Annual non-buddhist religious observances of Mae Hong Son Shan พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Paul E. Durrenberger   

Paul E. DurrenbergerANNUAL NON-BUDDHIST RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES OF MAE HONG SON SHAN . JSS. Vol.68 (pt.2) 1980. p.48-56.

 

 

 

                                          ANNUAL NON-BUDDHIST RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES
                                                                  OF MAE HONG SON SHAN

                                                                                        by

                                                                      Paul E. Durrenberger*

 

Thai know them as Thai Yai; Burmese  and English  as  Shan; they  call  themselves Tai
Long. In  the  village  of  Thongmakhsan  in  Mae  Hong  Son  Province, Shan  cultivate  rice  in
irrigated fields in the bottom  of  a  narrow  valley  and  in  swiddens  in  the  neighboring  hills.
Thongmakhsan  is  a  poor  village  of  only  about  38 households. All the people  are  devout
Buddhists. Spiro (1967 : 3) writes :

Wherever it is found, Buddhism is accompanied by some other  religious. .. system. In  Burma  and  in
the other countries of Southeast Asia,the latter system comprises a folk religion which postulates the
existence of 'supernatural' beings and which includes a set of rituals relating to them.

In addition to Buddhist observances, the people of Thungmakhsan participate in several
non-Buddhist religious events during the year. Some of  these, such as  the  propitiation of  the
"rice soul", are individual or household  observances. Others  are  for  particular  groups  within
the village,such as the propitiation of the swidden spirit which is done by all those households
which make swiddens in the same area, or the propitiation of the valley  spirits  which  is  done
by all those who release buffalos, when they are not being used to prepare irrigated fields, into
the valleys to forage. Still  other  ceremonies, such  as  repairing  the  country and repairing the
village, are for the whole village. All  of  these  ceremonies  are  regular  annual  events. In  this
article I describe only the annual  non-Buddhist ceremonies  and  related   interpretations  and
stories.

Some, but  not  all   of  the  households  propitiate  the  soul  of  rice  (khon    khau). Early
in August Can Tha and  his  young  daugther  went  to  one  of  their  irrigated   fields  to "begin
rice" (hik khau). Cushing (1914 : 637) translates hik as "to begin a work; to begin by  doing  a
little, because it is declared to be an auspicious  day". Can  Tha  had  selected  a  Monday  as
auspicious since his daughter was born on  a Monday. He  had  experimented  with  different
days in the past. Can Tha selected one section of the plowed field surrounded by bunds, and
cleaned and puddled the mud in the northwestern corner. He said, "I have come to begin rice.
Let it be lucky, let there be no insects or pests. Let what I do be successful."

He  placed  a  star-like, open, braided  bamboo "spirit screen" on a  stick (ta leu) at  each
corner of the two-foot area of the section of the field he had cleaned, and then placed  a  shelf
on a stick at the northwest corner. On the shelf he put a candle and a  banana-leaf  packe t of
rice, coconut and a banana slice. At the base of the shelf, on the ground, he  placed  two  joss-
sticks, a candle and a packet containing rice, coconut and a banana slice upside down  while
he prayed:

______________________________________________________________________________

        * Department of Anthropology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.

                                                                         48                                                                  JSS 68.2 (July 1980)

 

 

 

                                

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Tsau  hong (lord of the canal), tsau hoi (lord of the valley), tsau  loi  (lord  of  the hill), spirits of the
forest, today is a good day  to  plant. Let  it  become  better; let the insects not bite; let  the  animals
not  destroy; let  the  caterpillars  and  mosquitos not bite. Let  it be better than last time. To lin (lord
of the earth) please help. Today I come  to  plant rice. Let it be better than last time. Let  it  be  good,
let it be successful.Tsau wan (lord of the village),tsau mong (lord of the country),phi pong pa(spirit
of the forest) help il be good in the future. Let the rice soul (khon khau) be fertile. Please help.

He then hung a small bundle of kapok from each  spirit screen and  had  his  daughter  plant
eight rice seedlings.He made a small fence with bamboo strips using the four  spirit  screens  as
corners.

