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June 18, 2024 54 mins

The wonders and terrors of the dreaming mind do not always flee completely with the dawn. At certain times and places in history, it seems that dreams suddenly ascend to new heights of cultural fascination. In this Stuff to Blow Your Mind series, Robert and Joe explore periods when the eye of culture fixes on the dream world. (originally published 6/27/2023)

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Speaker 1 (00:06):
Hello, and welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind. My
name is Joe McCormick, and today we are bringing you
an episode from the vault. This one originally published June
twenty seventh, twenty twenty three, and it is the fourth
and final part in our series dream Fall Into the Dark.
So let's get right into it.

Speaker 2 (00:28):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 3 (00:38):
Hey, welcome to Stuff to Blow your Mind. My name
is Robert.

Speaker 1 (00:41):
Lamb and I am Joe McCormick.

Speaker 3 (00:44):
And we're jumping right into our fourth and final episode
in the dream Fall into the Dark series. Here about
the mystique of dreaming, particular times and places where dream
culture was especially pronounced. This, of course, won't be our
final episode on dreaming. Will inevitably come back to dreaming.

(01:04):
Dreaming is always something that's going to come up one
way or another in the topics we cover on Stuff
to Blow Your Mind.

Speaker 1 (01:10):
But now, Rob, didn't we begin this whole investigation because
you got interested in a dream related monster from Japanese folklore.

Speaker 3 (01:19):
That's right, a particular monster that we will be covering
in this episode, but it kind of served as the
white rabbit that we pursued and ended up doing three
additional episodes not directly related to it or even its
direct dream culture. It is a creature we're going to
be talking about, a largely a creature of Japanese dream culture,

(01:42):
and so you know, we I think it was necessary
to talk about much of what we talked about in
the previous three episodes to fully appreciate it. But we
are going to have to also discuss Japanese dream culture
itself before discussing this curious.

Speaker 1 (01:55):
Creature, right. So, as background, I was looking for a
paper on how how dreams have been viewed in Japanese
culture across history, and I came across one published in
the Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences in nineteen ninety
five by Shoozo Koyama called Japanese Dreams, Culture and Cosmology.

(02:15):
So this is a short article by a researcher named
Shoozo Koyama, who at the time of the publication worked
at the Japanese National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka. Now,
of course, the way dreams are perceived in Japan across
times seems in broad regard to mirror patterns we've seen
in other cultures where there are some people and sometimes

(02:37):
who regard them more as private internal phenomena with no
informational relevance to the external world or no special power.
It's not like a place you go whereas others see
them as having a kind of magic or predictive power,
or involving genuine interactions with spiritual beings, both good and bad.
But what this paper does is look at a series

(02:59):
of history periods in Japan and try to make a
few generalizations about trends in how dreams were perceived and
written about in those periods relative to the other periods.
So the author begins by looking at the Joman period,
which is about ten thousand BCE until about five hundred BCE.
This is a time when Japan was occupied by hunter

(03:20):
gatherers who lived in small societies. We've talked about the
German culture before, especially with regards to their fabrication of
clay potts. I think we talked about this in our
episode on the Cauldron, and some evidence in early German
culture of transitioning from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to a
more settled lifestyle staying in one place. More so in

(03:44):
this period, there are no written records so it is
difficult to have much certainty about the beliefs and psychology
of people at the time. However, we can make some
guesses based on iconography preserved in artifacts of this culture.
So the German people did make figuring out of clay
and stone, representing both human and animal forms. The human

(04:05):
forms are very often female, often depicted with exaggerated breasts, stomachs,
and buttocks, with their faces hidden behind masks. These are
sometimes interpreted as goddesses or figures of fertility, or as
substitute human beings who are given up as offerings to
the gods, and you'll find them in different kinds of
archaeological settings, may be left alone in an abandoned dwelling

(04:27):
or deposited in a hole in the ground. As for
animal forms, one of the most common is apparently the snake.
Snake designs are found on many German vessels, and early
snake motifs seem to transition into more abstract forms like
spirals or waves in later designs. Late German figurines also

(04:47):
depict bears and wild boares, but humans and snakes are
especially common. This, according to the author, connects to the
role of snakes in Japanese mythology. There is a very
prominent story where prince kills or subdues a snake spirit
and this act leads to the creation of Japan. And
there are also folk tales of snakes that transform into

(05:11):
or appear as people, for example, a snake that transforms
into a man in order to father children with a
human woman, or a man that visits a beautiful woman
only to discover that she is actually a snake in disguise,
or has a snake spirit that is revealed and he
runs away in terror. Now, to be very clear, there
is no proof that any of this imagery comes from dreams.

(05:34):
But in this period, because there are no written records
of dreams, all you can really do is look at
the imagery to try to get a best guess about
what kinds of non realistic subject matter preoccupied the early
inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago now koyaman. This article uses
the stories of humans with underlying snake spirits to argue

(05:56):
that early Japanese culture is infused with animism, though here
I think the author defines animism maybe a little bit
differently than I'm used to or than I've seen in
some other scholarships. So in this paper, animism is defined
as the belief that living beings are composed of two substances,
spirit and body, that spirit is intangible and eternal, and

(06:18):
that body is visible and tangible but temporal. And of
course I'm no expert on the study of religions, but
I think usually, or at least more often, animism is
taken to me in a belief system that you find
all around the world, which assumes that not only people,
but potentially all things have a sort of soul or

(06:39):
spirit or agency. And this can include animals, of course,
but also plants, geological features like mountains and rivers, just
generally places, weather patterns, even human artifacts or abstract concepts,
and in a sense these all can have a spirit,
a soul, or a life force with agency, desires, and

