Muong Shamans in Hoa Binh

Shamans are respected people who perform religious rituals for families and the community. The Muong consider shamans messengers of the gods. There are about 300 male shamans in Hoa Binh province.

Shamans have an important role in the spiritual life of the Muong. They need a good memory to remember hundreds of religious songs, an emotive voice, and acting ability. They have to act to suit the ceremonial situation and project their voice in solemn, mysterious, or sorrowful tones. The meaningful words show respect for the spirits and move the living.

The shamans must have a knowledge of ancient documents and many of them have old books about the group’s customs and rituals. They have a special ability to communicate with and persuade the supernatural forces to protect people. They also instruct people how to behave appropriately with the gods, and teach their group’s traditions and the law of life.

The Muong have several worshiping songs for different cases such as for worshiping inside or outside the house, for worshiping the house genie or the kitchen genie. A worshiping song lasts at least an hour. The song to the land genie goes: “ Today we prepare a feast in the last days of the year. We invite you to enjoy meat, sticky rice, and alcohol. The old year is passing and the new year is approaching. We pray for good production to have many pigs and chickens.”

The Muong pray to the community guardian and the forest genie to bring them peace and food. They worship genies to open a new house, begin a new planting season, harvest a crop, cure sick people, organize a wedding, and see the deceased off to heaven. The shamans help villagers feel secure and spiritually motivate them to overcome life difficulties, live towards kindness, and understand traditional customs.

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