The Worship of Mother Goddesses

The Worship of Mother Goddesses

In Vietnamese, the term Dao Mau refers to the worship of mother goddesses. It represents a systematic mother goddess cult, which draws together fairly disparate beliefs and practices. The worship of mother goddesses includes the worship of goddesses such as Thien Y A Na, the Lady of the Realm, the Lady of Storehouse, the Princess Lieu Hanh, or legendary figures like Au Co, the Trung Sisters, the Lady Trieu, and the cult of the Four Palaces.

The Worship of the Mother Goddesses is a purely Vietnamese folk belief. It has a long history and has adapted to social changes. Today this belief is widely practiced throughout Vietnam and Vietnamese communities overseas, like the United States, Australia, and France. This Worshipping addresses the concerns of daidly life and desires for good health and good fortune. Worshippers find great emotional support in their belief, and it attracts followers from all strata of society.

Vietnamese believe that the Mother Goddess is the supreme deity who has been reincarnated as the four Mother Goddesses – Heaven, Earth, Water, and Mountains and Forests – who look after all things. The Mother Goddess is worshipped in spacious palaces and temples and on small household altars in different configurations together with local deities.

The mother goddess resides on the altar where followers come to ask the mother for blessings. The altar is always kept clean and carefully arranged. Spirit mediums perform hau dong, the central ritual of the mother goddess worshipping, on a platform in front of the altar. In anticipation of a ritual, the altar is beautifully prepared with many trays full of offerings, votive paper, and enormous vases of flowers. Arrangement for statues on the altar is explained like this:

  1. Left: Statue of the second mother – Mother of Mountains and Forests
  2. Centre: Statue of the first mother – Mother of Heaven
  3. Right: Statue of the Third Mother – Mother of Water
  4. Mirror table: used to place offerings
  5. Caddle stands for Mother of the People.

Generally, the fourth colors identify the four palaces of the mother goddess religion: Red – Palace of Heaven, White – Palace of Water, Yello – Palace of Earth, and Green – Palace of Mountains and Forests. Mother Goddess worshippers consider her to be the mother of everyone who always protects and supports them, giving them good luck and the strength and faith to overcome natural calamities, misfortune, and ailments… giving them a peaceful and prosperous life. The Mother Goddess Pantheon includes:

  1. The Goddess of Mercy Bodhisattva
  2. The Jade Emperor
  3. The three Mother Goddesses
  4. The Five Great Mandarins
  5. The four Palaces of Ladies of Honour
  6. The four Palaces of Princes

“Mother Goddess worship is wonderful. It teaches us to remember the source when drinking the water. It also venerates our ancestors and educates everyone to do good things. Worshipping the Mother Goddess, I pray for the happiness of my family”. – Le Thi Tam, Bac Ninh province.

“In Mother Goddess worship, women are the center of the universe, looking after all the four regions: heaven, earth, water, and mountains and forests. Unlike other religious beliefs, worshippers find their expected desires and happiness right here in their current lives. By following the Mother Goddess, their spiritual needs are satisfied”. – Quang Thanh, Ha Tay province.

“The Mother Goddess is a spiritual mother. Whenever we are happy and joyful, we come to Her and whenever we fell sad, we talk and share with Her. Whenever we face difficulties, we look to Her to find Her support and protection. The Mother means everything”. – Thanh Thanh, Ninh Binh province.

“People always worship Mother Goddess as their own Mother. We are all children and grandchildren under the Mother Goddess. Whenever I think of the Mother, I visit her temple to ask for good fortune, good health, and favorable business”. – Thanh Mai, Ha Tay province.

“Since I was born I was predestined by Heaven to be a daughter of the Goddesses. In the past, I did not attend any spirit medium’s ritual and did not know how to hold a ritual. But suddenly my heart urged me to be initiated one day. I always thought of that. And in 2007, I was initiated”. – Quang Minh, Hanoi.

“Many people who ship the Mother Goddess. They visit temples and palaces during the first and the 15th of the lunar month to pray for safety and good fortune. But those who hold a spirit medium’s ritual must have an attachment of predestined love to the Mother Goddess, just like those who became monks or nuns must have an attachment of predestined love to Buddha. That attachment comes from a predestined cause which exists for many unknown generations”. – Nguyen Thi Huyen, Thai Binh province.

“I often go to worship the Mother Goddess on the first or 15th day of the lunar month or whenever I do an important business transaction to ask for good health for all family members and good luck for my business. I think I always have to try my best, but I also need good luck. Getting divine support, I feel more comfortable and peaceful”. – Pham Thi May, Nam Dinh province.

“In my opinion, everyone has shaman roots (can). If one’s can is serious, then the person should be initiated if not just perform “penitence”.” – Nguyen Tuan Canh, Hanoi.

The worship of Mother Goddesses is commonly associated with spirit mediumship rituals called len dong, in which followers become spirit mediums for various deities. It’s also known as hau dong or hau bong, which involves a number of artistic elements, such as music, singing, dance, and the use of costumes.

The main ritual, which may last from 2 to 7 hours, begins with petitions to Buddha and to the deities for permission to carry out the ritual, after which the medium seats him or herself (both men and women may act as mediums) in the middle of four assistants, whose job it is to facilitate the medium’s incarnation of different deities and spirits. Specially trained musicians and singers will perform invocation songs to induce a trance in the medium, at which point he or she will be ready to incarnate different spirits.

Rituals are generally held in temples, pagodas, or similarly sacred locations. Votive offerings—which may range from flowers, cakes, and sweets to alcohol, cigarettes, and jewelry—and, on certain occasions, even Coca-Cola, and Heineken—must be purchased. Mediums generally also purchase a number of different costumes to be worn during the ritual. Before the main ritual takes place, mediums undergo several days of purifying rituals, involving abstention from sexual intercourse and eating meat.

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