Some time after this, the held can  be  transplanted. Many  fields  have  spirit   houses, small
houses on stakes. They are places to make offerings to tsau Iin, the earth spirit, who  guards  the
fields. Tn   December, when   rice   is   harvested, the  rice  from  the  first  ceremonial  planting  is
gathered and kept separately from the rest. Harvesters  move  through  the  fields  cutting  shocks
of rice  with  sickles  and  placing  the  shocks  on  the  rice  stubble  to  dry. Later, they  collect  the
rice shocks and pile  them  into  tall  mounds. The  farmer  then clears  one  area  of  the   ricefield
near the rice pile and plasters  the  earth  with  a  mixture  of  buffalo  dung  and  mud  which  dries
to form a smooth  threshing  floor. He  pulls  out   the  spirit house  and  puts it  on  top  of  the  rice
pile with the soul-of-rice plants in it.

Po   Thau   Ti  prepared  an  enamel  tray  with a bowl  of  cooked  rice, a  glass  of  water, two
eggs, a  bowl  of  biscuits,  two  bananas, two  bundles  of  steamed  sticky  rice  and two slices of
cooked pumpkin, and presented it at the base of the rice stack while praying:

Pu tsai khai nai  tsai khai, please  come. Today 1  will  thresh  rice. Let  us  have  many  baskets. Let
there be much rice soul. If we receive twenty  lang  [large baskets of two hundred and twenty-four
litres] 1 will  offer  to  you  again. There  are  thirty-two  souls  of  rice. All  come together. Please let
us pick up rice in the storage basket at the house. This year let it be better than before, pu  tsa i khai
nai tsai khai.

He placed  the  tray  on  top  of    the  rice  pile  and  then  prayed  at  each  corner  of the  threshing
floor, starting  in  the  southwestern  corner   while   he   placed  a  banana-leaf  bowl with  cooked
rice, a piece of banana and a piece of biscuit  at  each. At   the  southwestern   corner   he   prayed:

Today we  will open the rice stack. All  bad  spirits  [phi ho phit hang kat; informants  explained  this
meant  spirits  without  heads, without  tails] please  do  not come to my threshing floor here. Let me
receive many baskets of rice.

At the southeast corner he prayed:

Tsau nam tsau Hit (lord of water,lord of earth) come here from every place.I will open the rice stack
so  let  me  have  soul (mi khon mi phi) to  receive  much  rice  from  this  time. Let  it  be  better  than
before.

At the northeast corner he prayed:

Phi hsi tseing (spirit of the four corners) please come. Let me have soul (mi  khon  mi  phi).Let  me
receive more rice than before. All bad spirits (phi am li lang  long) do  not  come  to  this  place. Let
me have enough rice to eat and to offer.

The fourth prayer, at the northwest corner was:

 

 

 

 

 

50                                                                        Paul E Durrenberger 

 

Let me receive more rice and let it be better than before. Bad spirits please do not come to my place
here. Let  me  have  rice  to  eat  and  to  offer. Let  it  be  better  than  before. Phi ho phit  hang kat,
please do not come.

The old man made a brief prayer  and  lit  two homemade candles, and placed them  in  front
of the rice stack. After the candles had  burned  down  and  went out, the  old  man's  son  climbed
to the top of the rice stack and began tossing bundles of rice down to begin threshing.

While the candles were burning down  we  drank  tea  in  the  field  house, and  the  old  man
told the following story.

The rice soul and the Buddha argued as to  which  was  more  powerful. Each  said  he  was
more powerful. There was no one  to  arbitrate  between  them  or  to  pacify  them. The  rice  soul
ran away from the Buddha thinking, "I will show you who is more powerful", and went into
a dark country.

On the way the rice soul met a fish and  said, "If  the  Buddha  follows  me, do  not  tell  him  I
am going to the dark country. If you tell him, you will die."

The   Buddha   stayed   in    the   human  realm  and  followed  the  Buddhist  precepts  (hsin).
But   he  could not follow  the  disciplines  or  duties  without  rice. So  he  said, "Perhaps  the  rice
soul  is  more  powerful", and  followed  the  rice  soul   to  call  it  to  come  back. On   the  way  he
met the fish and said, "Did you see the rice soul go this way ?"

The  fish  thought, "I must answer. This  is  the  highest  one  of  the  human existence. If I lie
it  is  an  offense  (phit) against  the  duties (hsin). I  must  therefore  answer  truthfully. But  if  I  do
that, I will die. All right, I am willing to die rather than offend the duties and the Buddha."

The fish said, "The rice soul went to the dark country."

