Ebisu, kami of happiness, luck, and abundant harvests from land and sea, is one of the Shichi Fukujin, Seven Spirits of Good Fortune. Ebisu is guardian of the morning sun. He is often partnered with Daikoku, who may be his father. An alternative theory suggests that Daikoku and Ebisu are respectively master and apprentice. Two smiling spirits, they enjoy each other’s company and will happily share altar space. Merchants and shopkeepers often maintain altars honoring Daikoku and Ebisu. Ebisu brings the fish. Daikoku brings the rice. Together theydeliver complete and abundant bounty. This may be understood literally or as a metaphor for financial success.
Yet another myth identifies Ebisu with Hiruko, the leech baby or watery child; very first child of the primordial couple, Izanami and Izanagi, who was born either lacking limbs or lacking bones as punishment for spiritual transgressions during his parents’ wedding ceremony. When he was almost three and still unable to stand, he was placed in a boat of reeds and cast out to sea. He survived and, with time, healed. The only obvious sign of his previous disability is his limp. (Yet another version of the story suggests that Ebisu is the man who rescued and raised baby Hiruko.) Ebisu may be invoked to safeguard the health of young children.
Place his altar in the kitchen. Restaurants are frequently named in Ebisu’s honour, especially restaurants specializing in fugu, the potentially toxic puffer fish and high-priced Japanese delicacy. Only specially trained chefs are legally permitted to serve fugu: Ebisu is their patron spirit and the guardian of their restaurants. Should you ever be unfortunate enough to suffer fugu poisoning, he is the spirit to invoke for help. (No known medical antidote exists.)
Ebisu is a bit deaf. In Osaka, devotees strike the walls of his shrine with mallets to make sure they have his attention—just something to keep in mind when attempting to communicate with him.
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Fishermen, those who serve in the fishing industry, children
Ebisu is a smiling, bearded man wearing a tall black hat. He holds a fishing rod in one hand and a big fish in the other, usually a red sea bream.
Fishing rod, fan
Sea bream (called tai in Japanese and considered the lucky red fish); sea bass; jellyfish; fugu; octopus
The twentieth day of the tenth month of the traditional Japanese calendar, known as the month without kami. All the other kami gathered for their annual convention at the Grand Shrine in Izumo. For whatever reason, possibly because he didn’t hear the summons, Ebisu failed to go and so is available when all the others are not. He is also venerated in Osaka on 9–10 January and 20 October.
Serve him Yebisu beer, which features a picture of him on the label; pickled daikon radish; incense.
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.