(06:59):
other quality of mind. One particular thing that's different here
is that I understand animism to notably make little or
no distinction between spiritual causes and material causes, whereas this
definition of animism, I think, would emphasize exactly that difference.
But I don't want to get two sidetracked here. Koyama
basically is asserting that that ancient Japanese art and stories

(07:20):
point toward a belief dividing the world into a material
reality and a spiritual reality that are separate. Now Here
you go to Phase two. This period begins five hundred
BCE and goes until roughly the fifth century CE. The
historical context is that Koyama says, this is when patti
ricefield cultivation begins in Japan, probably introduced from practices in

(07:43):
China through Korea. Some Chinese documents from this time imply
that Japan was probably a large and complex enough society
that there were different tribal territories. This is indicated by
references to conflicts between them, and during this time there
was an influx of new peoples moving in from outside Japan,
introducing new cultural elements. There was still plenty of figurative

(08:06):
art from this period. Some German conventions continued, and you
had depictions of human figures and daily activities. You would
find figures depicted hunting, harvesting crops, or seafaring. A lot
of animal representations as well, including figurines of birds and dragons,
which are not really present in Phase one. Koyama says,

(08:26):
it's notable that both of these creatures that show up
here can fly and then writes quote. This coincides with
the fact that newcomers believed they were the descendants of
celestial gods, while indigenous groups were called offspring of gods
of the land in mythology. As a symbol of the sun,
mirrors were used by newcomers. A quantity of Chinese bronze

(08:47):
mirrors have been excavated from large scale tombs, apparently very
important artifacts. Decoration on the backs of some mirrors depicted
Taoist cosmology, and it's in this period that we have
the first refa diferences to dreaming in Japanese culture in
written records. There's a collection of Chinese historical texts known
as the Way Dynasty Chronicle, which these texts claimed that

(09:11):
the Queen of Japan, in Koyama's words quote, governed her
nation by shamanism, though I'm not quite sure what that means.
So there is a collection of Chinese historical texts known
as the Way Dynasty Chronicle, and these texts make reference
to the Queen of Japan, and Koyama says that they

(09:32):
claim that she governed her nation by shamanism. During this time,
there was use of oracle bones to tell the future.
In Japan, excavated artifacts demonstrate this. So there was a
form of There were forms of divination in practice, and dreams,
as we know, are very often in basically all cultures
at some points used for divination to try to get

(09:53):
access to future information or secret information. There is an
eighth century Japanese text text tradition known as the Kojiki,
which contains a bunch of myths, legends, and alleged historical
accounts of Japan up to the seventh century, and it
claims that during this period, dreaming was used to decide

(10:13):
important matters of state. And so I'm going to read
a quote from Koyami here, but it makes reference to
an emperor Sujin. Sujin was a Japanese emperor, often known
as one of the so called legendary emperors. Though I've
read that something he maybe or probably did exist in history,
maybe reigning during the first century BCE or sometime around then.

(10:36):
But what we know about him is enmeshed in a
lot of legends, so I think it's hard to say
a lot for certain if he did exist. But anyway,
the chronicle says Emperor Sujin quote had a sacred bed
made so that he could dream in order to make
a decision in a crisis, for example, to stamp out
epidemics or to nominate the heir to the throne. He

(10:57):
often listened to the dreams of his subjects in order
to make national policy. It is clear that during this phase,
people still believed in the supernatural world, and dreaming was
considered a domain where qualified persons communicated with powerful spirits.
So this mimics beliefs about dreams. We've seen from elsewhere
that dreams could be used for divination, that they could

(11:19):
help you predict the future, or they could give you advice.
Maybe you would be getting advice directly from some kind
of spiritual entities who had privileged knowledge, and that in
some cases there were specially qualified people who could communicate
with these entities in dreams.

Speaker 3 (11:35):
I love this detail that the emperor had a sacred
dreaming bed. That's that's wonderful. This idea that a night's
sleep needs to be special. Tonight's sleep is just about
a vital dream that will help lead the way.

Speaker 1 (11:51):
I think you could consider this a form of intentional
dream incubation. That you know that we see this in
other cultures, like ancient Greco Roman culture. There would be
temples where you could go and sleep in the temple
in like a special place in order to receive a
dream from the God. I guess after you made an

(12:11):
offering to the god because you slept in the temple,
the dream would be from that God giving you advice
about what to do in order to solve your problem. Yeah.
After this, Koyama goes to Phase three, which is beginning
in the fifth century CE and going into the ninth
This was a time when Japan was established as a
state and interacted politically with other states in East Asia

(12:34):
koamas As. There were strong Chinese influences in Japan at
this time, including Chinese law codes, as well as the
spread of philosophies and religions that were either Chinese in
origin or popular in China already, such as Confucianism, Buddhism,
and Taoism. Now, as we've discussed before, I think this
came up in talking about that book by Lynn Struve.

(12:56):
Confucianism sometimes is taken to militate against supernatural or so
called irrational interpretations of dreams. I've read elsewhere. I think
that that Confucian thinkers were sort of often not on
board with the idea of dream divination, while Taoism, on
the other hand, does sort of allow for fortune telling

(13:16):
and omens.

Speaker 3 (13:18):
Yeah, that's my understanding that sort of three different schools
here are in play, but those are sort of the
major push and pull between Confucism and Daoism concerning dreams.

Speaker 1 (13:30):
From this period, Koyama mentions a Buddhist temple coming back
to the special dream bed, mentions a Buddhist temple called
the Horyuji, which was built in the early seventh century
by a prince named Shotoku, and allegedly the prince would
lock himself inside this temple for days at a time
to receive inspiration, and one of the names of this

(13:52):
building translates to dream hall. However, Koyama says that during
this period, the primary thing about dreams is that they
seem mostly kept private, maybe whether one believed in dreams
as divination or not.