The  Buddha  followed  and   arrived  there. It  was  so  dark  he  could  not see anything. The
rice   soul   came   out   and   the  two  fought. At   that   time  the  soul  of  rice was  very  large. But
those  two  fought  a  long  time  so  the  rice  soul  became  as  small as it is today. The rice soul
went back to the human world, it followed the Buddha and the two returned.

The  Buddha  visited  the  fish  and  asked, "Where  is  that  fish?" and   the  others  said, "He
died   after   you  left." The  Buddha  said, "I  am  sorry." The  other  fish  offered  the  dead  one  to
the Buddha so each year at the fifth month—this was  in  the  fifth  month—people offer   dry   fish
to the Buddha.

Then the Buddha went to the human realm and  checked. He  said, "The  rice soul  is  more
powerful than I", so he marked the young rice  leaves  with  his  hand. The  marks  on  the  young
rice leaves are there from the Buddha's hand.

Another  villager  told  an  abbreviated  version  of  the  story  on  another  occasion. The  rice
soul  said  it  was  more  important than the Buddha because people need to eat rice to live. The
Buddha said  it  was  not more important because all people respect the Buddha. The rice  soul
ran  away   and   at  the  end  the  Buddha  said, "You  are  more  important  than  I", and  marked
the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

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Later I heard the story of pu tsai khai nai  tsai  khai. Long  ago  there  were  a husband  and
wife who were very  poor  but  made  irrigated  fields  each  year for  a  living. One  year after  they
had finished threshing rice, they carried it home each  day. Pu  tsai  kai  nai  tsai  kai  looked  like
cranes or storks,and came and laid eggs on the pile of threshed rice.These eggs became much
rice, and the rice increased. Every day the two  people  carried  rice  but  the  pile  of  rice  did  not,
diminish. Each day pu tsai khai nai tsai khai laid  eggs, and  increased  the  rice. The  man  said
"Why   is   it   like   this? I   carry  rice  every  day  and  it  is  never  finished." He  went  to   the   rice
pile  and checked.He  hid  and saw  the  two  storks lay eggs and saw the eggs become rice. He
said, "This  is   amazing", but   he   was  very  lazy and  did  not  want  to  carry  rice  every  day. He
took a bamboo  pole  for  carrying  rice  and  killed  the  two  birds  and  buried  them  in  his  field.
Then he went home and checked his storage baskets and saw all of the rice was  gone  and  he
had  only  the  rice  from  his  fields. He  was  very  sorry. Every  year, after  that, he  called  the  pu
tsai khai nai tsai khai
to come to his fields and lay  their  eggs  in  his  rice. People  do  this   now
before  they  start  to  thresh  rice. Pu  tsai  khai  nai  tsai  khai  are  the  same  as  khqn khau, the
rice soul. Pu tsai khai nai tsai khai were the body of the spirit.

People  who  propitiate  the  rice  soul  keep  the shock of rice from the original first planting
separately, and do not thresh it. When they have filled the storage  baskets  at  the  houses, they
place this shock of rice plants inside.

Early in  January  villagers  feed  the  spirits  of  the  valleys and the hill fields. They call this
leing phi. Cushing (1914 : 571) translates leing as to feed or nourish or cherish; to give a meal,
feed; and leing phi as to offer to the spirits. Many households make hill  fields  either  be cause
they have no irrigated fields or because they need to supplement  the  rice  they  get   from  their
irrigated fields. Some people put a spirit screen in their swiddens to  indicate  they  are  human
places so spirits  will  not  destroy  them. People  who  have  water  buffalos  turn  them into the
forest  to  forage  for  themselves  until  they  are  needed  for  plowing  the irrigated fields again.
People's swiddens are close together in  several  areas. They  feed  the hai (swidden) spirit  at
each area. They selected the day of the chicken, a day spirits are supposed to eat chickens, for
these offerings.

Five people who made swiddens in one area went to the swidden area and  prepared   an
altar. They  made  a  bamboo framework  and  covered  it  with banana leaves. They  supported
one end of the altar on a  log  and  the  otner  on  sticks. They  made  a  small  ladder  with   five
rungs on the front of the altar. They put cooked  hill  rice, snacks, sweet  rice, a  broken   peeled
banana, purchased  banana-leaf cigarettes, pickled  tea (Yuan, Thai : miang), sticky  rice   from
irrigated fields, beeswax candles and white wax candles all on a plate. They  put  the  plate   on
the  altar  with  a  cup  of  water  (on the left side) and a cup of liquor  (on the right side). One  of
the men held two  chickens  to  his  forehead  and  then  slit  their  throats. The  chickens  were
plucked, tied, cooked, and put on the altar again. There were no prayers.

