Abei no Seimei (c.921—1005 CE) - Witchcraft Hall of Fame

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Abei no Seimei (c.921—1005 CE)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame

Abei no Seimei, renowned magician, exorcist, astrologer, and diviner of Japan’s Heian Era (c.794—1192 CE), is the subject of countless stories and legends. He is sometimes described as the Japanese Merlin although documented historical records for Abei no Seimei do exist, dating to 960. There is no doubt he existed. There are, however, as many tales of Abei no Seimei as there are of Merlin and these remain very popular in Japan.

His birth name was Hauraki Abei. His birthplace is generally acknowledged as Abeno-ku in Osaka, although different towns compete for the honor. He lived much of his life in Kyoto.

According to legend, Abei no Seimei was the son of a fox spirit (see ANIMALS: Foxes): his mother reputed to be a white fox rescued from hunters by Abei’s father. Abei’s extraordinary powers manifested in childhood: he could see spirits, converse with birds and visited a dragon’s palace. Abei no Seimei served six emperors. His specialty was lifting curses.

Abei no Seimei, is considered the ultimate master of Onmyo-Do, which literally means “the way of Onmyo.” (See DICTIONARY: Onmyoji.)

Demonstrating the difference in attitudes toward magicians in Japan and in contemporaneous Europe, after his death Abei no Seimei was considered a saint and divine soul. He still continues to help others at his shrines in Kyoto and Osaka. Two years after his death, the Japanese Emperor built the Seimei Jinjya shrine in his honor at Abeno-ku, Osaka. Every September an annual festival honors Abei no Seimei there.

Some Onmyoji (practitioners of Onmyo-Do) remain dedicated to Abei no Seimei’s teachings. Abei’s other shrine is the Seimei Shrine on Horikawa Avenue in Kyoto, where Onmyoji are available for consultations and exorcisms.

Onmyoji, directed by Yojiro Takita, was Japan’s box-office king in 2001. It recounts some of the adventures of Abei no Seimei, as does its follow-up, Onmyoji II (2004). Enough legends of Abei no Seimei exist to fill many more sequels.