The movie Spirited Away was distributed in the US in 2001 by Disney. The movie is by Hiyao Miyazaki and it is perhaps one of the most interesting and intriguing children’s films of this century. Its contents border on the surreal and it details the spirit realm with great interest. If you have not seen the film I highly encourage you to do so. (This article contains a few spoilers so be forewarned).
At the start of the movie we find Chihiro and her parents taking a side road that leads to an abandoned carnival. Chihiro wanders from her parents to explore the area, only to find that as the night sets she is trapped in the spirit realm. Kohaku a dragon spirit, finds Chihiro in a bit of a panic attack becasue she is fading away. Kohaku then feeds her some of the spirit world food and she reappears. An interesting parallel to the food of the spirit world, is that in Greek mythology if you eat of the food of the underworld then you will forever be in the underworld. When Chihiro finally re-materializes she finds she is paralyzed and cannot move. Kohaku utters these words while laying hands on Chihiro.
“In the name of the wind and water within thee unbind her.”
It seems that no matter what the religious belief or affiliation, the phrase by the power of x within me do y is very applicable to real spiritual matters. I am reminded of a very simple yet powerful protection ritual by Dion Fortune. Perhaps the only useful ritual mentioned in her book.
Facing the north make the sign of the cross and say
“By the power of Christ within me whom I love and serve. I enshroud myself within his divine circle.” After saying this draw a circle around you and then say, “I now cast out all evil influences, and things that would wish to harm me. I do this not in my name but in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” As long as you are within the circle no negative thing can harm you.
Both this protection ritual and the words uttered by Kohaku are incredibly simple and powerful. This theme of simplicity and power of the self prevails throughout Spirited Away. In the movie we see Sen (Chihiro) grow from a cowardly child to a self sufficient strong willed individual. By Sen not letting the spirits have power over her she is able to overcome them. The best example of this is when no face turns against Sen in his gluttonous form and Sen stands her ground. By not taking anything from the spirit he has no power over her and in frustration attacks. Sen uses the little power granted from the great river spirit to overcome no face. No face eventually changes back to his normal form and submits to Sen.
The interactions between Sen and No face are virtually identical to a Magician and a Spirit. As long as the Magician stands his ground the spirit must obey. While I am sure it was not the original intention of Spirited Away to show that we have power over the spirits it still provides an unparalleled example in a film of magic that both adults and children will love.