(Kishimojin is represented by the Ten Demon Daughters (Jurasetsunyo), #24 on the Gohonzon Diagram.)

Ki of Kishimojin is composed of a large demon’s head on top; under the head are legs, or vapor. Demons from the mountains or uninhabited areas would come into the villages and steal the head of a person and run around wearing it. These demons are also known as hungry ghosts because they still have unresolved “hungers” or issues. When they satisfy their “hunger” they can move on to the next phases of life/death.

Shi of Kishimojin is a child wrapped in swaddling. The horizontal line are his/her arms.

Mo is mother. The form of Mo is that of Nu the radical (root word) for woman. The two squares inside this structure represent a mother’s breasts. The dots inside the squares are her nipples.

Jin of Kishimojin is composed of two elemental characters. On the right is two hands holding a rope. The rope extends the usefulness of the hands. It means “to extend” [oneself for others]. On the left is a compound that is the light of the sun, moon, and stars coming from heaven. It means the instructions (like omens, etc.) from the heavens. This jin is the same “jin”  that is found in Shoten zenjin. Just as the Shoten Zenjin are heavenly protectors, so is Kishimojin.

Her name is translated as “Mother of Demon Children,” but more accurately she is the demon that protects mothers and their children.

According to legend, Kishimojin ate children so that she could have milk to feed her favorite child. The people asked the Buddha if he could put an end to it. So the Buddha made Kishimojin’s child invisible to her. She searched frantically for him and eventually came to the Buddha for help. The Buddha asked her how she felt about not being able to find her child. When Kishimojin told him of her great anguish, the Buddha explained that that is how she made other mothers feel when she ate their children. After that Kishimojin vowed to protect mothers and children. Later, in the Dharani Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, she and her ten daughters vow to protect the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra in the evil age that was to come.

Three depictions of Kishimojin. The 2000-year-old carving at left is from ancient Pakistan. 
Center is a Chinese worship object. At right is a Japanese painting from the Kamakura period.