Sunday, 7 July 2019

evening of the seventh

Japan, ascribed to the Gregorian calendar, will mark Tanbata (meaning above, たなばた or七夕) on this night. Common to several countries in the region that keep this star festival in their own ways, the celebration marks the reunion of two star-crossed deities called Orihime and Hikoboshi—represented by Vega and Altair (α Aquilæ and α Lyræ, which form a bright asterism during the high summer in the Northern Hemisphere)—whom are kept asunder by the gulf of the Milky Way and only allowed together on the seventh day of the seventh month.
Originally introduced to Japan in the mid-eighth century under the more utilitarian label of “The Festival to Plead for Skills” and included customarily the opportunities for girls to wish for better sewing and crafting skills and for boys to wish for better penmanship. The ceremony was conflated with the folklore tale “The Cowherd [Hikoboshi] and the Weaver Girl [Orihime],” a hapless couple whose passion for one another caused each to shirk their duties and allow their talents to atrophy. In order to restore balance to the Cosmos, the two were only permitted visitation once a year, the magpies forming a bridge that crossed the expanse. Contemporary festivities include composing wishes—in verse—on small strips of paper and hanging them from a bamboo wish tree, which are then burnt as votive offerings or released down a watercourse to bare the postulants’ prayers aloft.