Warding Off Evil Spirits With A Mystical Bow, Arrow

SATURDAY'S HERO

February 08, 1992|By Rob Kasper

I added to the drama of our household recently by making a bow so my 6-year-old son could shoot a special arrow.

The immovable king of light made me do it. That would be Fudo Myoh-Oh, the 33-foot-tall incarnation of Buddha's power against evil whose 33-foot-tall cedar form sits outside the Maryland Institute's Rinehart School of Sculpture at Mount Royal Station in Baltimore.

Fudo Myoh-Oh is still growing, still under construction. Nonetheless he wards off evil spirits.

The kids and I met Fudo Myoh-Oh a little over a year ago at a ceremony honoring his arrival in town. It was a memorable event. There was incense. A bonfire. The highlight was when four flaming arrows were shot high above Fudo Myoh-Oh by a bow-toting Buddhist monk.

The monk shot his arrows into the air; one came to earth in a shrubbery. That is where I found it.

The shaft was a long piece of bamboo, wrapped with brightly colored string. The once fiery arrowhead was now blunt. Having spent its flame in flight, it was resting quietly in a bush across the street from Meyerhoff Hall.

The arrow was quite a prize. When I presented it to my sons, they were encircled by the other kids who also had scrambled up the steep hillside behind Fudo Myoh-Oh in search of the fallen flame.

The homage that the circle of kids gave to my sons, as owner of the arrow, reminded me of a scene in William Golding's novel "Lord of the Flies" in which a gang of boys marooned on an island defers to the boy who holds the sacred conch shell.

Sensing that this new-found arrow was a path to power and fame, my kids insisted that it be taken with us on our trip to Boston to see if it could even impress the cousins, who being teen-agers were obviously men of the world.

The teen-agers called it "cool." After playing well in Boston, the arrow returned with us to Baltimore where it was either lost or went into hiding.

It reappeared a few weeks ago. The 6-year-old found it on the top pantry shelf while hunting for some "treats."

Now, he said, all he needed was a bow. Just like the one Kevin Costner used in portraying "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves," a movie the kid had recently watched about 700 times on the family's VCR.

I told my son I would make a bow, but not right away. First, I said, we had to find a worthy stick that could be transformed into a longbow.

I was stalling, but not for philosophical reasons. Both the 6-year-old and his 11-year-old brother have toy weapons. Being a dad has taught me that when it comes to weapons, my sons are remarkably similar to prison inmates. Namely, if denied weapons, they will make their own.

As self-appointed czar of the household's flow of armaments, I asked myself a couple of questions about the bow. First, could the kid be counted on not to shoot arrows inside the house? Second, could he betrusted not to shoot at other human beings, especially his big brother? The answer to both questions was probably, so the bow was approved.

I also thought Fudo Myoh-Oh might have been sending me a signal. Perhaps he had allowed the arrow to reappear. A few days earlier I thought about buying a Nerf arrow, made of heavy foam. But now that immovable king of light had seen fit to send us his bamboo arrow, I knew my kid would never settle for foam.

It took me a while to find the right stick to fashion into the bow. My son was persistent in his appeals. The telling blow was struck at 7:32 Saturday morning when he woke me up saying: "Dad! Make me a bow! You promised!"

A few hours later my son and I journeyed to a neighborhood playground where we found a couple of sprightly sticks. We took home these and smoothed them off, shaving off the branch nubs with pocket knives. Then we notched the ends of the stick with a saw and ran a piece of string through the notches.

When I tightened the string, the once-straight stick bowed in compliance. The kid's eyes widened.

He took his new bow and his well-traveled arrow out to the alley behind our house. I watched him for a while.

It looked incongruous to me. A small boy in a city alley, firing a Buddhist arrow over the telephone lines, then running toward it as it hit the asphalt.

But kids see the world differently than adults. Each time my son fired the arrow he was muttering something. As I edged closer to him, I figured out what was going on.

This was not an alley. It was Sherwood Forest. He was not a boy, he was an English archer battling the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham.

As he fired the arrow he spoke this incantation: "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves."

He was, in other words, warding off evil spirits with his bow and arrow. Fudo Myoh-Oh must have been proud.

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