Mother Goddess Worship cultural programme launched at Women's Museum

June 10, 2024 - 07:28
A cultural experience programme celebrating the ancient tradition of Mother Goddess Worship has been launched at the Vietnamese Women's Museum to showcase mediums performing the spirit possession rituals.

HÀ NỘI  It is no longer necessary for visitors to go to the temple to observe the ancient Vietnamese practice of Mother Goddess Worship.

Nguyễn Đức Hiển performs a male medium in a ritual dedicated to the Ông Hoàng Mười (Tenth Prince of Nghệ An).  VNS Trần Khánh An

A cultural experience programme named "Mother Goddess: Pure Heart - Beauty - Joy" has been launched at the Vietnamese Women's Museum, where mediums will perform the spirit possession rituals.

In Mother Goddess Worship, male and female spirit mediums perform spirit possession rituals at various temples. Each spirit possession ritual consists of up to 36 spirit incarnations, and each spirit has its own costume, dance, songs and offerings. 

During the rituals a band of musicians perform chầu văn songs for the spirits. Bands usually have between two and five musicians.

The cultural programme lasts 90 minutes and immerses the audience in the emotional depths and beauty of Mother Goddess Worship in the museum's Mother Goddess exhibition area.

All senses are awakened when visitors hear the chầu văn music, an indispensable element of the mediums' performance, as well as admiring the collection of gowns and dolls of the Mother Goddess. They can also enjoy Hà Nội speciality cuisine and the scent of Agarwood incense in the mysterious space.

"The programme aims to honour the beauty in the practice of Mother Goddess worship, promoting the nation's traditional culture to the public and international visitors," Nguyễn Xuân Thanh Tùng, general director of the programme, said.

Nguyễn Đức Hiển, PhD in culture and education, is in charge of organising the programme and directly participates in the performance.

He was the first Vietnamese person to introduce Mother Goddess Worship on CNN and promote the mediums' costumes in the contemporary fashion scene.

"What makes the programme stand out compared to other mediums' performance programmes is that we ensure the sacredness and spirituality of Mother Goddess worship in addition to the artistry," Hiền said.

In an effort to promote traditional Vietnamese culture, he will explain the programme's content to foreign guests in English.

The dolls simulate images in the Mother Goddess.  VNS Photo Trần Khánh An

The tradition of worshipping the Mother Goddess in Việt Nam dates back to the 16th century.

In this tradition there are three realms, namely Heaven, Water and Mountains-Forests. The Mother Goddess is a nymph who descended to Earth, lived as a human and became a Buddhist nun referred to as the Mother of the World. There are also many other spirits considered legendary heroes.

Passed down through generations, the tradition continues to be practiced by communities today as a response to their environment, providing them with a sense of identity and continuity.

The practice of shared values and strong beliefs in the compassion and grace of the Mother Goddess provides a basis for social relations, connecting members of participating communities.

Belief in the deity originated in various regions of the country and among different ethnic groups, reflecting the nation’s cultural diversity as well as cultural exchange between different communities. Worship of the Mother Goddess also contributes to the appreciation of women and their role in society.

The ancient Vietnamese tradition of worshipping the Mother Goddess has been recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2016.

Visitors can see the programme every Friday and Saturday night at the Vietnamese Women's Museum at 36 Lý Thường Kiệt Street, Hà Nội.  VNS