The Omikuji Project
Omikuji: random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines in Japan.
Literally “sacred lottery”, these are usually received by pulling one out randomly from a box that one shakes,hoping for the resulting fortune to be good. The omikuji falls out of a small hole, scrolled up.
For two years, Catherynne M. Valente has been sending stories out into the wild. Every month, for twenty-four months, a new tale has appeared in mailboxes all over the world.
Here, for the first time, these stories have been brought together in a single anthology. Two years of detectives, fairy tales, frost giants, lost moon colonies, furies and minotaurs. Two years of magic.
Accompanied by fantastical illustrations created by the subscribers of the project, these hitherto unpublished stories paint a landscape of fiction, family, and a new kind of connection between author and reader.
The Omikuji Project began in April 2008 as a unique experiment in crowdfunded creativity. Each month, Catherynne M. Valente wrote a new story (or the occasional poem) for subscribers. Subscribers could choose to receive each month’s Omikuji offering either digitally or via snail mail. Those who subscribed to the postal edition looked forward to lush missives printed on archival paper, signed by the author, and carefully sealed with scarlet wax. And, in honor of the sacred lottery of the Omikuji, a random subscriber was chosen each month to receive a unique, handmade gift as well. These gifts included beaded jewelry, hand-knitted minotaur hooves, and blown-glass flowers– all created by CMV.
CMV wrote that the Omikuji Project “is an old-fashioned approach to new-founded literature, the shortest path from author to reader. It is a secret and marvelous communication, a unique way for you to read stories unavailable in any other venue, in any other way. It is a network of tales, a community. It is whispering in the dark; it is a fireside confession.”
This network of monthly letters and tales knitted together a whole community, who participated in an online forum and also organized meet-ups. The first anthology of Omikuji stories includes a selection of art, inspired by the tales themselves and created by members of that community. Also, before any Omikuji piece was offered for publication elsewhere, CMV first sought the approval of the community.
The project ran for five years, a remarkable achievement for a crowdfunded creative project of this scale. The curtain was finally drawn in April of 2013, but there’s still a second anthology in the works and a sense of connection that will never fade.
Year one (2008)
The Glass Gear
A Hole to China, Pt. 1: An Exceptional Child
A Hole to China, Pt. 2: The Ox of Sorrows
A Hole to China, Pt. 3: Ignis
The Kunstkammer of Dr. Ampersand
How to Build a Ladder to the Sun in Six Simple Steps
The Pine Witch Counts Her Knuckle Bones
The Legend of Good Women
Year Two (2009)
That Which Lets the Light In
A Postcard from the End of the World
How to Raise a Minotaur
The Economy of Clouds
Reading Borges in Buenos Aires
The Folklore of Sleep
Oh, the Snow-Bound Earth, the Golden Moon
Deathless, Chapter One: Three Husbands Come to Gorokhovaya Street
The Opposite of Mary
Blue With Those Tears
Year Three (2010)
The Habitation of the Blessed: Chapter the Second
Foreword: In Case of Paradox, Break Universe
On Moral Rectitude Among New England’s Fairies
The Blueberry Queen of Wiscasset
On the Subject of Peaches
The Red Girl
Where’s My Flying Car?
Year Four (2011)
Twenty-Five Facts About Santa Claus
The Virtue of Things Is In the Midst of Them
Aquaman and the Duality of Self//Other, America, 1985
5.7 miles Offshore, Heading North by Northwest, 41.585 N, 81.92W
Leviathan, Part I
Leviathan, Part II
What the Siren Sang
St. Ulphia’s School for Wastrels or, Love and Potatoes
Chapter VII: Goblin Economicks
Gold Like Blackberries
Canada Goose Sutra
Year Five (2012)
The Red World
Light, Solid as a Silver Floor
Story No. 6
A Soul Stitch’d Full with Meadowsweeet
Verbs of Fearing in Attic Greek
Zoro’s Traveling Night Kitchen
The Invisible Cloak of All Things Past
A Piece of the Night