- Title: Spirit possession ritual enjoys a resurgence in communist Vietnam.
- Date: 25th May 2017
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Vietnamese) TEMPLE GUARDIAN, NGUYEN QUANG DU, SAYING: "People come to the temples that have history to pray for prosperity, for health, for a better society, for favouring weather, for peace. The worshipping brings people wealth and happiness, so there is something mysterious in this religious act, from a long time ago until now. Recently, the government as well as the outside world paid attention to Hau Dong, so this religion of worshipping our Mother is acknowledged and developed."
- Embargoed: 8th June 2017 12:21
- Keywords: spirit possession cultural identity Hau Dong ritual Nguyen Duy Nam
- Location: NAM DINH PROVINCE, HUNG YEN PROVINCE, HANOI, VIETNAM
- City: NAM DINH PROVINCE, HUNG YEN PROVINCE, HANOI, VIETNAM
- Country: Vietnam
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment,Human Interest / Brights / Odd News
- Reuters ID: LVA0056IH99AX
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Dressed in the bright silk garments of a woman and dancing with candles between his fingers, Nguyen Duy Nam leads a temple of worshippers in a ceremony honouring mystical goddesses of forest, water and heaven.
Nam, a 24-year-old male, is one of a growing number of spirit mediums who perform the Hau Dong ritual of blaring noise and vibrant colours, now enjoying a resurgence after once being frowned on by the ruling Communist Party.
He says he has been called by the saints to become a medium which prompted him to give up the reckless lifestyle of his youth. That spurred him to work in his daily occupation, paying off in the ownership of two garages.
During rituals, spirit mediums dance to loud folk music while appearing to transform themselves into different characters from legend and history. They display changing personalities as if different spirits have entered their bodies.
"Sometimes the Gods possessed my body. Then my sword playing in the ritual is much better than my usual ability. And if the God was a woman, my dancing will be very very good," Nam said.
Dating to the 16th century, Hau Dong centres on a belief in the Mother Goddesses of three realms - forest, water and heaven. It draws from elements of Taoism, Buddhism and other religions.
Believers kneel behind mediums and cheerfully grab money thrown by the spirits. Spread on the floor are offerings for the goddesses and the spirits - which can be anything from money to instant noodles to life-sized paper horses.
"Hau Dong is a culture on its own, it contains many different elements, such as dancing, music bands, the literature in the lyrics, that makes up the whole thing," says Vietnamese cultural researcher, Ngo Duc Thinh.
Hau Dong's status was reaffirmed last year when it was recognised as part of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the U.N. cultural organisation UNESCO.
The Communist Party lifted in 2005 a ban on Hau Dong, which it had until then regarded as superstitious. Interest in the ritual has since grown, as economic liberalisation has brought greater wealth and social openness.
Hau Dong is not predominantly about money, but offerings to the spirits and temples can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single ceremony.
Although the state frowns on wasting money, sponsoring a ceremony can be a status symbol.
The ritual previously only performed in religious settings but since UNESCO's recognition, regular shows are held for everyone, including tourists, to witness.
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