Đạo Mẫu (The Worship of Mother Goddesses)

Đạo Mẫu is the worship of Mother Goddesses in Vietnam. These goddesses are the Lady of the Kingdom, Thiên Y A Na, The Lady of the Realm, Bà Chúa Xứ, The Lady of the Storehouse, Bà Chúa Kho and Princess Liễu Hạnh. It is commonly associated with spirit mediumship rituals—known in Vietnam as lên đồng. It’s also practiced in other parts of Asia, such as Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Lên đồng (or Hầu đồng) is a ritual of spirit mediumship practiced in Đạo Mẫu, during which followers become mediums for the various deities (some mentioned above). The rituals involve music, singing (invocation songs to induce a trance in mediums), dance and the use of differently-colored costumes.

The first half of the gallery is of photographs made in a temple in Sa Pa, where a rehearsal for a Lên đồng (or Hầu đồng) was being held. The second half is of an actual Lên đồng (or Hầu đồng) ceremony held in Bac Ha, in the northern region of Viet Nam.

The full ceremony may last up to seven hours, and it begins with petitions to Buddha and to the deities for permission to carry out the ritual, after which the medium sits in the middle of four assistants, whose job it is to facilitate the medium’s incarnation of different deities and spirits. It’s a fascinating spectacle during which the medium chants, dances and changes in no less than 6 or 7 costumes of different colors during the ceremony.

All Photographs © 2014 Tewfic El-Sawy. All text and images appearing on this web site are protected by United States and international copyright laws.

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The Lên đồng (or Hầu đồng) rituals are held in temples and pagodas. Offerings include flowers, cakes and sweets, liquor, cigarettes and jewelry, and even Coca-Cola cans. The Mediums also purchase a number of different colored costumes to be worn during the ritual. Before the main ritual takes place, the mediums undergo several days of purifying rituals, involving abstention from sexual intercourse and eating meat.

The main ritual, which may last from two to seven hours, begins with petitions to Buddha and to the deities for permission to carry out the ritual, after which the medium seats him or herself (both men and women may act as mediums) in the middle of four assistants, whose job it is to facilitate the medium’s incarnation of different deities and spirits. Specially trained musicians and singers will perform invocation songs to induce a trance in the medium, at which point he or she will be ready to incarnate different spirits.

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