Kamaitachi, the three weasels that cut you

I thought it might be time for a visit into the world of Yôkai, or “Phantom”/”Spirits”. So let’s take a look at the Kamaitatchi.

If you look up the word “kamaitachi” in your dictionary, it will probably give you the following definition:
– A cut caused by a whirlwind
– A type of Japanese folkloric “monster”, thought to be a trio of weasels who appear in a whirlwind to cut their victim.

As you can see, the two definitions are related, and the word is used both for the cut you might have gotten, as well as the Yôkai that cut you. But let’s dive a bit deeper.

"Kamaitachi" (鎌鼬) from the Kyōka Hyaku Monogatari by Masasumi Ryūkansaijin

“Kamaitachi” (鎌鼬) from the Kyōka Hyaku Monogatari by Masasumi Ryūkansaijin

The word “kamaitachi” is composed of two words: “kama”, meaning sickle, and “itachi”, meaning weasel. Kamaitatchi is commonly thought of as three weasels riding on dust devils, or dust whirlwinds, and using their sickle-like nails cutting people that come in their path. Usually it is though that the first weasel cut you with its nails, the second weasel uses medicine to stop the bleeding, and the third one applies another medicine to make it hurt after a while, so that they can make their escape before one notice them.

However, there are several versions of this legend, differing in the different regions of Japan:
– In Shinetsu, kamaitatchi are seen to be the work of an evil god.
– In the Yoshio District area of the Nara Prefecture, it is said that when one gets bit by a kamaitachi invisible to the human eye, one would tumble over, even though no blood comes out, there is a big opening in the flesh.
– In the western parts of Japan, kamaitachi are called “kazakama” (風鎌, “wind sickle”), and said to slice off people’s skins, and there is no pain the instants after it is scraped off, but after a while a hard to bear pain and bleeding would start to occur, and it is said that one could protect against this by obtaining an old calendar in one’s hand

As you can see, in the old days, whenever you got a wound when out walking that you could not explain, it must have been the Kamaitachi. Or maybe they do exist, then in that case be careful out there, and keep your eyes open for weasels in the wind…