Speaker 3 (14:05):
Okay, so there wasn't as much in the way of
dream literature at the time.

Speaker 1 (14:11):
But then we reach phase four, and it's when we
realize we are all just the dream of a giant
ant mound no sorry movie reference. Beginning in the ninth century,
going on until the thirteenth There is this period Koyama
characterizes as the maturation of the political and economic structure
of Japan and the establishment of a court culture that

(14:35):
includes literature and other elite products. During this period, there
is a resurgence of interest in dreams as a tool
for seeing into the future. During this period, there is
a resurgence of interest in dreams as a tool for
seeing into the future. This comes in concert with what
seems to be a general resurgence of belief in, or

(14:56):
at least interest in supernatural beings and mechanisms like ghosts, demons, wraiths, omens,
and curses. And during this period, Japanese Buddhism Kuiamas has
incorporated some Shinto elements, Shinto being sort of the native
belief system of Japan. Again to the special dream facilities
and dream beds, Kuyama writes, quote, some temples and shrines

(15:19):
had special compounds for dreaming. People rushed to such places
en mass and stayed until they had a good dream.
There were professional dream interpreters and dreamers by profession. Nightmares
and sleep disorders were commonplace during this period. However, it's
important to consider none of these generalizations totalizing because there
are some counter examples, like Koyama mentions a tenth century

(15:42):
poetic diary known as the Kagerooniki, sometimes called the Gossamer
Years in English, in which the author at one point
gets a supernatural interpretation of a dream from a priest,
and she calls the priest's interpretation of the dream a
stupid lie. But the priests did try to give her
the interpretation, so it seems maybe that's normal for this period,

(16:06):
but the author's reaction suggests diversity of opinion on the
power of dreams among the elite. But overall, if Koyama
is correct, this is a period where belief in the
power of dreams flowers. Then there's Phase five, beginning in
the thirteenth century, the rise of the samurai class and
its associated power system. Koyama describes them as, for the

(16:29):
most part, realistic and practical entrepreneurs. Koyama says literature of
this time period shows, on average a sort of turning
away from belief in the power of dreams as supernatural
portents or realities, at least certainly not as much as
there was in the phase before. And one example Koyama
gives is a Japanese epic known as the tai Haeiki

(16:52):
or the Chronicle of Great Peace. This is written sometime
in the late fourteenth century, and in part of this
text there is a warrior named Ayoto who quote refused
to receive an award after being told that his lord
wanted to give it because he dreamt of Aoto's distinguished service.
He said, I can't receive such an irrational award. I

(17:14):
did nothing. What will happen if he dreams another way?
And then Coyama says, quote, for such people, the difference
between dream and reality was clearly distinct. And then finally
phase six, Coyama says that this is the nineteenth century onward.
One of the main changes is the influence of Euro
American culture, and Coyama says that on one hand, modern

(17:38):
Japanese culture has a predominantly rationalist and materialist view of nature,
which relegates dreams to natural psychological phenomena with no predictive
power or reality of their own. On the other hand,
he says, millions still visit Shinto shrines and keep good
luck charms in their cars and so forth, and so
in some ways, elements of what the author refers to

(17:59):
as animistic thinking, which again seems to mean in this paper,
the belief in a spiritual dimension of reality that operates
outside of strict physical causality can still be found peeking
out through the top layer of rationalism. Maybe people kind
of shift back and forth between these ways of seeing
the world depending on how they feel. Though I would

(18:20):
say I don't think this would be at all unique
to Japan. It just seems to me this is sort
of what most people in all societies do.

Speaker 3 (18:27):
Oh absolutely, I feel like this comes up time and
time again, whether we're talking about say, you know, varying
at times contradictory beliefs about the afterlife and how you know,
you may think one way in the morning, one way
in the afternoon, or kind of two ways at once
without really putting a fine line on it. Likewise, I
remember when we looked at some research concerning belief in

(18:50):
modern China in the power of the zodiac concerning when
a child is born, and you know, as I remember,
part of that was was not that you had a
large number of contemporary people who were super invested in this,
like the zodiac system and that belief system, but they

(19:12):
were just a little bit aware of it. It's kind
of like background superstitious belief that you may dip into
at times when it seems useful, when.

Speaker 1 (19:21):
It feels right, suddenly you'll play on that board. But
right maybe most of the time you're not looking at it.

Speaker 3 (19:27):
Yeah, yeah, Or you have a decision to make and
you know, you don't have any other factors to go on,
but you do have this bit of you know, traditional
lore that is a steeped in superstition. You might turn
to that in those circumstances. And I think this also
extends to the use of amulets and you know, good
luck tokens and so forth. You know, because it's like
you may not believe it completely, but hey, it doesn't

(19:49):
take a much room in the pocket or on the
dash of the car or what have you.

Speaker 1 (19:54):
A person might say, I don't really believe it, but
it's kind of fun. But then once you have it,
you can kind of, I don't know, find yourself in
moments clutching at it. Yes, But you know, an interesting
thing that I think came up in part three of

(20:16):
the series is that whether you have a totally rationalistic
approach to dreams, you don't really you know, give them
any special power. You don't think they reflect a secret
reality of spiritual entities interacting or giving you information about
the future how to live your life. Even then, you
still don't want to have nightmares. So people are looking

(20:37):
for ways to have good dreams, whether they think dreams
are supernatural experiences or not.

