Friday, April 17, 2015
Invocation Of 7 Fairies (菜花神)
Brassica Napus is one type of 'oily vegetables' (油菜).
I was lucky enough to see a rare cultural activity during my last visit to Hmong village in Guangxi, China. According to my tour guide, the ritual is known as the invocation of 7 fairies (七仙女) of Hmong tribe; which is also known as the invocation of ‘vegetable flower spirits’. This ritual is normally done for fun and it is performed during blossoming of Brassica Napus (油菜). I supposed this ritual has something to do with Chinese influence.
This ritual should be held at a large room with ample space. The Hmong shaman would put a bowl of rice in the center of the room and 7 pieces of incense sticks are lit. After that 7 cups of rice wine and 2 bowls of water and a vegetable oil lamp is also lit in the center. A long wooden stool should also be placed at the door brim representing a ‘horse’. During the ritual, incense and lamp should be kept burning.
When everything is ready, a medium should be seated on the wooden stool and his/her face should be covered with a piece of black cloth. After that, the shaman would start recite mantra beside the water bowl and at the same time, some talismans are burnt. After the chanting is through, the shaman would take a sip of water and blow the water onto the body of the medium. At the same time, the shaman would start drawing circles on his/her chest and start another round of chanting.
About 15 minutes or so, the medium’s feet would start to shake and about 10 minutes later, the medium would jump up while panting. This shows that the 7 fairies have possessed the medium. At this point, the 7 fairies would start to walk in the house while singing unnamed songs. He/she would borrow keys from the shaman in order to open up ‘heavenly gate’. The tunes of the songs are called the ‘vegetable tunes’ as they are very different from ordinary Hmong tunes.
The 7 fairies would ‘pass’ through one heavenly gate after another. After the 7 fairies have entered a heavenly gate, the shaman would ask them about the conditions of the place and the 7 fairies would answer accordingly. When the fairies have reached the 12th gate, the shaman would refuse her the access in the fear that the 7 fairies would be trapped there. At this point, the fairies would start to argue until the shaman is convinced and grant them the access.
Once the 7 fairies have entered the 12th heavenly gate, they would either cry or laugh as if mad and crazy. The shaman would at time sing, at time laugh and when he/she has met with his/her dead relatives, the shaman would cry and reveals what he/she would not normally say out openly.
It the ritual is prolonged, then the shaman shall recall the 7 fairies by hook or by crook as it would not be too good for the medium to be possessed by spirits for too long.
My tour guide wanted to try if the 7 fairies are true or it was just a prank. So he crossed his legs purposely… At the same time, the 7 fairies asked for a cane as they said that there is a ‘dog’ blocking their way. Lucky for my pal, the shaman did not honor the request or my pal would suffer for nothing.
When the medium is possessed by the 7 fairies, he/she would feel thirsty. The shaman would then burn a few pieces of joss papers that were dipped into vegetable oil into a bowl of water. Surprisingly speaking, the medium was not harmed. At times the medium would possess certain kind of magical power which is known as ‘ku’ in Hmong. If this happens, then spectators would proceed to ask for divination or blessing from the 7 fairies.
On the surface, the invocation of 7 fairies are quite similar to ‘underworld travel’ (观落阴) but there are differences too. In Taoist ‘underworld travel’, it is the person who travels to the underworld; the 7 fairies however, are invoked into a medium. Since the medium is possessed, he/she would be able to perform many magical tricks such as invulnerability to sharp objects and also dance on fire.