There is ritual worship in Vietnam and it is something that Vietnam believes could easily be included in UNESCO’S Heritage list of the cultural treasures of humanity. Mother Goddess Worship (Dao Mau) and trance rituals (Hau Dong) involving song, music and dance are things that foreign visitors on travels in Vietnam may find strange, but at the same time interesting. Vietnam tour packages seek to do more than show visitors landmarks; they attempt to give them an insight into the people and their culture.
Woman’s place in world civilisation is based upon the fact they are the ones who give birth. Not only that they grew the crops while men hunted. The mother goddess came in many forms across the world; snake, vulture or moon typically. The cycle of birth and death were central to the worship.
In the early days, goddess worshipping was involved in things natural; the earth, water, mountains and lakes. It was later that the people added royal females, queens and princesses, as well as female founders of villages involved in crafts. All of them were worshipped as Goddesses for their role in the world. The population typically saw them as having special powers, magical actually, and benevolent, tolerance being a common trait. Professor Ngo Duc Thinh, a former Director of the Vietnam Institute of Cultural Studies, describes it thus: ‘’ Mother Goddesses are thought to have created the universe, and subsequently controlled it to ensure the well-being of its people, giving them good health and prosperity. A developed society is one in which the Mother Goddesses have been most active on its behalf.’’
The Universe is seen as divided into three that can be distinguished by colour:
Thien Phu (Heaven) which is red
Dia Phu (Earth) which is yellow
Thoai Phu (Ocean) which is white
Some legends add a fourth, Nhac Phu which is green. It is the mountains and forests and in Vietnam today, these regions contain ethnic hill tribes whose lives have changed little over time. One of the highlights of a Vietnam tour package is visiting some of the villages, either in the Central Highlands or more commonly the Northern Highlands up near the Chinese border.
If you go into a pagoda on your holiday in Vietnam, which you will inevitably do, you may well see a sanctuary where people can worship the Mother Goddesses. One ritual accompanying Mother Worship is trance that is now an art form with chau van singing and dance. A spiritual trance in a temple or pagoda is a solemn occasion. There will be flickering candles, music and colourful offerings. The medium is the central ‘’actor’’; it will be a woman or a man dressed as a woman. The assistants, anything from two to four, sit next to the medium to assist because after each incarnation, the medium must change her clothes and accessories. At all times, the medium must wear a red scarf.
The assembled sing ancient legends and myths to music played with only traditional instruments. The medium communicates with spirits or deities, often a hero general, a dancing lady or a mandarin. Notable people from Vietnam’s past are popular subjects of this form of worship.
Read more: Vietnam religion