Speaker 3 (20:42):
Yeah, it's kind of like, all right, I wasn't listening
when you were talking about what this dream and what
this dream meant. But but you said something about stopping nightmares.
So let's get back to that. And that's ultimately where
we come to in discussing the monster. At long last,
we're going to be talking about the Baku. I encourage
everyone to look up some illustrations of the Baku, certainly

(21:05):
the historic illustrations, but I also ran across a number
of like contemporary, you know, fan illustrations and so forth,
online illustrations, and many of those are are also very impressive.
I found two major trends in the way that this
creature is depicted. One is kind of like the frightening
Avenger of Nightmares version of the Baku, and the other

(21:27):
is kind of like the I guess the Awe buddy
version of the Baku, where he just looks looks snugly.

Speaker 1 (21:33):
The funny thing about the I totally agree, yeah you
have the scary Baku or the snugly Baku, is that
they both look very huggable, and somehow the scary Baku
is even more huggable.

Speaker 3 (21:44):
Than the two one. Yeah, yeah, I agree, Yeah, I
mean and yeah, no matter what, there may be some
some snuggling involved at the end of it. So the Baku,
I guess just a good place to start is with
sort of like general descriptions. I always go to Carol

(22:04):
Roses encyclopedias of monsters and fairies and so forth, is
a good like sort of starting place. And in that
Rose describes the Baku as a benevolent, semi supernatural monster
with an appearance that is basically that of a giant taper,
but a creature that is also described as having the
body of a horse, the head of a lion, and

(22:25):
the legs and pods of a tiger. Note if you
haven't seen an actual taper, a taper is of course
a natural world organism. It does not look quite like this,
though it does look very unique. It is a notable creature.
I find that when I see one in a movie
or at a zoo or illustrations online. I can't help

(22:45):
but feel elated from having seen it.

Speaker 1 (22:49):
To me a taper or tapier, however, you say it
is the three way cross between a pig, a panda, bear,
and an elephant.

Speaker 3 (23:00):
Yeah, I guess it depends where your starting point is.
But yeah, taper definitely feels more pig like, Yeah, pig
and rhino based than anything more in the taper here
in a bit, but the Baku. The idea is that
humans may call on it in the early morning hours
to devour a bad dream or nightmare that has plagued
their dream space, allowing them to forget and carry on

(23:23):
their day in peace, which is a most worthy duty.
And I also find it interesting that, you know, this
kind of lines up with the way that the dreams
and especially bad dreams and nightmares kind of hit us.
There's kind of like that period where we can easily
forget or easily remember. Like part of the principle of
dream journaling is, oh, you got to write it down
before you forget it, And with nightmare sometimes that the

(23:46):
challenge is reversed. You've got to not think about it
before you remember it. You've got to forget it before
it sticks with you too long.

Speaker 1 (23:53):
That's a good point. Yes, if it was really scary,
you'll be thinking about it continuously after you wake up,
which actually cements it in memory.

Speaker 3 (24:01):
Yeah. And then there's something about writing it down or
telling somebody about the dream that certainly brings out the details,
sometimes those details that aren't sticking with you. And then
you start telling someone about the dream or nightmare and
more that comes to you now As a side here,
I was I found it more than a little shocking
that the Baku is not listed in Borges The Book

(24:22):
of Imaginary Beings, which is another book I like to
refer to time and time again on the show, especially
given the author's interest in dreams and his reference to
various dream creatures in the book, Like there are entries
for like, here's a creature that C. S. Lewis once
dreamed about, that sort of thing. I suppose he just
simply hadn't cross paths with mention of the Baku, otherwise

(24:43):
he would have been.

Speaker 1 (24:44):
All over it.

Speaker 3 (24:45):
Or perhaps it's just not included there, and he's there's
some poem or short story I haven't read by by
Borges that refers to the Baku.

Speaker 1 (24:53):
So I was reading about the baku in an excellent
book on my shelf on Japanese monsters called The Book
of Yokai, which is by an Indiana University folklore scholar
named Michael Dylan Foster. I've mentioned this book on the
show before, so according to Foster, the baku is a
is a friendly yokaia, a benevolent yokai. Many yokaia are

(25:14):
not so friendly, but this one is thought to have
the power to eat nightmares. But it was not always
understood this way. Stories of this creature originated in China,
going at least as far back as a poetry collection
from the year eight thirty four by the Tang dynasty
poet by Ju Yi, who lived seven seventy two to

(25:36):
eight forty six, And according to this text, the Baku
has nose of an elephant, eyes of a rhinoceros, tale
of an ox, and legs of a tiger.

Speaker 3 (25:49):
It would not be incorrect to say that this monster
kind of looks like snuffle Upagus, the imaginary friend of
Big Bird from Sesame Street.

Speaker 1 (25:57):
That's right. But Rob, if you were having nightmares, would
you consider a possible remedy of this being to skin
snuffle up agains this text says if you lay out
the skin when you sleep, you can avoid epidemics, and
by drawing an image of the baku you can avoid misfortune.
People with chronic headaches can protect their heads by using

(26:20):
a screen with an image of the baku when they
go to sleep. So in this ninth century Chinese text,
the baku is not yet an eater of bad dreams,
but I think you can kind of see how you
would get there. So its skin or its image offers
general protection from sickness, from bad fortune, and from headaches
or chronic pain. However, the protection is enacted by placing

(26:44):
either a piece of or an image of the baku
around you while you sleep. So sleep is originally part
of the protective mechanism, not the thing that is being protected,
though again you can imagine how that transition would occur.
By the Edo period in the beginning of the seventeenth century,
the baku had come to be seen in Japan as

(27:07):
an eater of nightmares, protecting the week when they were
in the vulnerable position of sleep, and this usually worked
by placing a picture of the baku near the pillow,
or sometimes people just had a baku shaped pillow.

Speaker 3 (27:21):
Now you're talking.

Speaker 1 (27:21):
Do you have a baku pillow?

Speaker 3 (27:23):
No, but I love the idea of it.

