Pu Peo worship of the Forest Genie and forest protection

(VOVworld) – The forest is a life-giving resource for the Pu Peo people of Ha Giang province. Every year, they dedicate a ritual to the Forest Genie to pray for favorable weather, bumper crops, and animal fertility. In this week’s edition of “Colorful Vietnam, Vietnam’s 54th ethnic groups”, Vinh Phong takes you to Ha Giang province to participate in a Forest Genie worship ceremony of the Pu Peo.

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The sharman and people worship the Forest Genie
(Photo: dongvan.gov.vn)

The worship of the Forest Genie is one of the oldest rituals of the Pu Peo. It’s a cultural and religious event for the whole community. The Pu Peo worship genies of brook, river, forest, and mountain, who protect their lives. Luu San Van, a researcher of ethnic groups in Ha Giang province, says the Pu Peo have always lived in harmony with nature. They respect and protect nature and consider the forest their friend. Protecting the forest means they will have water for cultivation and wood for building houses. Van says: “The Pu Peo don’t have pagodas or temples like the Kinh and other ethnic groups do. They worship genies who help them in war or sickness, bless them with health, prosperity, and abundance, chase away wild animals, and protect the forests. The Pu Peo have always protected the forests where they reside.”

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The worship of the Forest Genie takes place on the 6th day of the 6th lunar month. Each household prepares its own offerings. Trang Min Diu, a Pu Peo man who lives in Sung Chang commune, Yen Minh district, says: “All households contribute to the offering a goat, some chickens, wine, and rice. Besides all that, we also offer the forest genie what we eat.”

On the worship day, each family sends a representative to bring their offerings to the worship place. The shaman is a prestigious man in the community. Offerings are placed on banana leaves in front of an altar made of bamboo and the shaman prays.

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Preparing glutinous rice cakes for offering

The shaman invites the genies to the ritual to witness the people’s esteem for them and bless the people with health, good weather, good crops, and an evergreen forest. All villagers swear to the Forest Genie that they will protect the forests and whoever hunts and chops down trees will be punished. The patriarch and villagers lay incenses beside the biggest tree in the forest to complete the ritual. The shaman asks the Forest Genie to give them some small trees to grow on bare hills. Dang Ngu Hiep, Head of Pho La commune, Dong Van district, says: “The worship of the forest genie preserves the cultural values of the Pu Peo. After the ritual in the morning, the villagers enjoy a festival in the afternoon where they play folk games and young people have an opportunity to learn about their tribe’s cultural values.”

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People play games after the ritual

Cung Thi May in Chung Chai hamlet, Pho La commune, says: “I’m very glad to attend the festival. I’m proud of my Pu Peo origin. The State supports our group in preserving our cultural values.”

The worship of the Forest Genie reminds each generation of Pu Peo and other ethnic groups in Ha Giang province to protect the forests and mountains which are their habitat.