Sunday, March 31, 2013

Visiting Soul Palace (落獄探宮)

A soul palace ritual book.
The visiting soul palace (探魂宮) ritual is a compendium ritual of the walking Zewei (步紫微) ritual. Both are Taoist rituals meant to supercharging one’s luck and for countering the lacking of this life. The only difference that I can think of is one ritual leads to the constellation while the other to the hell (地獄). There is another similar ritual call “going underworld” (觀落陰) most popular in Taiwan.


The theory behind visiting soul palace is pretty simple: one can buy one’s luck with joss money (紙錢). This is indeed in line with the Chinese saying: If you got the money, even the ghost will push the grinder for you! (有錢能使鬼推磨)


The Taoist believes that everyone has a soul palace in underworld. The locations of the soul palaces are just around the East Mountain (東獄). Taoist’s East Mountain also refers to the Taoist Hell. The soul palace has uniform settings and guarded by the person’s Zodiac animals (十二生肖): rat, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, chicken, dog or pig.


This soul palace is fully furnished with an altar with a tablet inscribed with the person’s name, food offerings, an oil lamp, table and chairs, bed room, clothing, kitchen, backyard, tree and flower and finally a well. The conditions of the soul palace reflect also the conditions of the palace owner’s present conditions. For example if the table and furniture are dusty, then this person will be lonely and in hardship in his/her present life.


Specific rituals will need to be performed so that the Taoist can travel into the East Mountain. Since this is a lengthy ritual, I would just have to shorten the original ritual and present to you the summary:


The best timing for the ritual is after 4pm every day.


First, the gods and goddesses of the altar are summoned to watch over the altar and the Taoist.


This follows by lengthy mantra recitations to enable the Taoist’s soul to travel outside of his body. Following that will be a lengthy mantra recitations describing the journey to the underworld and how many gates that must be passed before reaching the person’s soul palace. The Taoist must burn some joss papers to open each gate (買路錢).


Once the destination is arrived, then the Taoist will go into the soul palace to do cleaning and replenishment. This again is accompanied with the burning of more joss paper. There are a total of 12 places (十二宮) to be inspected and repaired.


When the work is done, the Taoist will return from the original route by reversing the perverse recitations until his soul safely returns to the altar.


Many people who have tried this ritual felt changes in their lives, but then and again, this is a time consuming ritual that seldom people perform these days.

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