Speaker 1 (27:25):
Yeah, I want to get one. This would allow you
to literally hug the baku, a Foster says. In a
text called The Three Realms, there is reference to the
baku which includes the details that the baku has really
strong bones and teeth, and it's quote it's urine can
melt iron and turn it into water. What what is

(27:48):
that used for? Enemy of magneto?

Speaker 3 (27:52):
I mean, I guess a lot of this comes down to,
like the fact that we'll come back to it later on,
is that you know, there is a tradition in multiple
cultures really that it's it's not only what the animal is,
but what can the animal be used for? What are
it's various medicinal properties, et cetera. And sometimes this can skew,
this can skew into areas that are maybe a little
less realistic and more based in magic or some sort

(28:15):
of or maybe something that doesn't translate as well across
the centuries.

Speaker 1 (28:19):
Yeah, uh, now there are I know you're going to
get into this in a minute, so I guess we
mostly save it for there. But Foster raises the question
about whether the Baku of folklore is based on the
taper or not. Basically, there is some question about whether
it is or not. Some scholars say yes, some say no. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (28:37):
The thing that that's notable about the taper is of
course that there are are four species of taper in
the world today. Three of them are native to Central
and South America, and then you have the Malayan taper,
which is found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand.

Speaker 1 (28:54):
Notably none of those places are Japan, right, so.

Speaker 3 (28:57):
There would there would have to be some degree of
this game of telephone concerning the form, function, and likeness
of the particular animal in question, as you see with
other animals, where we've talked about in the show plenty
of times before and we will continue to do so.
I mean, it's one of the most fascinating things in
the history of naturalistic art and imaginative art, you know,

(29:21):
taking this form and then seeing what happens to it
when you start talking about it and then depicting it,
you know, not even halfway around the world, but just
you know, a good distance away from it.

Speaker 1 (29:31):
Yes, and this feeds into one of the final observations
that Foster makes, which I think is very interesting. So
Foster again makes reference to the fact that the baku
is described as having like, you know, legs of a tiger,
tail of an ox, So it is a hybrid of
many different animal parts, and Foster says this is typical
of how lots of yokai are described, and in a

(29:54):
way this allows them to exist in between the realms
of real and imaginary, because all of the parts are real,
but their combination is imaginary. But there's another interesting wrinkle
here when it comes to pre modern Japan. Foster writes,
quote to people living in Japan during the Edo period
or earlier, the very parts from which the creature was

(30:15):
constructed were as strange and foreign as their unnatural combination. Elephants, rhinoceroses,
and tigers were not native to Japan. The average Japanese
person during this time would have seen one only in
illustrations and books, if at all, the same places that
might also have images of the baku. That is, a

(30:37):
baku was presumably no more mysterious and also no less
real than a rhinoceros. So it's an unreal combination of
real animal parts, but most of those real animal parts
are from animals that you never would have seen in person.

Speaker 3 (30:53):
Wow. Wow, interesting. Now I found an interesting paper about
the baku or concerns tobacco that I'm going to trial.
Some info here from a titled Cultural note on Dreaming
and dream Study in the Future. Release from Nightmare and
Development of Dream Control Technique by today O. Hori, published

(31:16):
in Sleep and Biological Rhythms in two thousand and five. Now,
the author here, you know, points out some things that
are they're pretty standard. Weve already touched on this already.
That you know, nightmares can be quite unpleasant. Obviously, they
can disrupt your sleep, and since they disrupted your sleep,
they can disrupt your waking life as well, both as

(31:39):
a result of lost sleep and the emotional and cognitive
after effects of the nature of nightmare, without even getting
into again the more extreme cases of parasomnia and night
terrors and so forth. Additionally, as Horry points out here,
stress and trauma in the waking world can only intensify
bad dreams and nightmares. So you know, there are a

(32:00):
lot of reasons for the content of your dreams, the
contents of your nightmares, and just nightmares in general. To
be just this added thing that you would like very
much to have removed. And if given the choice, obviously,
if we were to choose between good dreams and bad
dreams each night, we would choose the good dreams. But
Horry writes that in the ethnic groups and culture is

(32:21):
examined in their research anyway, there aren't really any prescribed
methods to have a good dream. Rather, there are various
rights in formulas to eliminate nightmares or minimize their impact.
I found that an interesting idea, like it did remind
me of something from my own childhood, but I don't
remember if it was something that I saw on a

(32:42):
TV show. I think it might have been, or to
what degree it was something that one of my parents
introduced to me. But there was this idea of an
imaginary dream machine that before you go to bed, you like,
you know, you think about this dream helmet or whatever
that you're putting on or some sort of machine you're augmenting,
and you tell it what you want to that night,
like you put in your order. Which is a great idea,

(33:04):
and you know, to some degree, if it actually worked
to any degree, and I remember, even as a kid,
I found that it did not. It had no impact
on what I was going to dream, and therefore I
didn't stick with it because it obviously didn't work. Like
you learn really quickly that dreams are just going to
do their own thing. And for that reason, I don't

(33:27):
think I ever really introduced it to my own son,
because I'm like, I'm not going to tell you this.
This doesn't work at all.

Speaker 1 (33:32):
I wonder if the effectiveness of it would be kind
of similar to what people do when they're trying to
practice lucid dreaming, where, for example, one thing people do
is like constantly making a habit of asking yourself if
you're dreaming right now, so that the habit will resurface
when you are dreaming. I wonder if that kind of thing, like, so,

(33:54):
if you do the dream machine often enough, it will
maybe cause it to buy habit come to mind during
a dream and then you can remember, hey, wait a minute,
I was supposed to be programming this.

