I have read about the types of 方忌み during the Heian period, but now I am wondering about the origin of the word 方忌み.

I know what 方忌み is.

"directional taboo" which is the belief that certain directions and points on the compass should be avoided in certain situations.

I also know that 方忌み may have possibly existed before the Heian period.

2 Answers 2

  • 方【かた】 means direction. In modern Japanese, its Sino-Japanese equivalent 方角【ほうがく】 is more commonly used.
  • 忌み【いみ】 is the continuous form (連用形, aka masu-stem) of 忌む【いむ】, which is a verb meaning to hate and evade, to avoid cursed/bad things. The inflection is used to turn this verb into noun (i.e., evadeevasion)

So it's straightforwardly "directional evasion".

Or do you want the origins of 方 and 忌み themselves? Unfortunately they are very old words (Yamato kotoba) and I could not find their origin.

Lastly, please keep in mind that 方忌み is a very rare word. I believe most Japanese native speakers have not seen this word, and even a middle-sized archaic-Japanese dictionary does not have this word.


As an addendum to naruto's post, Shogakukan's 国語{こくご}大{だい}辞典{じてん} notes that this term comes from the esoteric Onmyōdō religion, a kind of syncretion of the beliefs and practices of native Japanese Shintō combined with Taoist ideas from China and also Buddhism. This religion was prohibited as superstition in the Meiji period, so terminology specific to Onmyōdō has fallen out of common use -- hence naruto's comment that this 方{かた}忌{い}み word is rare.

Part of Onmyōdō practice has to do with the directions in which things face, be it north, south, etc. One key paragraph from the Wikipedia article, in relation to 方忌み:

During the Heian period the nobility organized their lives around practices recommended by onmyōji. The practice of "lucky and unlucky directions" provides an example. Depending on the season, time of day, and other circumstances, a particular direction might be bad luck for an individual. If one's house was located in that direction, such an individual was advised not to go back directly to his house but had to "change direction" (方違え, katatagae), by going in a different direction and lodging there. Such a person would not dare to go in the forbidden direction, but stayed where they were, even if that resulted in absence from the court, or passing up invitations from influential people.

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