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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Native Appropriation In A Hipster Heterotopia: The Headdress Phenomenon At Indie Music Festivals

Jeremy Hamilton-Arnold analyses the phenomenon of the 'hipster headdress' and the display of the Plains Indian war bonnets in indie music festivals as a heterotopian hipster space. Native Peoples and their allies recognize this appropriative act as offensive inauthenticity and a profane twinning of a sacred original while for the hipster it fulfills desires for an authentic, pre-modern, outsider identity.


MLA citation format:
Hamilton-Arnold, Jeremy W.
"Native Appropriation In A Hipster Heterotopia
The Headdress Phenomenon At Indie Music Festivals."
Web blog post. Material Religions. 27 January 2016. Web. [date of access]



The indie music festival appears to be a hipster utopia. It is a locus, bounded by the span of a weekend and the physical barriers bordering the venue. To this locus are drawn musicians from a variety record labels and the various social bodies attracted to their music. But such bodies come for more than music; they come out of a fondness for being enmeshed in a place and a desire to be participants in a micro-society. Hipster culture in particular reigns in this concentrated population, where ravenous acquisition of anything deemed “authentic” takes precedence and illusions of commodity-free consumerism abound. That is, hipster culture appears to promote the assumption that true commodities are products from mainstream capitalist culture; and indie music festivals foster a space for products immune from mainstream capitalism––that “soulless” realm devoid of aesthetic feeling. The hipster’s ultra-sensory festival experience, felt through a variety of consumptive practices, is also a performative experience when one recognizes clothes as a conduit. For the hipster, this becomes a visual paradox when those clothes are appropriated: the presentation of self as an authentic original is constructed through adopting elements of dress from an/other. Upon the critic’s discovery or realization of the hipster’s mimesis of alterity (to use Michael Taussig's terminology), the performance becomes for the critic ultimately unoriginal and inauthentic.[i] 

Figure 1: "Me and my headdress :)", CC BY 2.0, Image Credit.

Following Foucault, I call the environment where this takes place a hipster heterotopia rather than hipster utopia, seeking to emphasize: the actual existence of such a typology in the real-world, its relative otherness to places of the everyday, and its increasingly discursive qualities as made evident through controversies of cultural appropriation.[ii] Specifically this is seen through the hipster’s appropriation of the Plains Indian headdress or war bonnet that for the hipster has appeared to fulfill the desire for commodity-free consumption while displaying to others a counter-cultural self. For those who have found this distasteful, the authentic war bonnet thus became inauthentically twined in the appropriative act, and thus was born the hipster headdress. This object of mimesis rapidly took on exogenic totemism for the non-Indian social group—an iconic marker of hipster culture’s distinctive ignorance and cultural insensitivity. In other words, the hipster headdress becomes seen (again I follow Taussig) as a moment of mimetic excess, materially sustaining the imperial mindset of Euro-American settler colonialism. 

In this paper, I argue that whereas headdress-wearing hipsters see the object as an authentic anti-commodity viable for appropriation, Native Persons and their allies view the opposite: the hipster's act is misappropriation—a form of cultural extraction and re-contextualization that commoditizes the headdress as “fashion accessory” and transforms the object into something profanely inauthentic—distinct from that which is truly authentic and sacred. 


THE HIPSTER 
Every generation has their bohemians, their generators of the “culture of cool”: the beatnik, the hippy, the punk. They are defined by their desire for counter-culture individuality and are segmented into generally cohesive manifestations. Over the past ten to fifteen years, a new brand of bohemianism has reified in the person of the “hipster.” One of the better definitions for this amorphous category of person comes from New York Times blogger Christy Wampole. She says, 
“The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He studies relentlessly, foraging for what has yet to be found by the mainstream. He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things.”[iii] 

The hipster, like all socially-invested bodies, requires materiality to define and perform selfhood, which is perhaps most intimately enacted through consumerism. 

Hipsters amass things and take delight in turning them into enchanted objects by endowing them with new meanings (or perhaps hipsters perceive meanings at first sensory contact, when things have already been endowed with meaning by other hipsters). Amassing for hipsters takes place for the purpose of achieving what Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht called the “aesthetic experience” in everyday worlds–-a process of enchantment via intentionally seeking and seeing the aesthetic in objects of sensory consumption.[iv] 

It is in this process that hipsters seek to avoid commodity goods (as they see them) and instead amass what they perceive to be anti-commodities: the artisan-made and the vintage, objects invested with meaning by being products of "craft" and "nostalgia"--objects that appear to ultimately transcend their capital-value through aesthetic-value. This search for anti-commodities causes the hipster to move away from occupying “inauthentic” capitalist realms to occupying spaces that promote aesthetic experience--places where the body may engage with objects of sensation and enchantment. NPR columnist Ann Powers defends this move away from "chain stores and cold cubicles", while warning of its dangers: “That path can lead to a mirage: Romanticizing the past is a convenient way to avoid its long-embedded problems, from racism and sexism to the drudgery of many working people's days. But insofar as these activities involve the body—moving in time-honored ways as you try a classic dance step or chop some wood—they can fix an alienated relationship with tradition, forging a link that's personal and real.”[v] 


“PLAYING INDIAN” IN THE HIPSTER HETEROTOPIA 
At the seemingly anti-capitalist realm of the indie music festival, the hipster has taken to self-enchantment by reviving the Euro-American tradition of native appropriation, donning the Plains Indian feathered headdress as a part of a counter-cultural uniform for this hipster carnival. Following Philip J. Deloria, I argue this tradition of "playing Indian" has never waned to the point of alienation; it has been rather persistent in American culture.[vi] After Deloria opens his book Playing Indian with a critical discussion of the Boston Tea Party, one of the first public events of Indian play in American history, he sets up an interpretive schematic of meaning for this and all Indian play, saying, 
"Although these performances have changed over time, the practice of playing Indian has clustered around two paradigmatic moments––the Revolution, which rested on the creation of a national identity, and modernity, which has used Indian play to encounter the authentic amidst the anxiety of urban industrial and postindustrial life."[vii] 

Figure 2: Nathaniel Currier, "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor", lithograph (1846), Public Domain.

