In recent weeks measles again became one of the main topics covered in the news stories. Not that long ago, before the advent of the vaccines, measles epidemics were a common occurrence around the globe. Back in the nineteenth century numerous hashika-e (measles pictures) from the UCSF Japanese Woodblock print collection served as guides to combat this disease. Many of them include a holly leaf (tarayō) believed to contain protective powers as well as recommendations for auspicious diet and and explanations how to persuade the measles kami (“Shinto term for god, divinity”*) to leave.
These charms when attached to a door or screen were supposed to protect the house and its inhabitants against measles:
Another print depicts three “mighty men” conquering measles.
And the battle to eradicate measles continues…
*Japanese popular prints: from votive slips to playing cards. Rebecca Salter, 2006.