Daruma started as the Japanese path of the Indian sage and Buddhist missionary, Bodhidharma, but has now evolved into a unique and powerful spirit. His essence is contained in his motto, “Falls down seven times, gets up eight.” Daruma is persistent and never gives up, regardless of adversity and setbacks. He is the spirit of new beginnings, goals, and the refusal to admit defeat. Daruma may not remove obstacles from your path, but he will give you the strength, inspiration, and endurance to bulldoze through them. Daruma’s image serves as a potent and popular amulet. Daruma dolls are papier mâché tumblers designed to right themselves when they tip: knock them down, they bounce back up. In addition to other magical purposes, Daruma dolls are used in a ritual intended to help accomplish goals. Special Daruma dolls are sold for this purpose. Daruma dolls are painted to resemble the famous monk. These special Daruma dolls are crafted with their eyes deliberately left unpainted. The person with the goal performs# the ritual and opens Daruma’s eyes.

DARUMA DOLL Ritual • Hold the Daruma doll in your hands while you clearly articulate your goal. Use a different doll for each different goal. • Activate the doll and initiate the project by painting only one of Daruma’s eyes. • Place Daruma where he’s clearly visible and can lend strength and encouragement. • When your project is complete, paint in the remaining eye. • Daruma dolls are traditionally kept as mementos of success but should you ever wish not to be reminded, don’t throw him out. There are shrines in Japan that accept and ritually care for or dispose of old Daruma dolls. Daruma is a guardian spirit. He protects horses and monkeys, both literally and also those people born in the Years of the Horse and Monkey. He is the patron of veterinarians who specialize in horses. If there are special monkey doctors, he’s their patron, too. Daruma protects against earthquakes. He is the patron of beggars. He has associations with serious illness. During the Edo period (1603–1867), Daruma emerged as a smallpox spirit and may be petitioned to prevent, avoid, or heal that disease. Daruma supervises smallpox Demons and tries to ensure that they won’t harm children. The flip side, of course, is that, theoretically at least, those contracting smallpox have been punished, overlooked, or visited by Daruma. Some scholars theorize that a Japanese smallpox spirit may lurk under the guise of the famous Buddhist monk. • Daruma dolls were traditionally given to children with smallpox. • Afflicted children were swaddled in Daruma-style red hoods so that they resembled living Daruma dolls. Although his primary illness is smallpox, Daruma also protects against measles or any ailment that manifests with red rashes, marks, or pustules on the skin. He is an ambivalent spirit. Although Daruma usually protects against disasters, he can cause them, too. Those red robes he favours are sometimes associated with blood. Daruma can inflict any disease that he can heal. What more auspicious beginning is there than birth? Daruma, Lord of Beginnings, is associated with sex, fertility, and childbirth. His red cloak is sometimes associated with the amniotic sac, the placenta, or the caul with which some babies are born. Daruma dolls are used by those whose goal is conception: ask for Daruma’s blessings when painting in the first eye. Give him a gift when you paint in the second. The nine years that Bodhidharma spent meditating in a cave may be understood as a metaphor for nine months spent gestating in the womb. In the Meiji era, when phallic amulets were banned, Daruma images were among their replacements. His saying, “Falls down seven, gets up eight,” also has erotic overtones, appropriate for a sexual marathon man. Conversely during the Edo era, the name Daruma became a euphemism for a prostitute: someone who’s constantly falling on her back only to rise and fall over and over. For a monk, Daruma can be a racy spirit: • Daruma is depicted in the company of courtesans or prostitutes. • Daruma is depicted as a prostitute. • Daruma is sometimes portrayed as a transvestite (his beard betrays him). Daruma is sometimes coupled with Okame, who sometimes dresses up in Daruma’s signature red robes. They are envisioned as a married couple. She’s addressed as Mrs. Daruma. Okame and Daruma will share altar space: she keeps him well behaved and ensures that his actions are benevolent.


Once familiar, Daruma is instantly recognizable: he is a scowling man with bushy black beard, beetle brows, and piercing black eyes, traditionally dressed in a red, hooded cloak, although occasionally Daruma dolls are produced in other colors. The classic Daruma doll is a legless tumbler. This leglessness is not just a device to keep the doll from tipping: after Bodhidharma meditated for nine years, his legs atrophied. Daruma dolls have magical properties: • They serve as protective amulets, especially for children. • They ward off illness. • Many lesser spirits flee (or at least behave) in the face of the great Daruma. • Daruma dolls facilitate and ease childbirth. • They bring abundance and prosperity. Sacred creatures: Silkworms, monkeys, horses, snakes




  • Bodhidharma
  • Dosojin
  • Konsei Myojin;
  • Okame


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.