The headdress-donning hipster fits perfectly into Deloria's second paradigm. At the indie music festival, the hipster encounters and embraces an opportunity for revelry. Heterotopias such as this encourage difference, and the hipster follows through in the extreme by appropriating the iconic symbol of American alterity and embodying its enchanted meanings of Savage Otherness. 

Deloria authored Playing Indian in 1998 and thus was unable to comment on this current iteration of the American tradition, but he did witness an instance of its prefiguration at a Grateful Dead concert in the early 1990s and offered commentary in his conclusion. At this concert he encountered the Society of Indian Dead, who in "paint, buckskin," "feathers," shrouded in "smoke," and congregated within parking-lot tipis, played Indian in this space that welcomed––even encouraged––their "antimodern quest for authentic truth" and their "rejection of urbanism, technology, mass culture, environmental degradation, and alienating individualism."[viii] We can see many of these qualities and characteristics encapsulated in today’s iteration of hippy (two generations removed) and at the indie music festival (the situational inheritor of counter-cultural musical heterotopia). Deloria's analysis seems timeless and applicable. 

This iconic, stereotypical “Indian aesthetic” has for a long time found a remarkably comfortable home in the realm of American rock, folk, and even electronica. Weather from older popular musicians like Elvis (see below) or bands like the Village People, or from contemporary indie performers like Jonsi from Sigur Ros, musicians themselves have seemed apt to don the feathered headdress for on-stage performances.[ix] DJ Lanphier from the website Music.Mic suggests a major contributing player in the iconic proliferation in music was through the ’60’s band the 1910 Fruitgum Company and their popular album “Indian Giver," which featured on the cover all six band members in American Indian “costumes,” each sporting a different headdress along with other stereotyped Native attributes.[x] Today the appropriative trend has reappeared with florescence due in part to major fashion icons (such as Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss) and pop music performers (Pharrell) promoting an appropriation of the war bonnet as a sensual—often sexualized––display of high-fashion savagery.[xi] Though, as the hipsters would have it, they got to the trend first, before it was cool. 

Figure 3: "Elvis", CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Image Credit.

They first began spreading it at these indie music festivals, the concentrated locus for spreading and affirming hip trends among consumers of hip music. Music festivals like Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in southern California have promoted and capitalized on the trend of headdress-appropriation, participating in the mimesis of the perceived icon of alterity through a variety of materials. Coachella especially has been well known for its high density of headdress-wearing festival goers.[xii] The massive spectacle, which in the course of two weekends in April of this year raked in a record of over $84 million, is the world's highest grossing festival and should be seen as a veritable cauldron of hipster commodification.[xiii] 

How, then, does the headdress-wearing indie-music-festival-goer miss the commodified status of the headdress, let alone the cultural insensitivity in its appropriation? Following Deloria, I find that the hipster perceives an anti-modern power in the headdress that surpasses and occludes all negative significations; its mimetic inauthenticity is unknown or irrelevant. As Taussig states, "in imitating, we will find distance from the imitated and hence gain some release from the suffocating hold of 'constructionism' no less than the dreadfully passive view of nature it upholds."[xiv] Here I revisit the hipster’s paradox: in the exercising of “mimetic faculties,”[xv] the hipster finds a cessation of inauthentic conformity to modern western civilization and instead embodies a perceived alterity, miming and acquiring a felt authenticity of Self, despite mimesis being, by definition, unoriginal. 

The hipster’s attraction to and appropriation of the headdress has become fetishistic in essence. Enchanted, it holds the magic of the foreign, the exotic, the otherworldly. It is “Indianness” in a single object. Its materiality is perceived as shockingly different from normalcy, which is heightened in its mimetic forms, where the headdresses can become an aesthetic exclamation point of exaggerated formal qualities. The headdress recalls the ever-appealing vintage popular culture; it is a product of romantic nostalgia, evoking moods and feelings associated with childhood play recently shuffled off for these new adults. The hipster’s headdress carries meanings of macho bravery and fierceness, yet ironically downplayed by casual frivolity. 

Figure 4: "Stand aside or get hurt", CC BY 2.0, Image Credit.

As a fetish, it magically endows its wearer with a plastic identity. With the physical weight of the head’s adornment—with its textured materiality newly experienced by the hipster at the festival site, the headdress is experienced as it makes the self “Indian-like.” It feels “handmade,” “natural,” and looks “authentic,” despite its likelihood of being bought second hand from Etsy.[xvi] Its natural (or nature-evoking) materials of feathers and leather are sensed as bespoke and feels like an anti-commodity. As an icon of “Indianness,” such specific materiality can magically endow the wearer with a feeling of wild “oneness with nature,” or at least connote that message to others by visibly performing alterity—by playing Indian. Relatedly, it carries with it a feeling of ek-stasis, transcendent otherworldliness through an amorphous and generic “Indian spirituality” which serves to enhance an ultra-sensory experience of the festival. I interpret this to be an embodiment of what native appropriation scholars Carter Jones Meyer and Diana Royer call “white shamanism,” here expanding it beyond “non-Indian poets and writers” yet maintaining its performative definition as an “[appropriation of] an Indian identity or higher Indian ‘powers’ to convey [and I would add experience] certain mystical truths…”[xvii] The heterotopic festival and its attending carnivalesque social atmosphere encourage a deep shapeshifting of identity, and the hipster, in a heterotopic curation of selfhood, finds ultimate shapeshifting in appropriating an icon of deep alterity. 


MIMETIC EXCESS 
In the Native countering and naming of this act as misappropriation, the hipster mimesis has begun to backfire and become widely recognized as inauthentic and can be understood (again following Taussig) as “mimetic excess.”[xviii] In this recognition of mimesis, Native groups and individuals have sought to widen the mimetic gap, emphasizing the sacred authenticity and originality of the Plains Indian war bonnet as distinct and far removed from its commoditized copy. The former is seen as truly, authentically, powerful, unique in its variety among numerous Native cultures, yet linked by a commonly revered social and spiritual status and its visible embeddedness within Native communities. The latter is a profane twin, an “inauthentic” commodity, a “hipster headdress.” 