Speaker 3 (34:05):
Yeah. So I guess it could work if you were
the sort of kid that really stuck with it, you know,
But I guess I was the kind where there were
no immediate results and therefore I abandon it. Good job quitting,
I went, like, I say, I feel that same way
with with lucid dreaming. Like at times like this, I'm like,
why haven't I apply myself to lucid dreaming? Why are
my dreams so so non lucid? But I don't know.

(34:29):
There's just there's enough to worry about without without really
getting in on the dreams.

Speaker 1 (34:33):
You got a waking life to live.

Speaker 3 (34:44):
So Hoary divides this sort of nightmare inhibition into in
technique into two categories. Amulets are charms to eliminate nightmares,
and then development of techniques to take control of the
dream and push it in a positive direction, a lucid
dreaming approach to nightmares. And maybe that's the thing too.
Maybe if I on the whole suffered from more nightmares

(35:07):
or stress dreams or what have you, I would be
more inclined to pursue lucid dreaming as an escape. Okay.
So on the first note, amuletce Hore discusses two main
varieties that are popular in contemporary Japan, and that is
the baku, but then also the dream catcher. This I
was not expecting. The dream catcher is of course not

(35:30):
a Japanese cultural creation, but rather one that originates with
the indigenous First Nations people of North America, particularly parts
of what is now Canada. The Ojibwe people are often cited,
though I think usage in production spreads with sort of
the Pan Indian movement of the sixties and seventies. The
basic principle of the dream catcher is that the night

(35:52):
air brings both good and bad dreams, and the dream catcher,
like a spider's web, catches the bad and allows the
good to prosper in the sleepers.

Speaker 2 (36:00):
Now.

Speaker 3 (36:00):
I believe that the main usage was intended for infants,
But now in America dream catchers, you know, they're quite
popular as a native craft item. This happened I think,
originally in the nineteen eighties and spread from there. But
Horrey writes that they became exceedingly popular in Japan following
a popular year two thousand TV mini series. I believe

(36:22):
it's kind of like a melodrama or romance sort of
thing titled Beautiful Life. Now, I was not familiar with this.
This is not like a genre of Japanese pop culture
that I generally have any exposure to. You know, this
is not a monster movie or horror movie, sci fi,
et cetera. This is a broad appeal like big you know,

(36:44):
TV production I looked it up, though, and I saw
that it starred Takua Kimura. He's the actor who voiced
Howel in the original Japanese language version of Howe's Moving Castle.
I looked at like some write ups of what the
plot is about. I saw nobody exactly where these dream
catchers are used, if they factor into the plot at all,

(37:04):
or if they're just you know, in the background. But whatever,
it was really popular show, and people saw it and
they're like, we want in on that, and dream Catchers
became popular, though according to Horri, it ended up focusing
more on young people rather than babies.

Speaker 1 (37:20):
Now.

Speaker 3 (37:20):
The baku, on the other hand, as we've been discussing,
is largely rooted in Japanese traditions, and I guess to
a certain extent, kind of paves the way for this
fascination with dream catchers. Like there's already a you know,
an appeal for some sort of an amulet too to
discourage nightmares and therefore encourage positive dreams, And so when

(37:41):
one is introduced from another culture, you can see why
people might gravitate towards it. Now, as we've been discussing,
primarily it's impossible to escape the taper. When it comes
to understanding what the baku is like. By most accounts
like this sounds like a taper. We see depictions of it.
It looks most like some you know, exaggeration or telephone game,

(38:03):
all the taper. But you also find discussions on the
possibility that it might have originally and it's Chinese origins,
which you already alluded to here, it might have originally
been something like a giant panda. Now Hori does not himself,
does not really go into this, but notes that the
baku was of course a charm animal in China, going

(38:25):
back to you know, seventeenth century writings, and perhaps it
is already sometimes depicted as a taper here, though it
may not have actually been associated with dream eating. Like
we said, you get back into the origins of the
baku and you get further away from the idea of
consuming nightmares.

Speaker 1 (38:41):
Yeah, that seems to be a later development.

Speaker 3 (38:44):
Now, an interesting note though about the panda here. At
this point I looked at a book by Burned Brunner
titled Bears a Brief History, and the author here points
out that despite the fact that the panda now stands
as kind of a quintessential Chinese animal. You know, we
think about it as such. In modern times, there are
few ancient writings about them, and the writings that may

(39:06):
be about them are difficult to nail down because of
just how vague they are. An early possible account from
the Chin Dynasty third century BCE might be about a
white fox, or some people think, well, maybe it's a panda.
There's an even older mention that could allude to a panda,
but also could be a leopard or a tiger, So
it gets again exceptionally vague and therefore difficult to say

(39:30):
whether we're actually talking about a panda or not. For instance,
there are discussions later on in Chinese writings about white bears,
but it seems as likely, if not more likely, that
they're actually talking about polar bears encountered by northern travelers
and word having spread about them. And then there are

(39:53):
additional possibilities that there are other bears, like from India
that are being written about. So it's interesting to that
the panda is also underrepresented in traditional Chinese medicine compared
to other animals. Again getting back to like, okay, what
is the animal and then what can be broken down
about it to benefit humans. Some haven't interpreted this fact

(40:14):
as being due to the animal having a sacred status,
but the author in this case questions that, pointing out
that well, you know, it really did not have a
role in Chinese lore to suggest sacred production like it's
you know, it seems to be barely mentioned, and if
it is mentioned, it's mentioned only vaguely. So that's interesting.

(40:34):
I feel like I need to look into that more
in the future. So it seems like, based on what
I've been reading, that the idea that the baku might
have originally been a panda possible, but it doesn't seem
extremely like it doesn't seem like there's a lot of
like firm evidence for that, Okay, but I believe according
to Horri here though, there you know, as it undergoes

(40:57):
exaggeration and transfer into Japanese, you the proper baku. You
know that the nose of the what is probably a
taper becomes an elephant, the eyes become those of a rhino,
the tail of a cow, legs of a tiger, hair
of a lion. It gets spots whereas it didn't have
spots before. And the creature's diet is said to consist
of strange things like iron and copper and sometimes bamboo,

(41:21):
which certainly you know, made me think again about the panda,
But I don't know, it doesn't seem like strong enough
evidence to really start forcing the panda into the conversation
more than it's necessary.

