Len đông ritual: History and value

Summarize the content of the Len đong ritual: History and value book
Chapter 1
Part 1: Lên đồng (spirit possession) ritual: history and development
Chapter 1: Len đong in the Northern Delta of Vietnam: history and development
In this chapter, the author proposes and analyzes basic concepts involving ritual practices of Lên đồng (spirit possession) including: đồng (medium), thanh đồng, đồng cốt, căn đồng, ghế đồng; canh hầu; lên đồng, hầu đồng (ritual performance), hầu bóng (entertaining spirits)… The author also provides a review of views on spirit possession over the time: 1. Lên đồng is the multiple times of spirit possession; 2. Lên đồng is a phenomenon of religious-medical psychology; 3. Lên đồng is a phenomenon of heresy. In addition, manifestations of Lên đồng in ancient times are analyzed to come up with scientific views on its nature: Lên đồng is a form of ancient custom relating to summoning the soul of a dead and let it seize the body of a living person with the aim to bridge the past and the present. The performers were not ordinary persons. They had to had certain relationships with the dead or ability to connect with the dead to sense the soul of the dead or the magnetic field of the universe. In the process of performance of such religious rituals, there was the break-through in the performer’s awareness so that the performer changed from normal status into the abnormal status. It should be noted here that when being at that abnormal status, mediums could accidentlly mobilize special neurological mechanisms so that they could hear, see and feel images and sound in the space (virtual) which they could not experience in the normal status. (Some mediums could forecast some events with high accuracy). This is the reason that people believed that there were spirits which got into the body of the performer thus len dong was obviously embraced religious characteristics. Thanks to this capacity, Lên đồng in ancient times revealed certain effects in treating psyological illness and left “spot lights” in the spiritual life of the Vietnamese in the North.
Chapter 2: Len đong ritual in the Northern Deltaof Vietnam and its relationship with other religious rituals in the region
The chapter focuses on exploring, analyzing, and justifying the relationship between Lên đồng of the Vietnamese in the Northern delta and other religious practices existed in Vietnam such as shamanism, exporting the soul, and worshiping Shiva among the Cham (who were deeply influenced by Hinduism). Precisely, it pays attentions mechanisms that make the the soul get out of shaman mediums and let the spirit seize the body. Based on the historical, cultural and folk religious materials, this chapter provides justifications on the relationship between the cultic activities on Goddess Liễu Hạnh in the North and the worship of goddesses in folk religions in the Middle through decoding cultural codes in temples and shrines: worship the Snake, Medium dancing of the Viet and Bóng (shade of spirits) dancing of the Chăm. The chapter argues that the practices of shamanism and spirit possesion are different and that the ancient residents in Chiem Thanh were the first subject of religious dances in the practice of spirit possession.
Chapter 3: Len đong ritual and Mother goddesses/spirits worship in the Northern Delta
The Chapter analyzes the Vietnamese socio-economic context during the 16th century and the formation of the cult of Mother Goddess. More attention is paid to the Mac regime when folk religion was on the rise and when the foundations for economic activities based on river and sea were established. This period also marked the development of traders as well as the recognition of their social role as the fourth class in the society (following the intellectual, the farmer, and the craftsman). The development and influences of this fourth class required the building of a symbolic character which met the demands of this growing population. The chapter argues that this is the reason for the new cultic form to arise: the cult of Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh.
The chapter also analyzes and provides explanations on the trajectories and periods of development of the two streams of mediums: the Thanh đồng which relied on witchcraft to cure illness and the Đồng cốt which worshiped Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh in exchange of fortune. Basic information of the modes of practices over different historical periods will be provided.
Chapter 4: The phenomenon of Len đong in the Northern Delta since Renovation and impacts from the market economy
Through data from anthropological fieldworks, especially interviews with 40 mediums (female and male) and members of different groups in the North on such themes as the forms, scopes, and spaces of the ritual of spirit possession, the chapter provides views on changes in their practices in the past and at the present. The chapter also describes in great details of three contemporary forms of spirit possession (1986-present).