Figure 5: "Secret Garden Party 2014", CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Image Credit.
The hipster wearing the “hipster headdress” has since become a marked icon for Euro-American ignorance, neo-colonialism, and “cultural imperialism.”[xix] The hipster who dons the headdress becomes a pariah on social media and the object of online critique. Numerous photos on Twitter and Instagram evince instances of offense with the hashtags “#hipster,” “#hipsterheaddress,” “#DontTrendOnMe,” and “#NativeAppropriation.”[xx] In this new iteration of “Indian play,” Native Peoples and non-Native allies see a new social iconography on display: the blasphemy of the privileged American hipster who seeks a misguided authenticity by appropriating “sacred” Native materialities, perpetuating Native marginalization, or worse, cultural genocide.[xxi] 


CONCLUSION 
For both headdress-wearing hipsters and their objectors, the headdress (or the headdress-wearer) has renewed its status as a powerful icon, but in reality, it has become twinned into two distinct icons through mimesis. As hipster culture at the indie music festival has endowed and perceived the object once more with an imperialist and romanticized meaning of anti-modern wildness—savage alterity, Native Peoples reinforce their war bonnets with religious meaning and reverence through their invocation of the word “sacred.” They re-inscribe the “authenticity” of the headdress with meanings of cultural sovereignty, uniqueness, and power. Here the headdress type's doubling––an authentic original and an inauthentic fake––is affirmed. Where one is religiously and culturally revered, the copy is lamented as a commoditized theft, an icon of their perceived Otherness made within and for a uniquely American Capitalist-Imperialist society. 

The hipster's headdress-wearing days at Indie music festivals and other heterotopias may be numbered with the rise of both "hashtag activism" and direct confrontation within these heterotopias. But I am left wondering with skepticism whether hipster culture (and Euro-American culture more broadly) will be able to dislodge their entrenched totemic sense of American Indian iconicity. If not, mimetic Indian play will likely continue in other heterotopias. It is an American tradition, after all. 



Endnotes 
[i] Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (New York: Routledge, 1993). 

[ii] I borrow from Michel Foucault, who uses this term to describe a separate, defined, porous space identified by difference and distance from other spaces. Some examples of heterotopias he provides include graveyards, boats, early New England Puritan colonies, libraries, museums, fairgrounds, etc. The theoretical list of possible heterotopias could be endless. Michel Foucault, “Of Other Places,” Diacritics 16 (1986): 22-27. 

[iii] Christy Wampole, “How to Live Without Irony,” The New York Times: The Opinion Pages, November 17, 2012, accessed December 13, 2014, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/how-to-live-without-irony/?_r=0

[iv] Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, “Aesthetic Experience in Everyday Worlds: Reclaiming an Unredeemed Utopian Motif” New Literary History 37 (2006): 306. 

[v] Ann Powers, “It Isn’t (Just) Ironic: In Defense of the Hipster,” NPR, November 20, 2012, accessed December 13, 2014, http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2012/11/20/165578178/it-isnt-just-ironic-in-defense-of-the-hipster. 

[vi] Philip J. Deloria, Playing Indian (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 7. 

[vii] Deloria, 7. 

[viii] Deloria, 181-82. 

[ix] To be clear, Felipe Ortiz Rose, the individual wearing the headdress, is son to a Lakota Sioux father. However, I would argue that Rose's dress became viewed by the public as just as much a costume as those worn by the other members, thus maintaining the headdress's perceived pluralistic availability for any wishing to perform an "Indian" identity.; Adrienne Keene, “The Hipster Headdress Abounds at Coachella,” Native Appropriations, April 26, 2010, accessed December 13, 2014, http://nativeappropriations.com/2010/04/the-hipster-headdress-abounds-at-coachella.html.; “NeverShoutNever and the Hipster Headdress,” Native Appropriations, September 1, 2010, accessed December 13, 2014, http://nativeappropriations.com/2010/09/nevershoutnever-and-the-hipster-headdress.html

[x] DJ Lanphier, “The Awful History Behind Why Hipsters Think It’s OK To Wear Headdresses,” Music.Mic, May 6, 2014, accessed December 13, 2014, http://mic.com/articles/88941/the-awful-history-behind-why-hipsters-think-it-s-ok-to-wear-headdresses. The title song topped at No. 5 on Billboard. 

[xi] Keene, “Archives for Hipster Headdress,” Native Appropriations, accessed December 13, 2014, http://nativeappropriations.com/category/hipster-headdress

[xii] Keene, “The Hipster Headdress Abounds at Coachella,” Native Appropriations, April 26, 2010, accessed December 13, 2014, http://nativeappropriations.com/2010/04/the-hipster-headdress-abounds-at-coachella.html; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Why So Many American Indians Have an Issue with Coachella,” News.Mic, April 15, 2014, accessed December 13, 2014, http://mic.com/articles/87709/why-so-many-american-indians-have-an-issue-with-coachella

[xiii] Ray Waddell, “Coachella Earns Over $84 Million, Breaks Attendance Records,” Billboard, July 15, 2015, accessed November 16, 2015, http://m.billboard.com/entry/view/id/132853

[xiv] Taussig, xix. 

[xv] Taussig. 

[xvi] “search: ‘feathered headdress’,” Etsy, accessed December 13, 2014, https://www.etsy.com/search?q=feathered%20headdress&order=most_relevant

[xvii] Carter Jones Meyer and Diana Royer, eds. Selling the Indian: Commercializing & Appropriating American Indian Cultures (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press), xi - xii. 