Speaker 1 (41:31):
This doesn't really have any relation to the baku. But
I just have to say, on a recent trip to
the to the zoo where we were watching the Atlanta Zoo,
where we were watching the panda enclosure, we saw the
feeding happen where they were throwing new branches of bamboo
down to the pandas so they could eat them, and
one of the pandas literally just collapsed into a pile

(41:52):
of bamboo branches or unleashing a mighty crashing sound. If
it's literally just like rolling in its food, very fun and.

Speaker 3 (42:00):
They love it. I guess one of the reasons I
keep wanting to think about the panda in this role
is that you can imagine the image, especially our modern
understanding of the panda, lines up with the way we
may think about the taper, and you can imagine a
panda having this kind of status and role in one

(42:20):
superstitious understanding of dreams. But I don't know how that
really would rack up and compare with historic understandings of
pandas in China, especially considering wild pandas, but hard to
say for sure. So Horri writes that we don't know
when the baku ultimately crosses the sea into Japanese traditions,

(42:42):
but that screen illustrations from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
depict the creature. It becomes very popular with the common
people during the Edo era, I believe, as you alluded
to earlier. Horry points out that during the seventh through
eighth centuries, a sacred animal called the hockey was associated
with nightmare consumption, and that you still see some of

(43:03):
this reflected. This was originally an imperial court practice, but
you see some of it reflected in the Setsubun ceremony
that still practice today. We discussed this in our bean
episode about like pelting one or demons with beans in
order to drive them out of say a school or
what have you. The baku, however, seems to sort of
take on this sacred role and replaces the hockey when

(43:26):
it enters Japanese traditions. So this seems like a possible
way of looking at the evolution of this monster like
you already have perhaps a role for some sort of
dream eating creature, even if it's not fully developed. And
then here comes this new sort of sacred creature that
is associated with protective qualities, and maybe these two kind

(43:46):
of get wrapped into one. You know, this is a
common thing you see with traditions of magical creatures. You know,
they don't there are morphous over time, they change shapes,
they converge with other creatures, and sometimes they separate as well.

Speaker 1 (44:00):
The danger of steamrolling over nuance and how folklore evolves.
I really do wonder if the fact that the baku
is cute played a role in It's in a role,
and it's evolving to fill this niche of protecting children's dreams.

Speaker 3 (44:15):
Yeah, I mean there's a there's certainly a larger discussion
to be had there concerning not only the universal appeal
of cute, but also obviously cute has a tremendous history
in Japanese culture as well. So Hore shares that old
Baku amulets show things like a ship filled with rice
or just characters representing baku, and this was from when

(44:38):
it was a higher class affair for the emperor in
his circle and a ritual of sleeping with it, you know,
on or under your pillow. And this was something that
would be carried out once a year to clear out
the past year's bad dreams, which I thought was interesting.
It wasn't necessarily a situation of like I had a
bad dream, I need to fix this, or I might
have a bad dream tonight I need to fix it.
It's more like market on the calendar. It's time to

(45:00):
clear out all those bad dreams. All the past year's
bad dreams are gone.

Speaker 1 (45:05):
It's like a nightmare leaves a stench that's sort of
hanging in the air, and you bring in the baku
to like waft it all out.

Speaker 3 (45:13):
Yeah. The boat that is depicted on these ambulance apparently
the ideas the boat becomes loaded with these bad dreams
again that have been accumulated over the course of a year,
A whole boatload of them literally or symbolically intends tell
you look at it. I guess. Anyway, they're loaded up
on this boat, and then the boat goes out, sails

(45:35):
out into the waters of purification. It's essentially dumping them.
I guess, you know. As time goes by, these depictions
show more treasure aboard the Baku ship, and in time,
you know, the common people adopted ritual as well. Horry
writes that it eventually loses the association with nightmare purification
to a large degree and becomes kind of more of

(45:56):
a mascot of happiness and kind of a good luck
token as well. So it's interesting how we see the
Just as we see the rise and fall of dream
emphasis within a given culture, you could also see that
associated with particular practices, amulets and mythical creatures. By the way,
in this paper, there's at least one really interesting thing

(46:17):
that Horry brings up that's not Baku related at all,
concerning dream manipulation superstitions in Japan. But they do mention
that there is this pre modern practice where it is
said that if you want to see your loved ones
in your dreams, and I think this may relate more
to loved ones who are deceased, you could wear your

(46:39):
clothing inside out when you go to sleep and that
would help manipulate the nature of your dreams.

Speaker 1 (46:45):
Any insight into the magical logic there.

Speaker 3 (46:49):
It reminds me of things in general that we've touched on.
It reminds me of things in Russian folklore that we've
talked about before, you know, the idea of wearing clothes
backwards or doing something interesting with the buttons, Like there's
something about manipulating the order of things in the waking
world that can then have some sort of a relationship

(47:10):
on the supernatural world or in this case streams.

Speaker 1 (47:14):
Wasn't it that, like, by wearing clothes backward in the
Russian folklore you would like defend yourself against ghosts or
monsters or something.

Speaker 3 (47:22):
Yeah, or it concerned well, what was their name, the
wild one, the man of the woods?

Speaker 1 (47:27):
Oh, the Leshie.

Speaker 3 (47:29):
Yeah, I believe it came up in the Leshie that.

Speaker 1 (47:32):
Would lure people off the path.

