A-Yokai-A-Day: Hito-dama

Every culture, of course, has stories about strange things that happen when you die. Many people believe that they have seen a brief light leave the body, or a small cloud exit from the mouth, at the point a body “gives up the ghost.” In Japan, many people claim to see tailed orbs of light leaving the body at the point of death, and floating around in graveyards afterwards. Today let’s take a look at this strange phenomenon!



Hito-dama (人魂)

Translation: human soul
Habitat: graveyards and near the recently deceased
Diet: none

Appearance: Hito-dama are the visible souls of humans which have detached from their host bodies. They appear as red, orange, or blue-white orbs, and the float about slowly not too far from the ground.

Behavior: On warm summer nights, these strange glowing orbs can be seen floating around graveyards, funeral parlors, or the houses where people have recently died. Most often they are only seen just before or just after the moment of death, when the soul leaves the body to return to the ether. It is most common to see them at night, though they are occasionally seen during the daytime too. Rarely, hito-dama can materialize when a person loses consciousness, floating about outside of the body for some time, only to return to the body when the person regains consciousness.

Hito-dama are harmless, and so it is important not to confuse them with other fireball yokai, which can be potentially deadly. Hito-dama can be distinguished from other hi-no-tama by the distinctive tails of light which trail behind them.

Interested in learning more about hitodama and other yokai? Check out my book, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, on Amazon.com and learn the story behind over one hundred other bizarre monsters!

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