[xviii] Artist Roger Peet has taken notice of this mimesis in its excess, and takes stock of its racial fulcrum through his artwork. At his exhibition in Portland, Oregon where this and other works evincing cultural appropriation were hung, you were offered "whiteness goggles" which would visibly erase everything red. Peet says: "When you put on the “Whiteness Goggles,” the colonial, military and police violence that underpins casual cultural consumption disappears. This is what life is like under whiteness, within the dominant category that capitalism has created. We white people can just unsee the violence that is done in our name. We don’t have to look. When we put on the whiteness goggles, we become heroes, and all the while so many others look at us as butchers.” Roger Peet, from IN  // APPROPRIATE: An Excavation of Appropriation” at the Littman Gallery in Portland, OR. http://toosphexy.com/post/123660111734/here-are-some-photos-from-inappropriate-a-show

[xix] Meyer and Royer, xi. 

[xx] Zak Cheney-Rice, “Why So Many American Indians Have an Issue with Coachella,” News.Mic, April 15, 2014, accessed December 13, 2014, http://mic.com/articles/87709/why-so-many-american-indians-have-an-issue-with-coachella

[xxi] Meyer and Royer. 



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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Lion’s Roar: Imagining Conch Shell Trumpets in Early Modern Japan


Jonathan Thumas explores the Japanese conch shell trumpet associated with practitioners of Shugendo. By studying some different trumpets in museum collections, he argues that their sonic and apotropaic power in rituals and their status in the popular imagination reinforces their use as talismans.   


MLA citation format: 
Thumas, Jonathan "The Lion’s Roar: 
Imagining Conch Shell Trumpets in Early Modern Japan" 
Web blog post. Material Religions. 
13 January 2016. Web. [date of access]


video

Played at key moments in mountain pilgrimage, the Japanese conch shell trumpet, or hora (horagai) is largely associated with practitioners of Shugendō. In the above video, shot by the author, the hora is being played after a Shugendō fire ceremony (saito goma). This often-contested umbrella term refers to a number of separate mountain-based traditions, inflected by esoteric Buddhism, kami worship, and quasi-Taoist practices. As a symbol of these mountain practitioners (shugenja or yamabushi), the hora adorns lineage seals, ritual altars, (figures 1 and 2) and is commonly carried as part of the quintessential mountain ascetic’s ornate garb. The haunting sound of hora being played can still be heard, day and night, near many mountain temple complexes. 

This article is part of a larger examination of the hora, its production, use, and imagining during the late Edo (1603-1864) and early Meiji periods (1868-1912). Such foci illuminate the hora beyond its status as a musical instrument or ascetic’s regalia. The present study considers two 19th century hora, both collected by Walter L. Hildburgh (1876-1955), and now housed in the Walter L. Hildburgh Collection of Buddhist religious materials in the Asian Ethnographic Collections of the American Museum of Natural History. I will present these objects and pay attention to the ways in which they would have been used in religious contexts to reveal their status as ritual tools, as opposed to simply being musical instruments. Representations such as relevant visual depictions will further reveal the place of hora within the popular imagination to suggest that, from at least the early modern period, they were sources of apotropaic power and talismanic tools for warding off danger. 



Figures 1 and 2: Relief of a hora at Ryūsenji in Dorogawa. Photo by author. 2012.
Hildburgh’s Trumpets 
Of the many exemplary hora in museum collections worldwide, two interesting examples were given to the American Museum of Natural History by Walter L. Hildburgh in the summer of 1928. Hildburgh was an antiquarian, known as a collector of talismans, who traveled and collected throughout Asia. [i] His collection of ofuda and omamori, the majority of which is now held in the Pitt-Rivers museum, is unparalleled in its scope and diversity. Hildburgh also collected thousands of amulets, talismans, and charms from India, China, and Medieval Europe, publishing articles on their modalities and functions as both symbols and apotropaia. He also collected numerous implements and deity statues from Japan accounting for both home and temple practices. These hora, being typical fare in his collection of ritual miscellany, were included in the “Japanese Religious Objects” shipment, numbered 13 out of 22 cases of Hildburgh’s ethnological and archaeological specimens from Egypt, India, China, Japan, and Tibet. The first of Hildburgh’s hora, catalog no. 70.0/3894 (figure 3) is on permanent exhibit in the Gardner D. Stout Hall of Asian Peoples in case 32-A, “Late 19th Century Buddhist Shrine.” It is located at the bottom of this recreated altar exhibit in an open drawer. 70.0/3894 is included in the second page for “Japan,” in Hildburgh’s list of items from Japan from case 13 from 1928, listed by its current catalog number as, “small conch shell trumpet,” and “ritual object.” [ii] Although no catalog measurements exist for this object, this small trumpet appears to be less than 12cm in length and 7cm wide.

Figure 3: 70.0/3894. Courtesy of the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History.
A manuscript record notes that 70.0/3894 was used by yamabushi, though due to its small size and a poorly made mouthpiece, it seems that it was not intended to be played or carried into the mountains. [iii] In modern examples made for use with a similar type of mouthpiece, the extended prongs are normally filled in with, and covered with, gypsum to ensure that the mouthpiece remains firmly affixed and does not come off during use (figure 4). [iv] Any adhesives used to attach the mouthpiece on 70.0/3894 are minimal. According to Paula Mikkelsen, Associate Director for Science at the Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth, the shell used for 70.0/3894 is an East Asian species called Charonica lampas sauliae or “Saul’s Triton,” a small species, averaging about 12cm long, identified in 1844. [v]  

Figure 4: Contemporary hora displayed outside a craftsman’s shop on Mt. Yoshino. Photo by author. 2012.
Generally speaking, hora are made solely using the shells of Charonia tritonis, a large and vibrantly colored species that has long been used as a horn across the Pacific, favored for their superior sound, color, and durability. [vi] Early on, tritonis were traded from the Ryukyu archipelago to China and mainland Japan, initially for fashioning ornaments and later for use in ritual contexts. [vii] By the 11th century, their textual basis in scriptures like the Lotus Sutra created a significant demand from Buddhist ritualists for the shells. Departing from the conventions of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist rituals, Japanese craftsmen never used shells of Turbinella pyrum, a smaller, heavier species that was favored for its pure white color and in its rarer sinistral morph, in which the lip turns left, figuring predominantly in Hindu and Buddhist art in India, Tibet and China. [viii] That 70.0/3894 is of a completely different species makes it quite difficult to determine why it was made. 

