Co Tu ritual expresses gratitude to the forest

(VOVWORLD) -The Co Tu ethnic people live mostly in the Tay Giang district of Quang Nam province. They live apart from other ethnic groups and have developed a unique culture. As their lives depend largely on nature, the Co Tu hold a ceremony to express their gratitude to the forest before planting each new crop.
Co Tu ritual expresses gratitude to the forest - ảnh 1Co Tu people in Tay Giang district attended a forest worshipping ceremony (photo: Dinh Thieu)

At the break of dawn, Co Tu people gather in Po Mu village to attend a forest worshipping festival. After a solemn ritual in the Po Mu (fokienia) forest, everyone attends a dance called Tung Tung Da Da to pray for a bumper crop. Patriarch A Lang Dan of A Rot hamlet said the Co Tu are dependent on the forest. Before each new crop, families organize a ceremony to thank the forest genie for giving them food and clothes. The offering includes wine, chicken, fish, steamed sticky rice, and fruits.

A Lang Dan said: “It’s an age-old ceremony. Our ancestors prepared a buffalo to offer to the forest genie and spirits so they would save humans from diseases and help them protect the Po Mu forest.”

Co Tu ritual expresses gratitude to the forest - ảnh 2 After the ritual, they play folk games (photo: Dinh Thieu)

Po Mu village is located in a valley surrounded by Po Mu trees. The 450-hectare forest, called the Kingdom of Po Mu trees, is one of just a few Po Mu forests left in Southeast Asia. The Co Tu their protect forest as they protect their houses and love the trees as their children. If they want to cut a tree, they must hold a meeting to ask for permission from all the villagers and genies. Po Loong Plenh, a Co Tu man, in Lang commune, said in the past the Co Tu dedicated big trees to genies. If anyone cut the trees, the villagers and genies would punish them. The forests have remained protected so far.

Co Tu ritual expresses gratitude to the forest - ảnh 3Pounding rice contest (photo: Dinh Thieu)

Po Loong Plenh said: “If anyone needs wood to build a house, he must ask the patriarch. They know how to cut the big trees and protect the small trees. They clear trees to make terraced fields but never encroach on primitive upstream forests.”

Bh’riu Liec, Secretary of Tay Giang district’s Party Committee, said Quang Nam province has launched programs to restore the ethnic group’s customs and festivals. “The villagers are very happy to attend their traditional festival of worshipping the forest. We’ll talk to the patriarchs and senior villagers about organizing the festival in other locations to make it a more popular event.”

Bh’riu Liec said forest protection is rooted in their minds and culture because the forest is the guardian and source of their life.

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