Ebisu, Japanese Shinto deity


Monologue by Estrella Burks-Parra '23

Fall 2021

Oooo it’s almost time. I can’t wait. I’m so excited I could break out of this glass case right now. Hahahah. I’m just kidding. How I would break out without my left hand, I don’t exactly know, but why would I want to do that anyways, if I left I wouldn’t get to see my friends everyday, as they journey past me, to the most incredible and treasure filled place of all… The classroom. Fine go ahead and laugh, I am the God of laughter anyways.

Wait, I was so excited to see all my friends passing by, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Ebisu, you might have heard about me from my friend Daikoku, he’s the talker in the relationship, which is why he tried to pass me off as shy, but when I heard him say I didn’t have a story to tell you all, I knew I had to finally speak up. The idea that I was shy made me laugh so hard that the museum curators here at W&L actually moved me out of my isolated corner across the hall  so that I could be back with my buddy Daikoku. He’s the one next to me sitting on the bags of rice, I always tell them it’s going to attract mice, but since he is the God of Earth and Agriculture I think he wants them to come. I’d prefer if they were fish.

Daikoku and I have known each other for quite some time, we’re both a part of the 7 Lucky Gods. Daikoku and I met in Japan many centuries ago. When we first met I introduced myself and Daikoku immediately nicknamed me Laughing Ebisu and it was a great honor to be associated with that because life is hard but joy, kindness, and laughter make it all worth it. I think about this a lot, especially when I’m missing home. Even though I am physically here, a part of my heart will always be with my people back in Japan. These people supported and took care of me when I was a baby even though none of them knew me. You see my parents cast me away into the sea because of my deformity, they saw my missing limb and assumed I was a punishment for my mother’s infidelity. I remember my father calling me inadequate before he shipped me off to sea in hopes I wouldn’t make it out. I don’t remember much about that time in my life, I mean I was hardly even three, but sometimes I get flashbacks to the torrential waters, the hunger pains, the strong winds blowing me in each and every direction, and the fear that I would simply disappear and no one would know. I was rescued by a fisherman who brought me into his community. This was where I was raised, this group of people would do anything for me and always accepted me for exactly who I was. They helped me grow in the ways I was weak, and eventually I was able to give back to them with gifts of luck and wealth, although they never expected anything from me. Washington and Lee reminds me of home in this sense, seeing this community lift each other up and offer one’s strength to friends when they might feel weak. It is a place people want to return to because they always know they will feel welcomed home.

Speaking of joy, since you’re here there’s something I need to ask you! Are you by any chance a part of the Outing Club here? Yes ! No? Maybe. Well, do you like to go outdoors?.... Wait, DO YOU NOT LIKE THE OUTDOORS. We need to change that. There’s this magical group on campus called the Outing Club, and once you join you’re a member for life and I’ve ALWAYS wanted to join. One of my friends here, Daniel, loves the outdoors. Every single Tuesday I see him walk into Tucker with a huge fishing pole and fishing net. At first I figured he was a fisherman simply pretending to be a student, but then I realized that he does both ! He was talking to a professor a while back and invited him to go fly fishing on an  Outing Club he was leading and I thought maybe I could join too ! Why these humans are fishing for flies I don’t really know, but I hope they catch them, and maybe I could bring them some luck and teach them that people used to fish for fish. I normally always have my fishing pole on me but had to leave it back in Japan, as a promise to my people that I would be thinking of them, and because apparently statues don’t get a carry on bag. Anyways, I’ve been inside for so long I can’t really remember what flies look like but I’m assuming they must be huge if we’re fishing for them rather than… well fish.  Even back in Japan most people place me inside, but I like it there. Small businesses keep statues of me to evoke luck and my spirit of joy… and let me tell you, they’re lucky and full of so much joy when they don’t have flies in there, especially if flies are the size of fish now !

Oooo do you hear that? It’s finally time, the students are beginning to arrive. You can stay and watch with me if you so choose, I mean this is my favorite time of the day, but it also takes the most time and focus. No, I’m not just trying to get rid of you to people watch ! You see, as each of these students pass me by, no matter if they’re a student here at W&L or just a student of life I supply them with luck and the encouragement to seek out and claim the wealth of knowledge that is around them. Some students choose to turn this knowledge into material wealth and others gain a wealth of love and happiness through pursuing their passions. I see these students walk by all the time; sometimes they come in sweats after a long night out….studying we can say, and sometimes I see them with their head held high after acing an essay or exam. No matter what these students have been through, I send them notes of unheard encouragement full of luck as they each go by.

My life hasn’t always been easy, and I relate to these students at W&L a lot more than they know. Growing up, like I said my life was full of hardships. I have imposter syndrome too, when I hear students stressed and speaking of bad grades and failed tests, I wonder if my luck just wasn’t enough to make a difference. But just like the brilliant students surrounding me here, despite the difficulties thrown in our path we are resilient and always persevere. Here at Washington and Lee they have a speaking tradition where they each say hi to each other and an honor system that builds and keeps trust in the community. Even though I didn’t apply to come here, I mean technically W&L museums applied to get me here *laughter*, but nonetheless I like to think that I am just as much a part of this community as everyone else around me is, even if  I tend to just watch and grant luck from the sidelines, I mean behind closed doors, or more literally behind closed glass.

So now you know my story, and a few of the little secret things that I love to do. And next time you walk by me, know I’ll be here granting luck and tons of wealth for you too.