Considering its size and apparent lack of durability, it is possible that 70.0/3894 was an altar fixture. For Shingon Buddhist initiates, the hora was imparted along with other regalia to mark the highest degree in lineage status following the denbō kanjō consecration rite. At the end of this ritual, the initiate was given a variety of standard altar regalia and paraphernalia in tandem with directions on how to read certain secret texts. These objects, comprising such things as clubs, crowns, and vajras (ritual object or weapon), also included a hora trumpet. [ix] If this particular trumpet was ever employed at all, and not a “marketed hora,” which H. Fukui has pointed to as being of similarly crude construction, it is possible that it was made to be a general fixture for initiations, similarly to how it is currently displayed in its museum case. [x] That this could have been an unused piece as part of a larger ritual assemblage is further suggested by the items that are placed along with it: a series of bells, lotus scepters, and incense burners. These not only contribute to the ritual mélange but share the same accession numbers as well as close catalog numbers (i.e. 1928-58 70.0/3895 and 70.0/3896), which suggest that these may have been a part of a larger set purchased by Hildburgh around the same time. 

The second hora in the Hildburgh collection, catalog no. 70.0/3893 (figure 5), is currently kept in storage, but was previously displayed in an exhibit hall called “Mollusks and Our World,” in a case exhibiting the use of mollusks and shells as ritual objects. [xi] A 1975 photograph of this case shows this particular trumpet to have been accompanied by a photograph of fully garbed mountain ascetics, and is described as an important ritual instrument for Buddhist practices in the mountains. This hora is more standard in size for trumpets made to be used at roughly 32cm in length, 14cm wide, and 12cm high, with a thick shell. Similar to 70.0/3894, this trumpet appears listed in shipping case 13 of the Hildburgh accession file for 1928 as “Large conch shell trumpet,” with its current catalog number. [xii]   

Figure 5: 70.0/3893. Courtesy of the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History.
Unlike the smaller example, 70.0/3893’s mouthpiece is a gold-colored brass or copper, painted over with a brown lacquer. This hora is also complete with a symbolic silk umbilical cord, or kainō, which is wrapped around the lip and splits into two tassels. The cord itself is brown, and the tassels were at one time a dark blue or black. Unlike 70.0/3894, 70.0/3893 is made using a Charonia tritonis shell. In this case, the manuscript catalog also notes that this trumpet was used by the yamabushi, which based on its size, accompaniments, and general quality, seems a more probable conjecture. As exemplary of pieces that were meant to be carried and played, just how were instruments such as 70.0/3893 intended to be used?

From Museums to Mountains 
Hora production comprised numerous methods, employing a diversity of materials to make a sturdy trumpet with the perfect sound. Once made, hora would be carried into the mountains, hanging from the waist of the ascetic by a silk kainō, and used to mark the beginning of rituals or to signal other pilgrimage groups in the mountains. [xiii] Miyake Hitoshi, a prominent scholar of Shugendō, has noted a diversity of uses, with hora regularly being blown when an ascetic is reciting scripture, giving orders to acolytes, giving directions during pilgrimage, performing sermons, and relaying information across mountain valleys. [xiv] Although its haunting sound is essential to the atmosphere of various rituals, H. Fukui, an ethnomusicologist, raises issues regarding its use as a musical instrument. While the mouthpieces themselves can be manipulated, shells, being animal remains, often significantly differ in size. As a result, there is no standard pitch for hora, and it has thus been difficult to standardize hora as instruments to harmonize perfectly in ensembles. [xv] Furthermore, Fukui notes that lip-vibration instruments such as the hora are not traditionally part of Japanese music ensembles, and it only rarely appears in public performances such as Yamabushi saimon. [xvi] Hora also seem to take a backseat during most public performance arts such as kagura, only being blown when ascetic performance troops enter villages. [xvii] It is also rarely used in most religious hymns and other public vocal arts associated with Tendai and Shingon affiliated Shugendō traditions. [xviii] Rather, it was almost always used solely during rites, while in the mountains, and to a lesser extent, in military settings. As tools for accompanying various rites and changing, the place of hora in contemporaneous religious song texts and in the popular arts suggests that they were held as talismanic objects, for clearing the ritual space of impurity, emitting an apotropaic sound to ward off harmful mountain animals, baleful spirits, and toxins. [xix] 

Buddhist scriptures often mention the hora, with its sound when blown being compared to the roar of a lion, representing both the preaching of the dharma and the dispelling of factors hindering awakening as the “voice of the dharma.” [xx] The Lotus Sutra, which became one of the core scriptures for Buddhist culture throughout East Asia, was from early times an important textual basis for both ascetic practices in the mountains, as well as for the use of hora in ritual contexts, describing it to symbolize the power of the Buddha’s law over malevolent forces. This is mentioned in the sutra’s first chapter, likening the sound of the conch to the explication of the dharma. [xxi] Its association with scripture can also be seen outlined in certain sectarian writings, which in addition to likening the blowing of hora to the expounding of the dharma directs the performer to play it in pentatonic scale degrees, which emulates certain mantras and darani. [xxii] This seems to have predicated its use in warding off spirits from ritual settings. 