Meanwhile another group of  people gathered in  a  nearby  valley  and  built  an  altar  with
a five-runged ladder under a banyan tree. They prepared two  banana-leaf trays  with  offerings
like the ones for the  spirit  of  the  swiddens, and  placed  one  on  the  altar  and  one  under it.
The one on the altar was for the forest spirit, and  the  one  on  the  ground  for  the  earth  spirit,

 

 

 

 

 

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tsau  lin. The officiant  made  a  brief  and  inaudible  prayer  before placing  each  tray. He  took  a
similar tray to the stream and offered it to the stream spirit:

Hsa thu hsa thu, tsau hoi kha han, tsau hoi keu long, tsau hoi mi long, tsau  hoi mi ong, tsau  hoi phi
long, tsau hoi ka ling
(lords of named valleys) come meet together here. We come to feed you offerings
(hsgm). We come to leave buffalos in your care, all  the  buffalos  in  Thongmakhsan. Now, we  come
to feed you. You should come receive our offerings (hsgm), all  spirits of  the valleys here. I also  call
all the spirits of the valleys and the streams, tsau hoi kiu long, tsau hoi kha han, tsau hoikan,tsau hoi
nam kok,
please come. Now  I  call  all  the  spirits; please  do  not  say  I  did  not  call  all.  From  now

we  ask  to   be  well  and  have  good  appetites, people  and  animals. Let  our  cows  and   buffalos
not be destroyed by disease. From this  time  let  us  not  be  strangers, let  us  be  friends. This  year
you helped us to care for  the  buffalos, we  are  happy  for  this. We  thank  you. So  we  come  and
offer to you, spirits, and you should  come  receive  our  offerings  (hsqm to), rice  and  curry. In  the
future please be friendly like this year. Please  remember us, do  not  forget us. Let  it  be  better  than
before. Let us be well, every person, male and female livestock. Please. Hsa thu.

He then  returned  to  the  altar  and  held  two  live  chickens  and  prayed  in  a  similar   way.
He cut their throats and bled them onto  the  altar  and  steps. One   of   the   men   added   to   the
altar a lamp and a loaded  opium  pipe  with  some  powdered  aspirin  and  a  small  mixing  cup.
The officiant lit candles on the offering in the stream and  others  prepared  a  banner  of  bamboo
splints  woven   together  to  form  a  long  strip. They  tied  the  banner  to  a  pole. They  explained
this was a banner like the ones used at the temple after a ceremony. Others cooked the chickens
and   drank   liquor. The   people  explained  that  everyone  must  drink  liquor; not  to  drink  is  an
offense (phit) against the valley  spirit. The  officiant  was  the  servitor  of  the  lord  of  the  country.
It is one of his duties to officiate at  this offering. The  officiant  then  offered  the  cooked  chickens
at the altar with a similar prayer.

The   officiant   removed    the  liquor cup  from the  altar  and  passed  it  around, The people
then  took  the  food  from  the offerings to  a  field  house  in the swidden area where people had
made offerings to the swidden spirit, and joined them to eat and drink.

Each  village  has  a  fenced  compound  inside which  is a small house which contains  an
altar for tsau mong, the lord of the  country. Cushing (1914 : 170) translates  tsau  mong  as   the
ruler of a country, or a spirit supposed to have rule over a country.

Tsau möng belongs to the village and takes care of the villagers. I could  find  no  evidence
of a mythology that  connects  tsau  mong  with  any  person  who  ever  lived, past  rulers  or  the
like. A Shan from the Shan States told me tsau mong was a leader  or  conqueror, an  important
person. When the person died, his spirit did not die, so people offer to him. He  said  in  Hsenwi
there are three tsau mong, tsau mong long (big saw mung) tsau mong kang (middle tsau möng),
tsau m
öng on (small tsau mong). He did not know their  names  but said  tsau  möng  long  was
the first tsau pha (prince) of Hsenwi, but knew nothing of the other two. Tsau möng is held to  be
the  most   powerful  spirit, the   same   in   rank  as  the  Buddha, both  inferior  to  rice. Villagers
agreed that tsau mong and the Buddha belong to very different  spheres, however. The  Buddha
pertains  to  monks  and  merit-making, while  tsau möng protects people from  evil spirits. This
function is not related to  the  monks  or  to  Buddhism. Some  villagers  pointed  to   the  use  of
liquor and animal offerings for spirits   in  contrast  to  Buddhist  practices. Each  village  selects
a phu mong to serve the tsau möng.Here there was some difference in terminology.One man in

