Inen – The Possessing Japanese Ghost

Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara

In Saisetan, located on Fukue island in the Goto archipelago of Nagasaki prefecture, there are legends of things that have the power to enter and possess humans. These things (ikiryo, shiryo, dobutsu-rei, kappa, and the curses of various deities of Shinto and Buddhism) are called inen. They cause various illnesses, changes in personality, and spiritual distress. There is also a type of shaman who can speak directly to the inen, interpreting their demands and negotiating the price that must be paid. These shamans are known as Honin.

At one time, there was the wife of a farmer who had a strange growth on the side of her body under her armpit. It was painful, and because of the tumor she couldn’t sleep at night. She went to the doctor and had the malignant growth removed several times, but it always grew back. Three times she was operated on, and with no success. She finally paid a call on a honin. The honin said “In your house there are many spirits. These are not the beneficial spirits of your ancestors. They are desperate things who want something from you. It is the spirits who have caused this growth on your body. Here is what you must do to appease them. Go home, make a great feast, and set it on your largest plate. Set the plate under a large tree near your house and leave it there, making the proper supplications to the spirits.”

It was long the tradition of the village that the once-prosperous farmer’s wife’s house was built on top of an ancient graveyard. The spirits interred there wanted the humans to honor them and hold regular memorial services, and they made their desires known by causing illnesses such as skin diseases, tumors, and even insanity.

You can read more details about inen in the book “Spiritual and Magical Powers” by Sasaki Miki.

Translator’s Note:

The word inen is written in katakana, and thus has no meaning other than being a name.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jose Prado
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 02:25:39

    So Inen is anything that can possess a human? Even a curse from a God?


  2. Zack Davisson
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 11:47:18

    Yes, but it is a malicious possession. Inen is a somewhat obscure term, coming from Saisetan.


  3. Author Violet Pierson
    Jun 27, 2017 @ 13:26:58

    Very interesting! I am doing research for a book about spirit attachment and possession. Strange thing is, I developed a large tumor at the roof of my mouth, and it was during a very depressing time for me. Now i wonder..


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