The second part of the chapter seeks to shed light on the impacts of the market economy on the rituals of spirit possession in the delta of the North in these perspectives: the religious culture of the Viet; physical and metal life; rituals and the organizational structure of groups. The use of the theory on social network reveals impacts of social capital on the reinforcement of the mediums’ belief in the Goddess. The supply-demand approach is also used to clarify the role of shrines as the spots that provide “spiritual services”.
 Chapter 5: Vestments used in Len đong ritual as seen from cultural studies
The Chapter describes and analyzes types and changes of costumes used for the past and present rituals. In details, elements such as colors and patterns are explained from the angles of culture, arts, and religious symbols. Based on these aforementioned analyses, it illustrates renovation and regional acculturation in ritual practices. In details, for example, there are symbolic and philosophical signs in costumes among four basic colors (red, yellow, white and green) which symbolize four universal spaces (Heaven – Earth – Sea - Forest), four basic elements of Eastern philosophy (Fire – Earth – Water - Wood), and four directions (South – Centre – North - East).
Therefore, the used costumes in rituals of spiritual possession, one can observe the way which human beings transform themselves into spirits. This can be seen as the means through which human beings seek to change their destiny and social position and to obtain the new status by possessing soft power.
   Part 2: Practitioners and Values of Lên đồng Ritual
Chapter 6: The thanh đong (mediums) under the psychoanalytic perspective
By classifying mediums in the Northern delta into different social groups basing on features of personal character and mental and physical attributes, the author analyzes personal and family situation of different mediums, from which explanation of their decision to become a practitioner of the cult of Mother Goddess is provided. For the vulnerable group, entrenched difficulties in terms of personal life and economic-social status motivate mediums to seek spiritual support in order to regain social position. For other groups, the organization of rituals and opening shrines and temples are ways to help individuals and families to escape from poverty. There are also practitioners who recover from mental illnesses by participating in ritual practices. Meanwhile, some groups join ritual performance to just show off themselves or to seek soft power to realize other personal purposes. Theories by S. Freud and Adamopouls J & Kashima Y are used to analyze reasons and motivations for people who become mediums. The chapter thus seeks to explain the nature and effects of mediumship on some social groups, especially the vulnerable.
Chapter 7:Len đong ritual and transition in spiritual and religious awareness of the contemporary mediums
In this chapter, the author mainly examines the mechanism that forms the religious belief, the process of transformation from experiencing religious feeling to the affirmation of belief in spirits of the participants in spirit possession. Techniques in sacralization of the medium’s role are decoded while effects of ritual practices in relaxing internal distress are analyzed through the lens of religious psychology.
Chapter 8 : social net of thanh đong (mediums); social capital and consequent
The chapter analyzes the structure of associations of mediums which are seen as social networks used for individual and family’s economic activities. Two most prominent models are pointed out and discussed (the community-shrine association and the family-shrine association) to provide information of socio-economical effects brought to participants through joining these types of associations. The chapter also indicates that negative consequences of fanatic reactions have created favorable conditions for master mediums to make fortune.
 Chapter 9: Len đong ritual and medical values
The application of pathology and religious psychology help the author to shed light on the functions and effect of spirit possession on treatment of illness. The chapter argues that the practice of spirit possession has certain function in curing illness.
 Chapter 10: Social meanings and the role of Len đong ritual in the Northern delta’s culture
The chapter seeks to understand social significances and the role of spirit possession towards life and culture of the residents of the Northern delta. Frequencies and level of practice reflect historical periods in Vietnam at which uncertainties caused negative impacts on social mood. As a form of folk performance, the practice of spirit possession can be seen as a lively museum of rural culture and regional culture. Performance associated by music creates a form of communitas which is appealing while reviving historical-cultural heritages. Hát văn (singing at rituals of spirit possession) has become narratives arts on Vietnamese heroes and heroines.
Referece document (tài liệu tham khảo)
Index (mục lục)
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