Seals in Ancient Chinese Magic
How to avoid tigers and wolves using a seal

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Yellow Spirit Seal This is a translation from Baopuzi (Master Embracing Simplicity), one of the most important works in the Taoist Canon. The book was written by Ge Hong (250-330) who called himself the Master Embracing Simplicity. This passage describes the use of seals in dealing with wild animals. The image to the left is an impression of a historical Yellow Spirit Seal.

Someone asked, "Those engaged in cultivating the Dao are all in the mountains and woods. The mountains and woods are dangerous because of tigers and wolves. How can one avoid them?"

Baopuzi said, "In ancient times, those who entered the mountains all wore on their belt the 'Yellow Spirit Leap' seal. It was four inches wide and had a hundred twenty characters on them. They stamped with it the ground in the four directions a hundred steps from their abode, the tigers and wolves could not come within the imprints. When they saw footprints of a new tiger, they stamped it with the seal in the direction of the tiger's path and the tiger immediately left the area. If they stamped it in the opposite direction and the tiger immediately returned. If you carry this seal while walking in the mountains, you will not be afraid of tigers and wolves. And not only tigers and wolves, if there is a blood-sucking evil spirit from a mountain or river shrine who can harm you, by stamping on the ground you will cut off its path and it will not be able to act as a spirit anymore.

"In the past, there was a turtle in the water in caves. It usually was in a deep pool and, because of it, people called this pool 'Turtle Pool'. This creature could become a bogy and inflict illness on people. There was a Taoist monk in Wu who had a halo over his head, occasionally he could see it. Using his 'Yellow Spirit Leap' seal he made a few hundred imprints on dirt and, sitting in a boat, threw them into the pool one by one.

After a long while a large turtle ten feet wide came up to the surface and floated there not being able to move. Then he killed it and all those who felt ill got well. Beside this, a lot of small turtles came out too and died one after the other on the shore.

"If you unexpectedly run into a tiger in the mountain, promptly do the three-five spell and the tiger will leave at once. The three-five spell can be only transmitted orally, you cannot describe it using a brush. One way is to simply imagine yourself as a vermilion bird, thirty foot long, sitting on the tiger's head. Because you block his qi, the tiger will leave at once.

Translated by Imre Galambos, 2000

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