Apotropaic usage of hora can be seen as early as the Heian period in ritual texts such as the rokuji karinhō or “Six-syllable Water-facing Ritual,” the second portion in a larger ritual, rokujikyōhō, a large-scale ritual used to dispel disease. [xxiii] The karinhō portion of this rite was conducted on ritual boats in the water to drive out impurity (kegare) from the body of the ritual patron. Chanting of spells and the playing of a hora, among other instruments, comprised important measures taken during this purification, to “support and intensify the cleansing process.” [xxiv] Although it is difficult to draw broad connections with the hora as it was used in the Heian period to early modern examples, it has clearly seen consistent use in ritual settings, especially at various stages in ritual pilgrimage into the mountains (nyūbu). For significant Shugendō mountain pilgrimage sites, such as Mt. Omine and Kumano, there are various song texts identifying specific points of the pilgrimage where one should chant and sing. These songs are almost always accompanied by the blowing of a hora. Edo period song texts in this genre, specifically focused around pilgrimage on the Omine-Kumano route, include the Buchū hiden, compiled in 1694, as well as Gyōchi’s (1778-1841) Konohagoromo, including many of the same songs, as well as variations of those in Buchū hiden. [xxv] The Buchū hiden in particular was notable for tracing the movement of shugenja through the ten stages of the poisonous mountain womb, through which the ascetic would symbolically die and become gradually reborn along symbolic spots at the mountain pilgrimage, demarcating stages with songs accompanied by the sound of hora. [xxvi] 

By the time that Hildburgh’s hora were produced, the ways of using the hora as an integral part of pilgrimage songs had further systematized with theoretical commentaries and concise methods of use being laid out. This field of knowledge was later compiled in the Ryūra hikan by Kimpusenji affiliate Honma Ryuen in 1940, describing the proper way of blowing into a hora, called ryūra. [xxvii] Although this text is significantly later in authorship than both earlier song texts mentioned, and Hildburgh’s trumpets, it is a culmination of prior discourses about the hora, integrating earlier methods and texts from Honma’s Kinpusenji lineage. [xxviii] Honma’s text is a useful platform from which to consider the ways in which hora were viewed largely as tools central to ritual protocol and efficacy. Rather than solely focusing on the method of blowing, however, the methods involved giving equal attention to the use of the body in relation to the trumpet, even before blowing into it: 

First, the shell is held with the left and right hands, and then placed in front of one's chest. One should hold the tassel on the kainō with the fifth and fourth fingers of the left hand, and weave it through the palm of that hand. Then, let it hang down straight from the space between the first and second fingers. While doing this, let out a cry while simultaneously turning the shell, and then lightly hit the mouthpiece towards the left of the lip. [xxix] 

Further directions describe how the feet should be positioned, and also on concentrating energy internally within the body in a point below the navel. Following this, the player, who has imbibed this knowledge, can then blow strongly into the hora and raise it to the pitch in various ways by manipulating his mouth around the mouthpiece [xxx]. 

In addition to transmitting bodily protocol for playing the hora, Honma’s text also introduces a hymn to be chanted when blowing into it. After blowing, the user chants: “the sound of the hora is Samadhi, the mysterious lotus doctrine, that sutra that upon hearing worldly desires are destroyed, and the gate through which the seed syllables enter into the present,” and hits the mouthpieces three times with the palm to signify the three bodies (sanshin) of the cosmic Buddha, Dainichi nyorai. [xxxi] The hora thus becomes essential for entering into Buddhahood, representing “the inner realization of the preaching of the wisdom body of Dainichi Nyorai, ringing forth from the depths of the diamond realm as the Sanskrit ban syllable in its entirety,” a context in which it is likened to a lion’s roar that quiets both dangerous animals and evil spirits (akuma). [xxxii] 

In a comprehensive description of ryūra and its use in terms of pilgrimage song texts, Miyake notes that in addition to its functions of clearing the ritual space by being played at points in pilgrimage, the hora seems to have been played at nearly every turning point in the pilgrimage, including leaving resting lodges and eating places, as well as when entering certain locations for the first time. This practice seems to be rooted in the necessity of warding off wild animals and angry spirits to make stopping points safer and more habitable. In most cases that required the hora to be blown then, the reason was less for the sake of harmonizing with ritual songs, but in being blown before and after rites, and when entering and leaving sacred areas, as a mechanism for clearing the ritual space of undesirable presences, both wild and demonic. The apotropaic use of the hora throughout pilgrimages was supplemented by a milieu of ritualized armaments, with mountain ascetics carrying swords and axes, jingling staffs for warding off bears (shakujō), and specially designed headgear (tokin and hangai) to guard them against poisonous mountain vapors. [xxxiii] Although each object in this ritual milieu had important symbolic properties for mediating transformative journeys in the mountains, each was not only symbolic, but actively warded off harmful mountain spirits. Mountains were often viewed as quite dangerous. Merely carrying the hora as part of this ritual ensemble served to protect the ascetic during hazardous mountain treks. 

In addition to ascetic mountaineering and song texts, the hora’s apotropaic qualities when carried also appeared on the battlefield. One hora from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), housed in the Arms and Armor Collection and from the Bequest of George C. Stone, numbered 36.25.2997 was carried into battle in a similar way. An officer’s piece, this hora is distinguished by inscriptions in the lacquer surrounding the mouthpiece, which is extended though more than 1/4th of the shell length. Silver characters are overlaid over the lacquer, and the end of the brass mouthpiece itself is engraved with “faint design[s] of [a] plum tree, cranes and [a] tortoise.” [xxxiv] While visually appealing, the catalog card notes that the inscribed images are actually a sort of repair work, being inscribed on a “built-up black-lacquered paper ” explicitly used to repair the shell damage. [xxxv] 

While meant to cover up prior damage, the inscriptions on 36.25.2997 provide insight into the original ownership and use of this piece as a protective object. According to the catalog card, a man named Atarashi translated and transcribed the inscriptions on the trumpet into a six-page document. [xxxvi] He deemed the inscription to have been an adaptation of a luopan, or geomancer’s disk or compass associated with Chinese divination practices. According to the analysis of this inscription, the officer that would have owned this trumpet would have used this inscribed disk to divine the location of an enemy camp, as well as interpret “conditions of weather, time of day, month and year,” as well as divining the means necessary for achieving the best movements of his troops and “the most auspicious chances for success” in a given campaign. [xxxvii] Although blowing a hora to avert harmful forces is proscribed in numerous early modern sources, evidence suggests that playing the trumpet in the proper ryūra fashion, and even at all, was not a prerequisite for accessing its protective qualities. It appears that the hora, in its very materiality, was viewed as a protective object able to avert unwanted presences, and even unwanted situations, ensuring victory in battle as opposed to merely being a musical instrument. 

