to Lora Ann Ros (Donna Brooks), who passed from us April 21st, 2016

Little kestrel, nestled near,
Come to rest in Calontir.
Outside dangers may abound.
We will keep you safe and sound.

Little kestrel, have no fear,
Nothing ill can harm you here.

Where the wild northwinds howl
Lies the land where gryphons prowl.
Paths to our home can’t be seen
In amongst the maze of green.

Little kestrel, have no fear,
Nothing ill can harm you here.

Eastward, dragons can be found
Rife with strength of great renown,
Past their lair they cannot creep,
The river runs too wide and deep.

Little kestrel, have no fear,
Nothing ill can harm you here.

In the warm southeastern land
Lives the wild and wooly ram.
He may climb the mountains tall,
But you can fly above them all.

Little kestrel, have no fear,
Nothing ill can harm you here.

On the bleak southwestern plain,
Lions wander, hunt and maim.
But they never venture far
From the light of the lonesome star.

Little kestrel, have no fear,
Nothing ill can harm you here.

The mighty stag may often roam
From his westward forest home.
His legs are strong, but even he
Cannot swim the amber sea.

Little kestrel, have no fear,
Nothing ill can harm you here.

Little kestrel, tuck your wing
While huscarl and fyrdmen sing.
Dream sweet dreams of flying free,
And we shall watch over thee.

Little kestrel, have no fear,
Nothing ill can harm you here.


1. I heard this tune on Telynor’s excellent Christmas Album Off the Beaten Path, which can be found here and also on Amazon.

2. Since the song was about a kestrel, I wanted to include other animal imagery. The animals here are the heraldic mascots of the kingdoms and principalities surrounding Calontir.

Northshield = Gryphon
Middle Kingdom = Dragon
Glenn Abheann = Ram
Ansteorra = Lion
Outlands = Stag

There was originally a verse about Meridies (Horse), but once Glenn Abheann became a kingdom, we lost our border with them, so I have removed it from the song.

3. I tried to follow the logic of an older falcon and how they would see the land, hence the “maze of green” cornfields of Iowa and the “amber sea” wheatfields of Kansas and Nebraska. From the sky, that’s what they would look like.

4. I originally wrote this for Page the Kestrel, one of Lora Ann’s birds, but changed the dedication and wrote the last line when Lora Ann died.

5. Thanks to Lora Ann for making me perform this in public when I first wrote this song. I was very scared, but she was right, I needed to sing this to an audience. 🙂

The Iowegia Song

Another bardic attempt. Gained me quite a bit of infamy a few years ago. Pavel even gave me his alphabet soup. But every word of it was true!


*sees can’o’worms*

*sees can opener*

Oh, lordy, I feel like singin’….

by Evil Bard Tace of Foxele <–now the saintly Ki no Kotori

(Tune is "Tau Garco La Durundena")*

Here is the Boston Camerata's version of the original work on YouTube so you can hear the melody:

Tell us, distant Iowegia,
Northern Flower of Calontir
What secrets are you hiding there?

Who thought there would ever be
Shires out past Coeur d'Ennui *1
Living there most happily *2
Frolicking among the cornfields?

Tell us, distant Iowegia,
Northern Flower of Calontir
What secrets are you hiding there?

No matter where you think you are
The Northern Road is twice as far *3
As you're riding in your car
The children crying "Are we there yet?"

Tell us, distant Iowegia,
Northern Flower of Calontir
What secrets are you hiding there?

The warriors, radiating charm, *4
Keen of eye and strong of arm,
Dealing enemies great harm,
Don't see much of Knights or Fyrdmen? *5

Tell us, distant Iowegia
Northern Flower of Calontir
What secrets are you hiding there?

What sane man would ever miss
The sweetness of Melissa's kiss *6
Never have we known such bliss
(The women really love it also)

Tell us, distant Iowegia
Northern Flower of Calontir
What secrets are you hiding there?

Rarely do we ever see
Anything like royalty *7
They're not here, where could they be?
Has anybody seen our masters?

Tell us, distant Iowegia
Northern Flower of Calontir
What secrets are you hiding there?

So few people want to go
On our roads of ice and snow
That's too bad, they'll never know
The sweet delights of Iowegia

Tell us, distant Iowegia
Northern Flower of Calontir
What secrets are you hiding there?

*Composer: Bartomeu Carcares as part of the larger work, La Trulla, mid-16th century Catalan, words by Evil Bard! Tace

1 Yeah! 9 groups altogether! (At the time this song was written in 2003)

2 Relatively

3 A common Iowegian proverb

4 Relatively

5 Except in Des Moines

6 A Heraldshill specialty!

7 Except in Des Moines

Man, I'm gonna be in so much trouble….

Yes, I did get into a lot of trouble, but OTOH, people still ask me to sing this song.

An Examination of Zukin

Here is a link to my Queen’s Prize Entry for 2016, which looks at zukin (hoods), often worn by Buddhist monks and nuns, but also, it turns out, by others, mostly from the lower classes. Format is PDF.

Woman wearing a sode-zukin from the NHK taiga drama “Yoshitsune”.

The paper is at this link: An Examination of Zukin

I totally should be sleeping right now

God bless obsessive manga artists who blog about their work and how they are going to draw medieval Buddhist outfits by making little drawings showing how said outfits are put together. Sure, it’s a tertiary source, but given the lack of primary and secondary sources in English (except photos of emaki, paintings, and statues, and some spare descriptions on the Japanese Costume Museum site), I’ll take it. Got a lot of translation to do, though. (PS, I will share the source later once I get some things translated, including the artist/writer’s name, so I can properly credit). (PSS: Won’t be this week, cause Worldcon.) Oh, and those cloth hats the ladies are wearing in The Maple Viewers? So totally zukin. Like I said. *vindication feels like victory*