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From powerful wise me shamans who would learn magical secrets from spirits in the mountains to learned Yin Yang diviners who could charm entire crews of pirates and secret magical societies Japans mythology and history of wizards is perhaps one of the richest in the world.
Yin Yang Wizards
Most people know only of Yin and Yang as a philosophical and religious element as the symbol of light and darkness of balance. And indeed this is part of what what Yin and Yang are but as with all things in the duelistic world of Yin and Yang and magic this is only a part of the truth. Because while many were seeking serenity and enlightenment through the Yin and Yang paths there were Wizards who were seeking to gain magical powers. The Yin Yang wizard understands that magic is obtained through the manipulation of natural forces, through watching how the world acts and manipulating the balance to gain a desired effect. Magic in the Japanese belief system comes from everything in the world and manifests through the movement of nature.
The traditions which Yin Yang Wizards follow come from China, but as with all things the Japanese altered these traditions to make them their own, to add their own special forms of magic and power to them. The Yin Yang Wizard primarily focuses on understanding the natural world so that they can use the natural world to predict events and thereby change them through the use of Geomancy, offensive and defensive spells, rituals, and purification. Yin Yang Wizards were so important to the people of Japan, especially to government and important officials that there was a Bureau dedicated to them on which the important people of Japan could call for protection. But Yin Yang magic isn't all about protection, for it is a duel tradition, being both helpful and harmful. A Yin Yang Wizard would often be hired to bring harm and ill luck to those who a government official was competing with. In one case a talented person realized that they were going to come under such an attack by a rival and so they asked a Yin Yang wizard for advice. The wizard told them to bar themselves in their home for a certain period of time. This was common advice by Yin Yang wizards as the the home was a protected space which would keep those who feared curses and demons safe at times. But the man failed to listen to the advice and stuck his head out his window, and thus his head was cursed so that he soon died of head problems after this. Of course there was always a risk with evil uses of Yin Yang magic for the man who had hired the wizard to lay the curse died in the same way soon afterwards.
Yin Yang Wizards tried to head of danger by interpreting signs, in one case a wizard learned that a man would have a demon visit his home because of a white dog which urinated in his garden, in another case a wizard knew that a boy had had an evil spirit sent to kill him when a bird dedicated on the boy. Deification and blood were impure objects in Japanese belief and thus events related to these could be looked upon as negative but only the Yin Yang wizard could interpret such events properly.
Yin Yang Wizards were so powerful at times that they could possess entire ships of pirates. In a small village some pirates attacked a merchant vessel, killed most of the crew and stole everything. A Yin Yang wizard promised to bring the pirates to justice, and so he went out and wrote on the water while chanting magical words. Soon after the pirates sailed into port possessed and unable to defend themselves against arrest.
As with most of Eurasia Mountains represent sacred spaces in Japan, places where the supernatural other world which controls human fate meet. It was once believed that the spirits of the dead as well as kami and Buddha's lived within the mountains. Thus it was here that people could go to gain a better understanding of the magical world. It was further once believed that humans had the ability to become kami of the mountains, to gain all the powers of the deities of these places.
There are three types of rituals which are conducted in the mountains;
The first of these involves making offerings and prayers to mountain kami in order to gain some favor.
The second involves spending a period of time in the mountains in order to gain knowledge.
In the third the wizard would go into the mountains and experience hardship (by traveling in winter, facing hunger, etc) in order to gain magical knowledge. Such knowledge could allow the Shugenja to become immune to fire, swords, to gain the ability to change shape (in one case turning himself into a frog), to fly, and perform other amazing feats of magic.
Most often the shugenja would use sutras and chants in order to exorsize evil spirits thus curing illness and or bad luck. As with many other types of wizards Shugenja could use dvination in order to manipulate the world and learn when they needed to manipulate the world.
Shaman and Folk Wizards