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Big Dipper cult and Myoken worship in Japan

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JAPANESE MYTHOLOGY & FOLKLORE

Since Yayoi times, the Big Dipper/Little Dipper etchings have been found carved on pottery for ritual use, so it can be assumed that some symbolism or ritual significance has been attached to the stars in the constellation since those times.

From the 8th century, a North Pole-cum-Big Dipper cult known as Myoken cult was recorded to have been practised at the Japanese court in 785 AD (Source: Nakamura p. 85).

Stories of Myōken’s miraculous powers appeared in the early 9th century Nihon Ryōiki 日本霊異記 (aka Nihon Rei-iki or Nippon Reiiki). The full title of this text is Nihonkoku Genpō Zen’aku Ryōiki 日本国現報善悪霊異記, commonly translated as “Miraculous Stories of Karmic Retribution of Good and Evil in Japan.” In this book of Buddhist legends, Myōken appears in the form of a deer to help

(1) devotees recover stolen silk robes and

(2) to help worshippers discover a thief (a temple acolyte who…

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