Friday, 28 November 2014

Tu Tran Thanh | Hầu đồng

Photo © 2014 Tu Tran Thanh-All Rights Reserved
While in Vietnam just two months ago, I literally stumbled on previously unknown (to me) religious ceremonies pertaining to Đạo Mẫu; the worship of Mother Goddesses in Vietnam. This unusual, but ancient, worship is commonly associated with spirit mediumship rituals—known in Vietnam as lên đồng.

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

Photo © 2014 Tu Tran Thanh-All Rights Reserved
Whilst in Ha Noi, I was fortunate to have met Tu Tran Thanh; a photographer who discovered and shared my interest in Lên đồng and Hầu đồng rituals, and who also agreed to assist in developing my self-assignment of documenting these rituals during my forthcoming trip to Vietnam in March or April 2015.

As coincidence would have it, some of the streets in Ha Noi's Old Quarter were very recently the venue for a number of live performances such as ca trù, xẩm singing and lên đồng, and sure enough, Tu Tran Thanh was there to photograph some of the performances.

Photo © 2014 Tu Tran Thanh-All Rights Reserved
For decades, Lên đồng was restricted by French colonial and Vietnamese leaders, but the tradition is currently enjoying a flurry of popularity since restrictions were relaxed a decade or so ago. Whilst these were largely performances to introduce (or re-acquaint) the Vietnamese public to its cultural and religious traditions, authentic Lên đồng ceremonies are held and observed in Vietnam, and are the focus of my forthcoming self-assignment.