 

 

 

 


 

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the   role   labeled   it   kon   yip   möng, man   who   holds the  country. He  said  that  a  phu  möng
properly  is  a  ti  nang   phi  (literally , a "spirit  seat", one  through  whom  a  spirit  speaks). Others
said that phu  möng  and  kon  yip  mong  are  different  names for  the  same  role, that  a  person
through whom tsau mong speaks is called ti nang tsau mong.People select someone who knows
"spirit words", the   prayers  for  tsau  mong  to  be  phu  mong. If  he  v/ants   to  resign, he  tells  the
headman  and  the  people  select  a  new  one. I  asked  a former phu mong why he had resigned.
He answered:

I became old and did not want to kill chickens for the offerings; people who  are  old  need  to  follow
the   precepts  (hsin)  of   Buddhism   and  it  is  not  good  to  do  this, take  life  and  use  liquor. It  is
against the disciplines, so it is not suitable for old people. When I resigned, people selected someone
who was younger.

People say there are 32 tsau möng. Each village  is  associated  with  a  named  tsau  mong.
The phu mong invokes this tsau möng and perhaps others, and asks  them  to  invite  the  others.
Several villages may be associated with a single tsau mong,each with a separate tsau mong house
and phu mong.

The phu  mong  keeps  the  tsau  mong's  belongings—a  mattress, pillow, white  shirt, white
trousers, white handkerchiefs, white sheet, red sash—and lays them out in the tsau mong house
every   holy   day, wan   hsin   (literally, "day of discipline"). The  phu  mong  I   talked   to   attributed
no especial  meaning  to  these  things, said  they  were  only  old-style  Shan  clothes. Every  wan
hsin  
the  phu  mong  also  changes  the  flowers  and  water at the tsau  mong  house, makes  an
offering to the Buddha, and  offers  flowers  and  rice  to  tsau  mong. He  calls the tsau mong from
every   place, presents   the   offerings, lights  a  candle  and  waits  until  the  candle  burns  down.
If the phu mong does not know the name of the tsau mong he can address him as the tsau mong
of that place. The phu mong invites  the  tsau  mong  to  the  temple  on  wan  hsin. Some  say   the
tsau mong stays in the temple and observes the  disciplines  on  wan  hsin  even  though   people
often   do   not.  People, for   instance, often  hunt  on  wan  hsin; tsau  mong  keeps  the   precepts.
The phu mong also makes an offering at the temple  on  behalf  of  the  villagers  each  wan   hsin
because no one can make offerings every wan hsin.

On 12 May there was a village meeting. At the meeting the  phu  mong  announced  the  date
of the ceremony to "repair the country", mei mong leing mong. He said  that  while  the  ceremony
was in progress someone would have to stay at the head and foot  of  the  village  and  not  allow
any  vehicles  to  pass on  the  road  while  the  offerings  were  being  made. The group selected
people to stop the traffic.

Can Ta explained that bad spirits follow cars and horses, and  disease  will  follow  anything
one carries from another place. People have to  wait  outside  the  village  and  not  allow  anyone
to come in when the villagers feed tsau mong. If the people offer liquor and  chickens, tsau  mong
and the spirits  come  to  eat  and  are  happy  and  distracted. During  this  time  they  cannot  take
care of the village, so while they are eating we have to be sure to keep  bad  things  and  sickness
out   of   the   village. During  this  time  the  spirits  cannot  take  care  of  us, we  are  defenseless.
Suppose an important person wants to pass through the  village. He  must  pay  for  all  the  liquor
and  offerings  and  then  he  can  go. The  villagers  then  have  to  make  a new offering, and offer
new liquor and chickens and start again.Tsau mong always takes care of the people and buffalos

 

 

 

 

 

 

54                                                                  Paul E Durrenberger 

 

and fields, so we thank him one time each year. The seventh month is the best time, but some
villages  do  it  on  different  days, or  in  different months. The  phu   mong   of   another   village
explained that people here offer chickens and liquor; people in other places  offer  only  sweets
and rice. The purpose of  the  ceremony  is  for  everyone  to  be  well, get  more  rice, to  insure
success, and to give the village power (glory) (phung).