Although blowing a hora to avert harmful forces is proscribed in numerous early modern sources, evidence suggests that playing the trumpet in the proper ryūra fashion, and even at all was not a prerequisite for accessing its protective qualities. It appears that the hora, in its very materiality, was viewed as a protective object able to avert unwanted presences, and even unwanted situations, ensuring victory in battle as opposed to merely being a musical instrument. 

Dispelling Snakes and Swords 
The hora’s functions as a tool for dispelling wild animals and harmful spirits in the mountains, as well as avoiding failure in battle, appear to have permeated the early modern imagination surrounding it. Contemporaneous visual culture suggests that it was broadly interpreted as a symbol of protection. Representations seem to focus primarily on its ability to avert snakes and dragons, probably stemming from its use in ritual settings in mountains, as well as a protective symbol for the battlefield. Such depictions illuminate our understanding of the early modern Japanese imagination, and specifically, the sorts of things hora were imagined to subdue. 

One example representing the hora as a protective object can be found in the Drummond East Asian Collection in the Asian Ethnographic Collection of the American Museum of Natural History, catalog no. 70.3/1413 (figure 6). This peculiar piece comes from the Dr. I. Drummond Collection transfer (DAA 1961-73), and is part of a 1961 inventory of okimono from Dr. Drummond’s collection. This ivory piece, described as a “man with rope on conch shell frightened by snake”, measures approximately 6.3cm in length, 4.3cm in width and 12.5cm in height. The ivory is paired with light pigment on the clothing of the man depicted, and as of 11/2/1978, was on display in the AMNH “Shells” exhibit (AMNH, DAA, Manuscript Catalog). It clearly depicts a man standing on a larger-than-life conch trumpet gripping tightly the kainō connected to it, using the massive shell to shield him from a small, but presumably poisonous snake. Interestingly, the man here, although using the trumpet for protection, and further connected to the shell through the umbilical cord-like kainō, is not depicted as a mountain ascetic. 

Figure 6. 70.3/1413. Courtesy of the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History.

A further example emphasizing the apotropaic qualities of the hora against serpents can be found in a woodblock print from a set of 33 depicting each of the Kannon from the Saikoku pilgrimage route. This series of prints was a joint effort between famed ukiyo-e artists Hiroshige II (1826-1869) and Utagawa Kinisada (or Utagawa Toyokuni III, 1786-1865). The print concerns the Shingon Buddhist temple Daigoji with its founder Shōbō (832-909) blowing into a hora. According to Max Moerman, a scholar of premodern Japanese religion who also owns this particular print, the legend is that Shōbō killed a giant snake that had been terrorizing the mountain practice site on the temple grounds, but gets bitten in the process and must use the pure waters surrounding Daigoji to heal his wounds. [xxxviii] The Saikoku print depicts the aftermath, and shows the victory of the temple patriarch over the wrathful mountain serpent, marked with the fully garbed ascetic blowing into a conch trumpet (figure 7). 
 
Figure 7. Saikoku Pilgrimage print. Courtesy of D. Max Moerman, Barnard College.
In both examples, the inclusion of serpents as a representation of mountain spirits and harmful animals is a curious one. Although the current inquiry does not leave the space for a larger discussion, it should be noted that the trope of a Buddhist monk defeating a snake or dragon as the local manifestation of a water or mountain deity is a prevalent convention, permeating much of Buddhist literature throughout Asia. Such tropes appear as much in Indian narratives of the Buddha’s life as they do in Japanese temple origin narratives, describing wandering ascetics as taming local mountain gods for the purpose of finding suitable places to build a cultic center. [xxxix] Serpents were thus useful tropes for representing both mountain spirits and the venomous dangers lurking amongst the peaks. 


In addition to examples of depicting hora as useful for averting snakes, further application of its associated protective significance can be seen in examples from the military arts. Early modern examples are featured in a variety of military helmets adorned with hora, or even fashioned to replicate the shape of the conch trumpet, seemingly drawing from its associations with protection from harm. One example (2014.89) is located in the John Woodman Higgins Collection of the Worcester Art Museum (figure 8), dated to 1618. A second (51.620) (figure 9) dates from the 18th century, and is housed at the Walters Art Museum. Both evoke the talismanic qualities of the hora to protect the wearer without having to actually play a trumpet.

Figure 8. 2014.89, “Helmet in the Form of a Sea Conch Shell.” Worcester Art Museum (MA), The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection.
Figure 9. 51.620. The Walters Art Museum. CC0 license.
Along with the trumpet from the MET, allegedly used in a military context for purposes of divination, the helmets raise questions both about the relationships and distinctions between military and religious use of the hora. This range of use suggests that both mountain ascetics and warriors owned and used horagai for a variety of purposes. Connecting the hora to other pieces of esoteric regalia and weaponry, and tracing its patterns of use between battlefields and sacred mountains may prove fruitful in examining the conch trumpet in military and religious spheres. 

Concluding Remarks 
Placing Hildburgh’s hora and others within contexts of ritual use and imagining, reconciles the common depictions of the trumpet as protective. The ways in which hora were played in ritual settings as well as its status in the popular imagination reinforce its talismanic status. Through sound, materiality, and scriptural authority, hora warded off danger, transforming text into apotropaic sound. This seems to be characteristic of what Fabio Rambelli has called “non-hermeneutic” uses of texts in much of Japanese Buddhist practice. [xxxx] Japanese scriptures were often favored for their talismanic functions rather than sources for knowledge, being used in rites of healing, transmission, and exorcism. [xxxxi] As opposed to exegesis or pedagogy, the power evoked when blowing into a hora emits as an apotropaic, voiceless incantation, instead of being a legible text. Scripture, broadly speaking, is called on here more for its raw talismanic power than its doctrinal authority. 


Acknowledgments: Jonathan would like to thank Laurel Kendall and Katherine Skaggs at the American Museum of Natural History, who oversaw this research during their Spring 2015 Asian Ethnology Internship Program. Max Moerman, Michael Como, and fellow graduate students also provided helpful comments during the Spring 2015 seminar, “Sacred Texts as Ritual and Material Objects,” at Columbia University. 


