Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — American photographer Tewfic El-Sawy, who launched the website "The Travel Photographer", has just released his photo book titled “Hầu Đồng, The Spirit Mediums of Vietnam”.
The book contains more than 100 photos on the rituals and 60 pages of written text explaining the ancient religion of Đạo Mẫu and the author’s experience of the religion in Việt Nam.
The book is the result of his two-year research of this unique custom of Việt Nam.
“I remember September 12, 2014, very well. I was in Sa Pa, the famous hill station in northern Viet Nam, and despite the early morning humidity, the Black Hmong vendors were already waiting for tourists. I was walking on Fansipan Road, bantering with some of them, when I heard religious music wafting from a nondescript building. I asked the vendors and was told it was a temple. I walked in and met women dressed in red traditional clothes, who, through sign language, told me that a ceremony would start at 9am.
This is how my two-year long journey into the world of Đạo Mẫu, the indigenous Vietnamese mother goddess religion and hầu đồng, the ritual of spirit mediums, started. Totally by accident. Serendipitously…” El-Sawy wrote on his website.
“Đạo Mẫu (and its Hầu Đồng rituals) is a fascinating syncretic religious practice, mixing a number of artistic elements, such as music, singing, dance and the use of costumes. It also happens to be a joyous religious ceremony, without the dour, morose, guilt-ridden and fearsome ambiances of some other established religions we all know about….” he continues.
The author plans to talk with Vietnamese and expats living in Hà Nội on the subject in November.
Hầu đồng (also known as lên đồng) is popular in Vietnamese spiritual culture. It is one of the main rituals of đạo Mẫu and exemplifies the worship of mother goddesses in Việt Nam. During these rituals, mediums go into a trance so that their bodies can receive the spirits of various deities.
An application for UNESCO recognition has been filed for the practice by Việt Nam. — VNS