The ceremony was late in May.Early in the morning the phu möng prepared the tsau mong
house. Each household brought a chicken tied on  a  string, a  bottle  of  liquor, and  a  tray  with
flowers and snacks on it. The  chickens  were  tied  to  the  fence  on  the  south  side; the  other
offerings were handed up to the phu mong who arranged the altar. The  phu  mong  offered  the
offerings at the tsau mong altar, then the chickens were killed  and  two  temporary  altars  were
prepared, at the northeast corner and  the  southeast  corner  of  the  compound. On  each  was
a bowl of flowers and joss-sticks and a tray with snacks and  cooked  rice, a  cup of  water  and
one  of  liquor, candles  and  a  bottle of liquor hung from the front. A similar altar was prepared
east of the tsau mong compound under a tree.These three altars were for tsau möng's followers—
his children, grandchildren, nephews and helpers.

The chickens were cooked in  a pot over a fire outside the compound. Two chickens were
put on each altar. The phu mong offered to tsau mong. People  changed  the liquor  and  water
in the cups on the altars and lit candles. While  the  phu  mong  offered to  tsau  mong, another
man offered to the other spirits at  the  temporary  altars. The  phu  mong  prayed:

Hsa  thu, hsa  thu. I offer  tsau  no  kham  leng [name of tsau mong of Huai Pha, a nearby village];
tsaukhop mu leik (name of tsau mong of Mae Hong Son town);tsau khop mu tsong, tsau pa tsau
long
(lord of the forest); tsau pau hsi tseing pet na hsi  na  pet  phai (lord  who  guards  the  four

corners, eight  sides, four  sides, eight  parts); tsau   tham   keing   lau  (lord of Chiengdao Cave);
tsau tsong phok thi khau (lord of  the  white  umbrella); tsau  mau  tsau  hsau (lord  of  unmarried
men and women); tsau no lei pa khun hsikkya mang hsam hsip pai  hsam (the four quarter-guar-
dian 'stars' of  Lord  Indra  of  the  33  gods). We,  the  village  of   Thongmakhsan, all  the  village,
young and old, large and small, cattle and buffalos are dependent on  you, obliged  to  you. Tsau,
come receive offerings of rice [khau hsom to]. Please support us from now, we of the village of

Thongmakhsan, all the village, big and small, young and old, cattle and buffalos  depend  on   you.
Please prevent all the 33 diseases, let us be healthy and have good appetites from now. Let it be
better than before, please. Let whatever work we do be profitable. So we  can eat, so  we  can
offer, let our trade be successful, let our selling be successful. Young and old, big and small come
together and support us. Let the tsau who cannot hear and who do not know  not  say  anything,
please. Hsa thu, hsa thu, come receive and use, support us please. Eat and be happy. Let  it  be
better than before. Let your mind be white like the white of cotton  from  now  on  [be  generous].
Let it be better than before tsau. Hsa thu, hsa thu.

After the prayer, after the candles had burned down, the phu mong distributed the offerings
to the people. The food was  distributed  among  the  crowd. Some  took  it  home  to  eat; some
ate near the tsau mong house. People explained that food from the offerings was like medicine:
"If  you  eat  it, you  will  not  be  sick." Young  men  drank  liquor  and  began  a  shooting  match.
By late morning, most of the people had dispersed.

Ten  people  had  gone  into  one  of  the  valleys  to  make a  similar  offering  to  the valley
spirits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                            OBSERVANCES OF MAE HONG SON SHAN                                               55

 

Many ceremonies  contain  both Buddhist and non-Buddhist elements. Inside  the  temple
compound are  posts  with  shelves. As  part  of  Buddhist  offerings, people  light  candles  and
place small offerings on these shelves.They explained that these were for tsau nam (lord of the
water), tsau Iin (lord of earth), tsau  wan  (lord  of  the  village), tsau  na  (lord  of  irrigated  fields).
Repairing the village is an observance  which  involves  monks'  chanting, directed  at   clearing
each household and the village of evil spirits.