Notes and References 
[i] Josef Kyburz, “Ofuda: An Overview.” In Ofuda, ed. Josef Kyburz (Paris College de France, 2014), 349-397. 
[ii] American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), Division of Anthropology Archives (DAA) 1928 – 58, “Japan,” p.2. 
[iii] AMNH, DAA, Manuscript Catalog. 
[iv] H. Fukui, “The Hora (Conch Trumpet) of Japan,” The Galpin Society Journal, vol. 47 (1994): pp. 47-62. 
[v] Mikkelsen and Neil Landman, Personal Correspondence, 5/8/2015. 
[vi] “Charonia tritonis,” in Guide to seashells of the world (London: Philip's, 2004). In “conchological terms” these are characterized by a “high, pointed spire; coarse, spiral cords and axial ribs on early whorls. Spiral ribs below suture – two on earlier whorls, three on the body whorl being beaded – are broad and flat with a small, narrow rib between. Outer lip flares to form large aperture and expands to form a low ridge before the lip which recurves. These axial ridges and lips show as varices on earlier whorls, one every two-thirds of a whorl, and therefore line up axially on every alternate whorl. Scalloped lip has about fifteen, spiral ribs running into the interior, posterior ones forming pairs of denticles on the lip. Concave columella is strongly and coarsely lirate. Narrowly umbilicate. Short siphonal canal. Creamy white; purple and brown, rounded, scale-like markings on spiral ribs; lip pinky-white; interior of aperture and inner ribs orange; denticles white; columella orange-pink, purple-brown between the lirae (Charonia, 2004).” 
[vii] Kinoshita Naoko, “Shell Trade and Exchange in the Prehistory of the Ryukyu Archipelago,” Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, Vol. 23, The Taipei Papers, Vol. 1 (2003), pp. 67-72. 
[viii] "T. Pyrum," in Guide to Seashells of the World (London: Philip's, 2004). In contrast to tritonis, pyrum has a “Moderate spire of about six whorls with adpressed sutures. Inflated body whorl; malleate surface; corded at the posterior end and on the short siphonal canal. Simple outer lip; columella with four plaits, the posterior one the largest, others decreasing towards the anterior; callous parietal wall. White; edge of lip, columella and parietal callus pale peach. This shell also has a thick heavy periostracum.” 
[ix] Fabio Rambelli, “Secrecy in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism.” The Culture of Secrecy in Japanese Religion, ed. Bernhard Scheid and Mark Teeuwen (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 119. 
[x] Fukui, “Hora,” 53; H. Fukui, “A Study of the Hora of the Kinpusenji Temple,” Ongakugaku, Vol. 36 – 1(1990): 29-42. 
[xi] Service Information from the AMNH Anthropology Division Collections Database notes that it was in a case titled “Spiritual,” and removed in March 5, 2001. This case title does not appear on the 1975 photograph, which instead lists the case as “Ritual Power.” Photograph is by Jim Coxe, 1975, Neg. #5907. [xii] DAA 1928 – 58. 
[xiii] Jane Safer Fearer and Frances McLaughlin Gill, Spirals from the Sea: An Anthropological Look at Shells (New York: C.N. Potter, 1982), 175. 
[xiv] Miyake Hitoshi. Shugendō Jiten (Tokyo: Tokyodo Shuppan, 1986), 397. [xv] Fukui, “Hora,” 51. 
[xvi] Fukui, “Hora”; Nakajima Hiroko, “Saimon,” Kokugakuin Daigaku Encyclopedia of Shinto: http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=1314 
[xvii] Irit Averbuch, The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura (Ithaca: Cornell University East Asia Program, 1995), 91-92. 
[xviii] Ouchi Fumi, “ The Lotus Repentance Liturgy of Shugendō: Identification from Vocal Arts,” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie Vol. 18, Shugendō: L’histoire et la culture d’une religion japonaise (2009): pp. 169-193. 
[xix] Miyake, jiten; H. Byron Earhart, A Religious Study of the Mount Haguro Sect of Shugendō: An Example of Japanese Mountain Religion (Dissertation, University of Chicago, 1965). 
[xx] Averbuch, Gods Come Dancing, 92. 
[xxi] Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic, trans. Gene Reeves (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2008), 64-65. 
[xxii] Fukui, “Hora”; Fukui, “Kinpusenji.” 
[xxiii] Benedetta Lomi, “Dharanis, Talismans, and Straw-Dolls: Ritual Choreographies and Healing Strategies of the Rokujikyōhō in Medieval Japan,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 41, 2 (2014): 256. 
[xxiv] Ibid., 278. 
[xxv] Gorai Shigeru, “Shugendō Lore,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies Vol. 16, No. 2/3, Shugendō and Mountain Religion in Japan, (1989): 133. 
[xxvi] Miyake, "jiten,” 331. See “Buchū hiden,” Nihon daizōkyō Shugendō shōso Volume I (Tokyo: Kokusho Kankōkai, 2000). 
[xxvii] Fukui, “Hora.” 
[xxviii] Ibid., 50. 
[xxix] Miyake, jiten, 397. 
[xxx] Ibid. 
[xxxi] Ibid., 347 and 397. 
[xxxii] Ibid., 397. 
[xxxiii] Earhart, “Haguro.” 
[xxxiv] Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) Arms and Armor Card Catalog # 105373. 
[xxxv] Ibid. 
[xxxvi] This addition was made in 5/3/2011. I was given access to this document on 5/1/2015 by Donald La Rocca, Curator of Arms and Armor at the MET. 
[xxxvii] Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) Arms and Armor Card Catalog # 105373. 
[xxxviii] Personal Correspondence, 4/19/2015. 
[xxxix] Caleb Carter. Producing Place, Tradition and the Gods: Mt. Togakushi, Thirteenth through Mid-Nineteenth Centuries (Dissertation, UCLA, 2014). 
[xxxx] Fabio Rambelli, Buddhist Materiality: A Cultural History of Objects in Japanese Buddhism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 89. 
[xxxxi] Ibid.