Okinawan Culture 03 - Ugan buduchi
"Ugan buduchi" The God of Fire takes a New Year Holiday
Hinukan, or the God of Fire is an Okinawan God that takes care of cooking stove. Hinukan has been worshipped by the Okinawan people from ancient times.
On the 24th of December in the Lunar Calendar, which falls on 5th February this year, Hinukan is supposed to go back to heaven to spend the holiday there.
In old Okinawan books such as "Omorosaushi", a compilation of Okinawan ballads compiled in the 16th century, and "Ryukyu-koku yurai-ki", the first chorography of the Ryukyu Kingdom compiled in 1713, it is insinuated that the worship for Hinukan may have been derived from the worship for Niraikanai(a utopia believed to exist far in the horizon) or worship for the God of the sun.
Ancient Okinawan people believed that there is a utopia far in the horizon, and worshipped the sun that rises from the horizon. After a while, people started believing that fire is something that has been brought from the utopia, and started worshipping the God of fire(Hinukan).
In the beginning, worship for Hinukan started by worshipping the cooking stove, nowadays people worship the ceramic cencers installed in the kitchen due to the change of the lifestyle.
Hinukan is supposed to be enshrined in a place near the kitchen, where fire is frequently used. The ritual objects for Hinukan should all be white in colour. In Okinawa, women are in charge of religious rituals, therefore, the women in the household are supposed to take care of Hinukan and the rituals related to it.
On the 24th of December in the Lunar Calendar, the ritual of Uganbuduchi, or thanking God for the fulfillment of the prayer is held in households. The ritual starts out with cleaning up the altar in which Hinukan is enshrined. Then the altar should be decorated with particular items as well as some offerings. One of these offerings is 3 bowls of freshly cooked rice. This is offered in order to make the Hinukan's mouth sticky so that Hinukan shall not tattle on bad things about the household while Hinukan is in heaven.
When the altar is fully decorated, people offer a prayer to Hinukan reporting what has happened during the year, thanking for the fulfillment of the prayer, and asking Hinukan to only report good things about the household to heaven.
After Hinukan spends the New Year holiday in heaven, Hinukan returns to the household on the 4th of January in the Lunar Calendar, which falls on the 15th of February this year.