Monday, July 12, 2010

Star Crossed Lovers – Tanabata


I must admit I’m a sucker for a romantic story and have always loved myths and legends. I have an ever growing collection of fairy tales but must admit an ignorance of the Asian mythical stories.
Over at Style Wilderness Fourth Daughter mentioned this story of the Cow Heard and the Weaver Girl only able to meet once a year…can you imagine what that annual kiss might be like?
So, just a quickie (?) illustration of the star crossed lovers!

star crossed copy 

Actually this story is the celebration of the Tanabata or Star Festival in Japan on July 7th. People celebrate the day at home and in schools. Many cities and towns hold festivals and have Tanabata displays decorating the main streets. In some regions, people light lanterns and float them on the river, or float bamboo leaves on the river.

The festival traces its origins to a legend that the Cowherd Star (Altair) and Weaver Star (Vega), separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet just once a year-on the seventh day of the seventh month. Tanabata originated more than 2000 years ago with an tale called Kikkoden. Once there was a weaver princess named Orihime and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi After they got together, they were playing all the time and forgot their jobs. The king was angry and separated them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way). The king allowed them to meet only once a year on July 7th.

In Japan people write their wishes on narrow strips of coloured paper and hang them, along with other paper ornaments, on trees or bamboo branches placed in the backyards or entrances of their homes. They then pray hard that their wishes will come true. The most common Tanabata decorations are colourful streamers. Streamers are said to symbolise the weaving of threads. Other common decorations are Toami (casting net), which means good luck for fishing and farming and Kinchaku (bag), which means wealth.

The Tanabata festival is thought to have started in China. It was transmitted to Japan during the feudal period and combined with traditional local customs to become an official event at the Imperial court, with different localities developing their own distinctive ways of celebrating.


resa said...

Oh, this is one of my favorite myths. Beautifully illustrated!

Fourth Daughter said...

Very beautiful, and you went to the trouble of explaining the festival and the myth which I was too lazy to do (blaming it on my stupid internet speed which prevents me from doing a lot of stuff!) .. love the cow pendant detail too...But I think you should do another version where the lovers are Japanese!