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Carina El-Eid (U of Geneva)



“Encounterings at the borders: En no Gyôja and mountain deities”


En no Gyôja 役行者, "En the Practicioner", is a charismatic religious figure said to have lived around the 7th c. AD. Known for his special powers acquired  through ascetic practice in the mountains, he was chosen as a founder by Shugendô 修験道, the "Way to powers through practice", a Japanese religious movement centering on mountain asceticism.

This paper will show that the medieval period was seminal in the constructing of this figure both ambivalent and powerful, at the crossroads between man, idealized ancestor and divinity. En no Gyôja may be himself depicted as a manifestation of an Indian royal figure or the mountain god of Katsuragi 葛城, but one of his most important roles is that of "revelator" of the true origins of mountain deities. By establishing them in their authority and also showing their function in human society, En no Gyôja acts as a go-between between the realm of the Buddhas and the kami, and the human world. Partaking of both, he singularly embodies and highlights the workings of the honji suijaku 本地垂迹 ("original grounds and manifested traces") paradigm. 


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