Ha Nhi’s worship of the kitchen genie

(VOVworld) – The Ha Nhi consider water the source of life and fire the source of power. The woodstove space is the key spot in their house. They put a sacred rock next to the woodstove to represent the kitchen genie, who is the house’s protector. VOV reports on the Ha Nhi’s worship of the kitchen genie.

Ha Nhi’s worship of the kitchen genie  - ảnh 1
Earthen-wall houses of the Ha Nhi

Living in high mountains surrounded by clouds and mists, the Ha Nhi have adapted to the climate to live harmoniously with nature. Their house has thick earthen walls and a leaf roof which makes the interior warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Before moving into a new house, they must welcome the fire genie to their home. The Ha Nhi believe that fire derives from rock so they go to the mountain to choose a rock that no-one has ever stepped on it. They bring it home and place it next to the woodstove to symbolize the fire genie, who is also the kitchen or earth genie.  
They believe the kitchen genie will keep an eternal fire and bless the owners with good luck, happiness, and prosperity.
Lý Giờ Có, a Ha Nhi man in Y Ty commune, Bat Xat district, Lao Cai province, says: “The Ha Nhi kitchen has a rock representing the kitchen or earth genie. At festivals, they worship the kitchen genie and their ancestors in the kitchen.”

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The Ha Nhi woodstove

At a housewarming ceremony they prepare a meal to worship the kitchen genie and invite their relative to share the happiness. The kitchen is the most important place in their house. It’s a place for cooking, receiving guests, and worshiping.

The Ha Nhi have many dos and don’ts concerning the kitchen rock. For example, you may not step on, step over, nor knock against the rock. Guests must be invited by the owners before entering the kitchen. The Ha Nhi are matriarchal and only the women work in the kitchen. The very first thing they do in the morning is kindle a fire to boil a pot of water. It’s a gesture of taking care of the family and showing respect and gratitude to the kitchen genie and the ancestors.

Tran Huu Son of the Lao Cai provincial Department of Culture and Information says: “The kitchen is very important to the Ha Nhi and the kitchen rock is the symbol of the kitchen genie. The genie is a female and only women are allowed to take care of the sacred rock. At new year or end of year celebrations, women offer the kitchen genie alcohol, tea, and cakes. The wife of the house owner or his daughters make the offering.”

On New Year’s Eve, all family members gather around the woodstove to listen to the old people talk about their ancestors and traditions. It’s an opportunity for everyone to remember their roots and their ancestors.

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