In each village  there  is  a  tall tower used in  the  ceremony to repair the village, mei wan.
At  the end  of  May  each  household  prepares a basket of firewood, unmilled rice, candles, a
spirit screen (ta leu), matches, sand,  string, a  bucket  of  water  and  soap  berries. A  villager
explained, "After  the  monks  chant, we  put  the  string around the whole house, including the
buffalo pen, then light candles everywhere. It will make us be  well  and  have  good  appetites.
We use the firewood to cook rice, and use the rice and sand to drive out  bad  spirits  and  use
the spirit screen to keep out bad spirits."

Some men cleaned the area near the tower and repaired the tower, put up new shingles
made from leaves braided onto bamboo sticks,and decorated each upper corner of the tower
with banana leaves. A  person from  each  household placed a basket under the tower. Some
people  made  three  small  rockets  about  three  inches  long  on  the  foot "tails" of  bamboo.
About   three o'clock in  the  afternoon  they  shot  the rockets, all  of  which  exploded. The two
tables from the temple were brought to the tower and people placed flowers and popped rice
on them as they do in the temple.

At about half past three o'clock the monks and novices from nearby villages ascended the
tower and the  villagers  clustered  below. The   headman  and  phu  mong  and  another  elder
ascended the tower with the monks. In a nearby tree  were  four  small  baskets  with  offerings
for bad spirits. People handed the tables of flowers up to the tower. The monks  sat  along  the
west side of the tower with buckets of water and a  basket  of  rice, bananas  and  a coconut  in
front of them. A Buddha  image  was  on  the  south  wall  of  the  tower  with the  two  tables  of
flowers. A string ran from the Buddha image through the monks' hands and around the  water
buckets and basket. The basket was filled with unmilled rice; inside it  was a  basin  of  milled
rice. On the milled rice were two  green  bananas  with  a  coconut  in  the  middle. A  lit  candle
was on the coconut. A paper umbrella was on the  side  of  the  basin. The  monks  recited the
duties and chanted for about 20  minutes. The  senior  monk  extinguished  the  candle  in  the
water and the monks took up the string.The senior monk then sprinkled the people with water
and the people poured water from small vessels they were holding onto the ground  (yat nam)
as they do in the temple. The monks descended the tower and people collected their  baskets
from below the tower.

About 15 men carried the two sets of baskets from the tree, poles with a basket at each end,
through the village to  the  south. Each  basket  contained  packets  of  tea, milled   and  unmilled
rice, seeds, and clay buffalo effigies. The last man broadcast sand and shouted:

'Hoi, hoi', go to another place, go to the big country, go to town, go to Mong Pai, go, go. Eat unmilled
rice, eat milled rice. Come on, go, go. Eat good food. Go, go. All good food. 'Hoi, hoi'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

56                                                                   Paul E Durrenberger

 

Another man beat  a  gong. The  men  would  not  let  small  children  join  the  procession.
The men passed a bottle of  liquor. At  about  300  yards  outside  the  village, the  men  erected
two forked sticks on each side of the road and placed the poles on them with a basket hanging
from either end.

People bathed and washed their hair with shampoo made  from  soapberries, limes  and
bark. They put the strings around the roofs of the houses and used the new firewood  from  the
ceremony to cook. After supper they took buckets of water and  splashed  their  houses  with  it.
They scattered the sand around the compounds and put up the new  spirit  screens. This  com-
pleted repairing the village.

Larger and richer villages sponsored rocket festivals. Since Thongmakhsa n is  a  small  and
poor village we may suppose that the ceremonies I have described are the minimal non-Buddhist
observances. Some do not observe even  these. Some  have  no  tower  and  do  not  observe  the
ceremony   to   repair   the  village. The  present   headman   of   Thongmakhsan  claims  credit for
introducing the ceremony there. He said he saw it in larger  and  more  prosperous  villages   and
concluded that the performance   of  the  ceremony  would  contribute  to  the  prosperity  of  Thong-
makhsan.

I noticed no spirit-houses in house compounds  or  ceremonies  involving  house  spirits.
When I inquired, people told me this was a Yuan (Northern Thai) custom which Shan  do  not
share, that they "do not know the story of this one".

 

 

 

                                                                           REFERENCES

 

Cushing, J. N.

1914    A Shan and English Dictionary. Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press (Re-
printed in 1971 by Gregg International Publishers, Westmead, England.)

Spiro, M.

1967   Burmese Supernaturalism. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

 

 

 

 


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