The Jizo, a Buddhist Miscarriage Traditionby Elizabeth MacDonald
Jizo statues can be found primarily throughout Japan, although many other cultures seem to be accepting them into their own traditions. A Buddhist tradition, Jizo is the protector of children. More specifically, Jizo takes care of the souls of unborn children and those who die at a young age. According to Japan Times: “Children ‘in limbo’ in Japan are said to go to a place called sai no kawara, where they must create piles of stones into small towers. But every night the stone towers are destroyed by demons, so the next day the children must make new piles of stones. The making of these towers is to help their parents accrue merit for their own afterlife. This is why you sometimes see stray stones that have been made into little towers alongside Jizo statues. People make them for the souls of these children, to help them achieve their goals. People also leave toys, candy or fruit as offerings at the base of Jizo statues. Women also pray to Jizo for fertility and easy childbirth.”
Intrigued? Me too. After experiencing a miscarriage two years ago, I found myself not sleeping and painting random walls in the house at 3:00am. I had support, friendship, love, and three other children to fill my days with, but my heart ached for the life that was lost. Even after our rainbow baby, I still dream about the tiny baby we never met. I have friends who also understand (and are living) these feelings. I recently learned about the Jizo statue and just fell in love with the entire tradition. There are Jizo statues that can be kept outside or inside, ranging in size from small enough to fit in the palm of your hand – or large enough to be displayed outside. They look almost childlike and are dressed with a small red bib around their necks. The practice of dressing Jizo includes using hats, robes, or anything else one wishes. Red fabric is said to have been worn by Japanese children long ago, and therefore, symbolizes their safety and protection (Although any color fabric will due). Jizo statues line the walkways of many Japanese cemeteries, can be found on shelves and mantles of homes, and are seen carved into trees or placed in gardens. All are unique and hold the love of a mother -a family- who lost a child. Each Jizo allows a family to grieve and bring peace into their lives, knowing that their unborn child is protected until they can hold them in the next life.