Some families who were having some troubles (which they would not discuss with us) got together and hired a medium. The medium contacted and channelled 5 deities.
My friend Anh and I were riding around Hanoi on his motorbike looking for information about events to publish here, when a friend called me up and said there was something interesting going on at a little temple on Yen Phu St. with singing and lots of people and effigies… So, Anh turned his bike around and we went to watch.
It’s a complicated story, so pay attention!
– The affected families
– Invited guests
– The medium
– The medium’s attendants
– Musicians including a singer
– The families’ helpers
– The deities:
+ Male wearing green – forest and nature
+ Male wearing red – jade, pearls, precious stones, Jade Emperor (king of all deities)
+ Male wearing white – water
+ Male wearing gold – money, gold, treasures
+ Female wearing white – birth, motherhood, paradise, water, earth
– Almost life-sized paper effigies, one set each in each of the 5 colors above: tigers, horses, elephants, Vietnamese unicorns, another animal type.
Some families who were having some troubles (which they would not discuss with us) got together and hired a medium. The medium contacted and channeled 5 deities, some male and one female. There is a prescribed order in which the medium channels the deities. As he does so, he has several helpers who know the process. First, there are a number of musicians who play specific melodies. And, there is incense, waters, etc. The medium first prays to the deity he wishes to contact. The audience help. Eventually, the medium puts himself in a trance. As he begins to contact and subsequently channels the particular deity, his staff cover him and robe him in the clothes of the deity. As the channeling takes full effect, the deity in the body of the medium emerges from under the cloth covering and, characteristic of that deity, dances, chants, sings, interacting with the participants, etc. The families interact with the deity, pray, chant, sing along, shower the deity with money, pass along foods and other offerings, and generally try to make the deity happy. They also show generosity by passing out small gifts of money and foods to the audience. This goes on for some time, until the deity decides to leave the body of the medium.
As the channeling weakens for that deity, the corresponding color one of each species of animal effigy (a green tiger, a green horse, etc.) is brought in and burned symbolically to signal to the deity that the animals, which the deity will use for transport and other purposes, will soon arrive in smoke. Remember, each effigy is almost life-sized and this is a tiny temple filled to capacity with people – no way to burn the elephant! The effigy is burned symbolically, carried out and put in the pyre. Later, after everything is finished, temple personnel will set fire to them thus sending them up. Each deity already knows which animals to expect.
Once the effigies are sacrificed, the deity leaves the body of the medium who is disrobed back to his normal clothes, and the process starts again.
The medium may channel deities for up to 8 hours, depending on the willingness of the deities to enter the medium’s body, and on the stamina of the medium.
The medium does not talk to the deities he channels, and therefore cannot answer such questions as why whatever bad luck has befallen the families (or good luck has not reached them). The medium only channels the deities. As each deity reaches the earth through the medium, the families have the chance to pray to, sacrifice, and generally try to appease the deity one-to-one. They may pray for success in business or work or marriage, good health, or fertility. Essentially, the medium provides the families with direct face time with each deity.
We sat for over 2 hours, and as usual in Vietnam, the very gracious and very happy families invited us in, and made sure we participated as much as we liked, including in the receiving of food and small money gifts! It was a very joyous event and we left them in their great happiness.
| Translation from English to Vietnamese kindly provided by my friend, Hoàng Hữu Đức.|
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Hanoi Grapevine focuses mainly on contemporary art and culture in Vietnam, but we also post information about events that are part of Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage.