Funadama (船霊)

Funadama (ship spirit) is a deity to which seafarers pray for the safety of a voyage. Funadama is written in kanji as 船霊 or 船玉. There are many local variations of the name of this deity, such as Funadama-san, Funadan-san, or Ofuna-sama.

Some Funadama have goshintai (object of worship) while others don't. In some cases, Funadama is represented by symbols such as dolls, copper coins, human hair, the five grains, and dice, and inserted into the bottom of the pillars of a ship called mori or tsutsu to play a role as a kind of amulets. In some regions, shrines to worship Funadama are placed on the land. Today, in most cases, seafarers buy a paper charm from a shrine on the land and place it in the engine room. Even some shrines without goshintai hold a ceremony called Funadama matsuri or an event called Funemukae on January 11.

Throughout the country, Funadama is regarded as a female deity. People tend to avoid to bringing women on the sea or allowing a woman to be on the ship alone, because they can be possessed or the weather may become rough.

The main worshippers of Funadama are fishermen and shipwrights. When the building of a ship is complete, the master builder holds a ceremony to worship Funadama. At sea, a boy in charge of cooking called 'kashiki' takes care of Funadama by offering an ear of rice.

An oversea equivalent to Funadama is a figurehead of a goddess that is placed on the front or stern of ships in the Western countries. Maso of China is another equivalent.

[Original Japanese]