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What would you do if I told you there was a simple, easy way to make all your wishes come true? Because that’s what this Japanese “salt magic” ritual, or shiomajinai, claims to do. Surely it must be too good to be true — right?
Well… yes and no. You know the old adage about being careful what you wish for? Keep that in mind here. It’s… important.
I know, I know — we’ve been spending a lot of time (metaphorically) in Japan lately here at TGIMM. Maybe it’s because I am badly, badly feeling the cabin fever and Japan was the last place I traveled (all the way back in the spring of 2019!) before All Of This happened. Or, maybe it’s just because I’ve recently unearthed a whole bunch of Japanese sources and topics that haven’t been widely covered in English before, so I’m curious to dig deeper. Whatever the reason, this one piqued my interest, so… here we are again. For the curious, the Japanese term for the ritual is “shiomajinai” (塩まじない), from “shio,” or salt, and “majinai,” which typically refers to a spell, charm, or incantation — or, more broadly, simply magic.
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The earliest mention of a ritual resembling the salt magic ritual I’ve been able to find dates back to the end of 2007. In December of that year, a thread on 2ch (now 5ch) zeroed in on a method for making your wishes come true — a method which involves writing those wishes down on a piece of paper, then burning the paper along with a pinch of salt. Both the method itself and the ensuing discussion about it are loose, though; there are few specifics and many generalities.
It’s also worth noting, by the way, that a handful of comments suggest the method already existed prior to the creation of this thread. I haven’t been able to dig up any sources dated earlier this, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist — just that they may not be on the internet (or at least, not in a way that I’m able to access).
In any event, the method seems to have been codified somewhat just a few years later, as evinced by this thread from 2009 laying out a much more prescriptive way to do it. (It’s in posts five and six at the link; if you’re using Chrome and you don’t speak Japanese, you can translate the page with the browser’s translate function.) Although this version does also note that those who would like to attempt the ritual should “refer to the writing styles and methods of various people and try the method that is most effective for you,” most versions dated after this one are similarly prescriptive — that is, they’re much more detailed and have many more stipulations. As the ritual-legend has continued to circulate, each successive storyteller has put their own spin on the rules of the game — which, I would argue, is the whole point about urban legends in the first place.
Why is this ritual centered around salt? Likely because salt has a particular significance in culture and religion in Japan. I’ll send you here for more details, but suffice to say, salt is very, very important.
Also: Remember that there’s always a price for getting what you want. Because “magic” isn’t the only possible meaning for the word “majinai.” According to some sources, it’s closely linked to “noroi” (呪い) — “curse.”
Play at your own risk.
- One principal.
- Toilet paper (see: Additional notes).
- A pen (see: Additional Notes).
- Matches or a lighter (see: Variations And Alternate Versions).
- A fireproof dish, bowl, saucer, or ashtray (see: Variations And Alternate Versions).
- Salt — about a teaspoon.
- Access to a flush toilet (see: Variations And Alternate Versions).
- A wish. A want. A desire. (See: Regarding Your Wish.)
Making The Wish:
- Begin at any time.
- Gather together your supplies.
- Using the pen, write your wish or desire onto the toilet paper; then carefully detach this segment of paper from the roll.
- NOTE: Do NOT rip or tear the writing. If you rip the portion of the paper on which you have written your wish — that is, if you literally rip your wish in two — discard the segment of paper and start again.
- Lay the paper bearing your wish on a flat surface.
- Pour the salt onto the paper.
- Gently roll or fold the paper up into a small bundle, making sure the salt stays in the center of it.
- Do NOT allow any of the salt to escape the bundle — not a single grain.
Removing The Problem:
- Place the bundle of paper and salt on the fireproof dish.
- Using the matches or lighter, carefully set the bundle aflame.
- Watch the bundle closely. Allow it to burn entirely to ash.
- When the bundle has been reduced to a pile of ashes and the fire has extinguished itself, bring the dish to a flush toilet and tip the ashes into the bowl.
- Flush the toilet. Ensure that the ashes disappear entirely. Flush twice, if you must. Do not allow a single smudge of ash to remain.
Reaping The Rewards:
- Now: Wait.
- Be patient.
- These things can’t be rushed.
- If the ritual is successful, your wish will come true within the coming days, weeks, months, or, perhaps, years.
