Friday, May 22, 2015

Not Pointyhead Yeti Friday - Billiken

Art teacher Florence Pretz of Kansas City, Missouri saw a mysterious figure in a dream. She started making cartoons featuring the good luck spirit.

In 1908, in true American fashion, she designed a figurine,  got a patent, and sold it throughout the world as a lucky charm, where it became hugely popular for a time. It was called the Billiken.

Perhaps because of its Buddha-like appearance, the Billiken was embraced by the Japanese, and in Osaka you will find a few statue tourist attractions and numerous merchandise for sale (sweets, small statues and plush dolls) all because of a St. Louis art teacher's crazy dream.


As part of its lore, the Billiken is known as "The God of Things As They Ought to Be."  I can't help but think of Bes, the squat Egyptian dwarf god of good who was also very popular back in the day and had his likeness duplicated everywhere.

Strangely enough, the Billiken is the official mascot of Saint Louis University and St. Louis University High School, both Jesuit institutions located in St. Louis.

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