Speaker 3 (47:33):
Yeah, yeah, though I think it's come up elsewhere as well,
maybe in I want to say, Irish folklore and superstition.
You know, I think it's a motif you see pop
up here and there. You know, this idea that there
if something's out of line with your clothing, there's some
potential slip into the other world. I guess one of

(47:55):
the interesting things about this to me is that it's
not just necessarily about good versus bad, But in this
we're getting in the depiction into the distinction between dreams
that are just you know, clutter, you know that that
you don't want, and having a dream that has some
connection to a realm beyond the waking world in this case,

(48:15):
like the realm of the dead, the realm of past
lives and so forth.

Speaker 1 (48:19):
Yeah, that's interesting. So I could see like wearing your
clothes inside out might somehow grant you access, But that
does seem somehow different than because again if well maybe
I'm not even remembering this right, but if I am
remembering it right, with the Russian thing, it was like
that wearing the clothes backwards would somehow protect you. That's
almost like that would keep you more grounded to reality

(48:39):
or maybe prevent these creatures from recognizing you or something.

Speaker 3 (48:43):
I don't know. Yeah, yeah, like somehow messes with how
this world interacts or touches with the other world or
creatures of that other world. So we've covered some key
dream cultures here from particular periods in these episodes, but
there's so much we didn't get into. Like you just
in passing horror mentions that there's a strong Malaysian tradition

(49:05):
of dream control, and I didn't have time to follow
up on that and see what that might consist of.
But it would be interesting to hear from from listeners
out there if you know of any other great examples
of some sort of robust or even just very slight
seeming method of changing or altering or controlling the flow

(49:25):
of dreams, be it related to an amulet or a
childhood you know, nursery, rhyme, or story. We'd be very
interested to hear.

Speaker 1 (49:32):
About that totally. Does your culture have something like a
baku you want to tell us about.

Speaker 3 (49:37):
Or do you have just additional tales of the baku?

Speaker 1 (49:39):
Did you have a baku pillow?

Speaker 3 (49:41):
I did a quick search for baku pills and I
could not find one that is shaped like a baku.
But I did see one on a popular online retailer
that that does have a depiction of a baku on it,
and it looks very nice. But of course we know that,
you know, I feel like you would also have to
be really comfortable for my purposes, like I need a
very specific pillow if I'm going to have if I'm

(50:03):
hoping to have decent dreams.

Speaker 1 (50:05):
I don't think I ever had a pillow with representative
art on it. I think I've had boring pillows my
whole life. Never had like a spider Man pillow or anything.

Speaker 3 (50:13):
I never did. But my son has gone to I
don't know, at school or camps. They sometimes make pillow cases.
So he had one that was decorated with with Pokemon
not too long ago that he'd made himself, so you know,
you can always make your own baku pillow for sure.

Speaker 1 (50:29):
Do the Pokemon protect him from bad dreams?

Speaker 3 (50:32):
I don't know, maybe, I mean one does wonder at
times if you're if you're obsessing about something and you
have that kind of like childhood obsession level for it,
if you can control the nature of your dreams in
that way. Because my son is always talking about how
like he's obsessed with them with Zelda right now, and
so he'll he'll have dreams about playing Zelda and about

(50:53):
or about the world of Zelda, which is great, And
at times I'm like, I was, like, I wonder, like
what some of the differences are between the adult mind
and the childhood mind, because there are plenty of things
that I get obsessed about that are, you know, a
wonderful distraction from the real world, But I end up
not dreaming about them, or I don't remember those dreams.

(51:13):
I have dreams about other things that don't make any sense,
or things that aren't like key to to you know,
central to my interests or even my my anxieties, at
least not on a you know, a really obvious level.

Speaker 1 (51:28):
You know, I'm gonna say my gut instinct about this.
So I'm not speaking for any science I've read or anything,
but my suspicion is that you are much more likely
to dream about an obsession if that obsession has a
spatial component. So video games are very much something you
could dream about because they, I mean typically they have

(51:49):
a simulated environment with spatial dimensions that you explore. Similarly,
I think people have a lot of dreams when they're
obsessed with, like houses or something like that. That kind
of content seems especially prone to turning up in the
dream world.

Speaker 3 (52:06):
But then like movies we watch for the podcast, subjects
we research for the podcast nothing.

Speaker 1 (52:11):
Yeah, I don't know if those have as much of
a spatial component. I mean, like a movie is shot
within spaces, but you don't really imagine inhabiting those spaces
moving through them.

Speaker 3 (52:21):
Hmm. Interesting, Well, you know, i'd love to hear what
everyone else has to say about this. You know, well,
we all have different sorts of dreams. Are they're different?
It's kind of a question, b is you know, are
there particular things you do in the real world or
obsess about in the real world that seem to have
more of a guaranteed connection to the subject matter of
your dreams?

Speaker 1 (52:41):
Yeah, how's my spatial hypothesis? Hold up? Blasted out of
the water? Come on, all right, we're going to go.

Speaker 3 (52:49):
And close it out there, but we'd love to hear
from everyone out there. Our core episodes of Stuff to
Blow Your Mind publish and the Stuff to Blow Your
Mind podcast feed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we also
do a lit your Mail episode on Mondays, so write
in that's where we'll discuss those messages. On Wednesdays we
do a short form monster fact or artifact episode, and
on Fridays we set aside most serious concerns to just

(53:10):
talk about a weird film on Weird House Cinema.

Speaker 1 (53:13):
Huge thanks to our excellent audio producer JJ Posway. If
you would like to get in touch with us with
feedback on this episode or any other, to suggest a
topic for the future, or just to say hello. You
can email us at contact at stuff to Blow your
Mind dot com.

Speaker 2 (53:34):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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