- If it does not, however, don’t despair; you may always try again another time.
- Just… don’t be greedy.
- After all, you can’t always what you want.
Due to risk of fire, take common sense precautions before beginning: Ensure that an operational fire extinguisher is nearby and easy to access; remove all flammable items from the area; etc.
Concerning the pen:
- Accounts differ as to whether the ink must be a particular color. According to some sources, the ink should be red to achieve best results; however, according to others, red ink should not be used under any circumstances. Some sources state that the ink must be black; however, others note that the ink color is insignificant and has no bearing on the success of the ritual at all. If you do not achieve success with one color of ink, you may choose to try again with a different color if you wish.
- Accounts also differ as to whether a particular type of pen must be used. Brush pens are sometimes recommended, as they are less likely to tear the paper while you’re writing your wish down; however, other accounts describe success using biro or ballpoint pens. The choice of pen is up to you.
Concerning the paper:
- Some accounts specify that the paper must be a specific color to achieve best results: Pink. However, others do not specify a color. If you do not achieve success with one color of paper, you may choose to try again with a different color if you wish.
If you choose to enact a variation that does not involve a flush toilet (see: Variations And Alternate Versions), you may use regular paper instead of toilet paper. Toilet paper is recommended for the variations involving flush toilets purely to prevent the toilet from clogging.
Variations And Alternate Versions:
Several variations on the ritual exist. Depending on your own individual circumstances, you may make any of the follow adjustments if necessary:
If you are unable or unwilling to use fire:
- Omit the matches or lighter and the fireproof dish.
- After Step 7 of Making The Wish, proceed immediately to Step 4 of Removing The Problem — that is, do not burn the paper; instead, simply toss the bundle of paper and salt into the toilet unburnt and flush it as is.
If you do not have access to or do not wish to use a flush toilet:
- Omit the flush toilet.
- After Step 3 of Removing The Problem, do not tip the ashes into a toilet bowl; instead, leave them in the fireproof dish until they have cooled completely. Then dispose of them however you wish. Burying them in the ground is recommended.
- After you have disposed of the ashes, proceed to Reaping The Rewards.
Regarding Your Wish:
Your wish should take the form of something about your current circumstances in life that you wish to change. Indeed, some sources suggest thinking about it not as a wish, but as a worry you currently have — for instance, loneliness, financial concerns, a bad habit you’d like to overcome, and so on.
When writing your wish on the paper, phrase it as your circumstances currently are. If you are seeking to curb loneliness, for example, you might write, “I don’t have many friends,” or “I don’t have a partner.”
The idea behind burning the salt and the paper containing your worry is that you are purifying and removing the worry from your life. Therefore, if you write, “I don’t have many friends” and burn the paper bearing this worry along with the salt, you will be removing the problem of not having friends from your life — that is, if the ritual is successful, you will soon be making new friends. If, however, you write, “I wish I had more friends,” you will instead be removing the possibility of gaining more friends from your life — that is, you will be guaranteeing that you will not make any new friends.
Additionally, it is highly recommended that you include a certain degree of specificity in the phrasing of your wish. If your wish is too broad, it is possible — and, indeed, likely — that the “solution” to your problem will arrive in such a way that causes harm to yourself and/or others. For example, if your worry has to do with your financial situation and you write only, “I don’t have enough money,” a “successful” result might see you coming into money due to the sudden death of a family member and a subsequent inheritance bequeathed upon you by their will.
If, however, you write something slightly more specific, the result, if the ritual is successful, will be much more predictable: For instance, instead of writing, “I don’t have enough money,” you might write, “My salary is too low” or “I haven’t won the lottery.” In these cases, if a successful result is achieved, your financial issues would be solved due to receiving a raise at work or by winning the lottery the next time you buy a ticket.
NOTE: SUCCESS IS NOT GUARANTEED.
If your worry is not removed — if your problem is not solved — if your wish does not come true — well, sometimes, that’s just the way things go. Don’t kill yourself trying to figure out why, this time, you did not achieve a successful result. Try again another time, or try asking something else. Sometimes, acceptance is the best it gets.
And lastly: Your wish may NOT actively seek to harm another person.
If you make such a wish, you might find it… backfiring on you.
And, if it does…
Well, let’s just say you won’t get out of it unscathed.
In fact, you may never be the same again.
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[Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash]