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Abura-Akago
Abura-akago
Information
Japanese name 油赤子
Romanized name Abura-Akago
Meaning Oil baby
Type Human form
Places Shiga Prefcture
Book(s) Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki

Abura-Akago (油赤子 or あぶらあかご, Abura-Akago) is a creature illustrated in Toriyama Sekien's Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki, as an infant spirit lapping oil out of an andon lamp.

DescriptionEdit

Abura akago are yōkai from Ōmi Province. They are a type of hi no tama, or fireball, but can also take on the shape of a baby.

Abura akago first appear as mysterious orbs of fire which float aimlessly through the night sky. They drift from house to house and—upon entering one—transform into small babies. In this baby form, they lick the oil from oil lamps and paper lanterns, known as andon. They then turn back into orbs and fly away.

Like many other oil-related yōkai, abura akago are said to originate from oil thieves. While the particular circumstances of these oil thieves are lost to time, they mirror so many other yōkai that we can infer that these thieves died and—instead of passing on to the next life—turned into yōkai as a penalty for their sins.

Toriyama Sekien's accompanying notes describe it:

近江国 (あふみのくに) 大津の八町に玉のごとくの火飛行 (ひぎやう) する事あり。
土人云、むかし志賀の里に油をうるものあり、夜毎に大津辻の地蔵の油をぬすみけるが、その者死て魂魄炎となりて今に迷ひの火となれるとぞ。
しからば油をなむる赤子は此ものの再生せしにや。
In the eighth town of Ōtsu in Ōmi ("Afumi") Province there exists a flying ball-like fire.
The natives say that long ago in the village of Shiga there was a person who stole oil, and every night he stole the oil from the Jizō of the Ōtsu crossroads, but when this person died his soul became a flame and even now they grow accustomed to this errant fire.
If it is so then the baby which licks the oil is this person's rebirth.

Sekien seems to have based this illustration on a story from the Shokoku Rijin Dan (諸国里人談), in which an oil merchant from Ōtsu steals oil from a Jizō statue at the crossroads, and is punished posthumously by being transformed into a wandering ghost-fire.

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

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