Kazuraki (葛城)

Contributed by David Surtasky

Kazuraki (葛城) (summary)

A fourth category play, author unknown.

Traveling from Mount Haguro a party of mountain priests (yamabushi) have decided to pay a visit to Mount Kazuraki in order to offer prayers to the deity of that place. During their journey they’ve slept out in the open, under pine trees with little more than rocks for their pillows. Moving from one mountain to the next, eventually they arrive at Mount Kazuraki. Since it is snowing heavily they decide to rest under the eaves of a tree.

A local woman appears, someone who lives on the mountain. She inquires about the destination of the priests, telling them that although though she is familiar with the area even she could easily become lost in such heavy weather. She pities the travelers and invites them to please come stay at her humble house for the night. The priests are familiar with the area and with the path, but are grateful for her offer and decide to accept her hospitality.

While following the woman to her small house at the bottom of the valley, the priests reflect on her appearance. They observe she looks lovely walking through the snow, and compare her to different natural sites in China. She wears a wicker rain hat covered with snow that looks like the full moon. She bears a bundle of snow-covered wood which is compared to spray of flowers without scent. Following her down the steep path, they arrive at her wooden hut.

Having arrived the woman declares she will make a fire, and describes the wood she carried as shimoto. The priests are not familiar with the term and she explains that it is a line from an old poem associated with Mount Kazuraki, and that it is a poem of yamato-mai. The beautiful poem is described – speaking of the endless falling snow on the mountain. The woman indicates that she will offer up a lament like burning firewood.

Making further allusions; the lightning between the trees of Mount Kazuraki is compared to the fire made with flint. The world is described as being fragile like lightning or dew or a single spark. The mountain priests costumes are described,  their charcoal colored sleeves, their white bobbles (suzukake) frozen. The yamabushi are invited to lie down and rest. Having dried themselves off and been warmed by the fire, the priests decide they should pray.

Hearing that the priests will pray, the woman indicates that her spirit is suffering and asks for them to offer special prayer for her. The priests are surprised and inquire about her inner pain. The woman indicates that she has been cursed for neglecting Buddha’s law. Since she had failed to build a stone bridge for the sake of the law, she had been bound by the Kazura vine, and forced to bear the Three Torments. In astonishment the priests realize that the woman must be the goddess herself, the deity of Kazuraki. The woman confirms the belief and asking for their prayers, disappears.

A man from the area passes by the hut, and tells the story associated with the deity of Mount Kazuraki. In an age long past the yamabushi priest En no Gyōja requested that the deity build a bridge between Mount Kazuraki and Mount Ōmine for the sake of the mountain priests and the convenience of their devotions. The deity agreed, but could only accomplish the work at night since she was ashamed to be seen during the day. Unfortunately dawn came before she was able to finish and the bridge was not completed. In anger En no Gyōja bound the deity with Kazura vines. The local man suggests that the priests have indeed been in the deity’s presence, and that they should offer prayers to alleviate her suffering.

The priests proceed to pray in a devout manner to comfort the deity of Kazuraki. Deha music is heard, and the deity of Mount Kazuraki returns in her revealed form.

The deity tells the priests that she has been drawn back by their prayers and encourages them to continue. The deity is described; her lavish hairpins, her tresses draped with delicate vines and more vines entwined around her robes. Covered by graceful falling snow, the deity is moved to dance yamato-mai. She imitates the dance said to have been performed before the Stone Door in the Heaven of Takamagahara. The moon and the snow shine brightly. Before the breaking of dawn, the deity returns to her room of night.

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About Theatre Nohgaku

Noh, one of the oldest continuing stage arts, combines highly stylized dance, chant, music, mask and costume with intense inner concentration and physical discipline, creating a uniquely powerful theatrical experience. Theatre Nohgaku’s mission is to share noh’s beauty and power with English speaking audiences and performers. We have found that this traditional form retains its dramatic effectiveness in languages other than Japanese. We believe noh techniques hold a powerful means of expression in the context of contemporary English language theatre.
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