Sunday, February 28, 2010

Be A Billiken

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Would you like to be a Billiken? I am, or was. (I'm not sure if it marks you for life.) The Billiken is the strange mascot of St. Louis University, where I attended college and law school. My abridged biography is that I was born in Manhattan, grew up in Queens, went to high school in the Bronx and then St. Louis U. was the college farthest away from home that let me in. Married this woman from Kansas a month before law school graduation and lived happily in St. Louis ever after.

The Billiken is just short of bizarre. It is based on a novelty doll from about 1910. You can see lots of pictures of it across time on Google Images
here. The University's official story about how it became the mascot is here on its web site. But there are much deeper origins involving Alaskan coastal indigenous peoples and the Shinto religion in Japan. There is a Billiken Gift Shop in Juneau, Alaska, selling the little figure in hundreds of variations. I once checked into a guest house in Kyoto, went to the sitting room and, boom, a Billiken was the most prominent thing in the household shrine. I had more detailed notes about this with photos of the Juneau and Kyoto Billikens in a post almost three years ago. You can check here if you'd like to. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billiken. And just for the record, the Billiken is not the weirdest college mascot in the US. The title has to go to the University of California-Santa Cruz's Banana Slugs.


3 comments:

Ricky Sherman said...

Very Informative and I'm completely in aw how you ended up here! Seems like St. Louis has been very lucky for you!

Steffe said...

Interesting story about the mascot.

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» never knew the story of the Billiken. Now he'll have to explore the links you provided, curious to learn more...