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Unique forest opening ritual

(BGO) – The forest opening ritual is a traditional cultural and religious activity of the Tay, Nung and San Diu ethnic groups in Huong Son commune (Lang Giang district, Bac Giang province). This is a belief associated with the custom of worshipping the Mother the Forest, the Mother of the Region or the Goddess in the worship of Mother Goddesses of Vietnamese people. That is the Mother Goddess of Highlands, who had a merit of distributing produce and protecting people for many generations.

In Chi Miu village, there is a temple worshipping the Little Princess of Highlands, also known as Chi Miu Temple. According to the documents, the Little Princess of Highlands lived in Son Trang Palace to serve the Mother Goddess of Highlands. 

Unique ritual, forest opening ritual, Bac Giang province, traditional cultural and religious activity, Mother the Forest, forest protection

The Cay communal house in Huong Son commune, where the forest opening ritual takes place.

In many mountainous areas, there is a temple worshipping the Little Princess of Highlands. Legend has it that Chi Miu Temple is very sacred. In the past this was just a small shine with an ancient yellow and brown ceramic incense bowl dating back the Nguyen Dynasty (the 19th century) inside that worshipped only the Little Princess of Highlands. This proves that this worshipping place has long existed.

In 2010, the site was expanded into a spacious temple where more figures with meritorious services to the people and the country are worshipped following the Mother Goddess worshipping belief of the Vietnamese people. 

In addition to the main palace where the Little Princess of Highlands is worshipped, there are also Cong Dong Palace and Son Trang Palace worshipping Saint Tran and another palace worshipping the Trinity of Mother Goddesses.

In the minds of the ethnic minorities in Huong Son commune, the forest opening ritual has existed for a long time and usually takes place at the beginning of spring. Today this ritual is still maintained by the ethnic people in Cay village. This is also a traditional local festival that attracts many participants.

The forest opening ritual is an opportunity for the villagers to meet each other and pray for a new year with favorable weather and bumper crops, expressing their wishes and aspirations for a prosperous and happy material and spiritual life as well as the circulation of the rules for all things to multiply and flourish.

According to the tradition, at first, villagers present offerings to the village’s Tutelary God at the Cay communal house. After that they appoint the village patriarch and prestigious people among the ethnic groups and locals to give offerings to the God of the Forest. 

The offering tray has a boiled chicken, a sticky rice dish and a lot of cakes such as Boong, Nghe and Gu... Practising this ritual, the village patriarch performs a symbolic movement to signal the opening of the forest that begins a new year.

At Chi Miu Temple, the people hold a ceremony to celebrate the spring and give offerings. Especially. the ritual of chau van (spiritual singing) in tribute to the Little Princess of Highlands is indispensable in this special day.

According to the tradition, at first, villagers present offerings to the village’s Tutelary God at the Cay communal house. After that they appoint the village patriarch and prestigious people among the ethnic groups and locals to give offerings to the God of the Forest.

In addition to the compulsory rituals, the forest opening ritual in Huong Son also features many popular performances, folk games such as wrestling, cockfighting and folk songs of the ethnic minority people in Cay village, friendly volleyball matches, and chess playing... There are also stalls selling local specialties and agricultural products such as honey, potatoes, cassava and bamboo shoots...

The rituals of worshipping the God of the Forest and spiritual singing in tribute to the Little Princess of Highlands at Chi Miu Temple are among special cultural and religious activities with a combination of cultural elements and many unique art forms. It plays an important role in accumulating, inheriting and enhancing community cohesion values. In particular, the ritual of worshipping the God of the Forest is the most important.

This ritual is not only to thank the Mother of the Forest for bringing water and produce to the villagers but also to educate the younger generations about forest protection. This is also the signal for the start of a business and working season with good luck, bringing good results to the ethnic minorities in Huong Son commune.

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Dong Ngoc Duong

Unique ritual, forest opening ritual, Bac Giang province, traditional cultural and religious activity, Mother the Forest, forest protection
 
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