Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Blowing Ritual Horns (角鼓与我)
There is an old saying:
(If one does not know how to draw talisman, the ghost and gods laugh;
If one does not know how to blow ritual horns; the ghosts laugh at gods!)
However, the above saying is not totally true as not all Taoist sects will need to blow horns… Mao Shan Sect (茅山) does not really need a ritual horn.
I don’t really use to blow horns and it is exceedingly difficult to get a good ritual horn at my area. So, I started to source from the intranet and started my own venture. And I finally got my first horn a few years back but it was quite difficult to blow, so while I was doing my horn blowing practices, I used a small electric drill to adjust the horn hole…
At that time, I tried to blow my horn during traffic jams, and I blew my horns after my work at night too. At times I went to an open field to practise my horn blowing. Well, to tell you the truth, the sound of horn blowing did scared many people especially at night. Many old folks related the sounding of horn to funeral services. Once during my horn blowing session at night, an old uncle passed by on his bicycle and this poor uncle was so startled that he fell off from his bicycle. The news travelled really fast the next morning in a local morning market. Since then I had to stay at a very low profile when blowing my ritual horn. Now that I am staying in an apartment, I certainly have lesser chance to blow my horn freely and at will.
It is very rare to hear the sound of horn blowing locally now a day as people would relate the sounding of horn to mourning matters. The fact is that the purpose of horn blowing is to invite gods/goddesses and to assembly solders. In fact blowing a ritual horn now carries the same meaning in ancient warfare; that is for conveying a message. And different ways of blowing a ritual horn carry different meanings, some people say that 3 long blows indicate the summoning of gods and 2 long blows are to request gods to depart etc.
Indeed, it is true that a ritual horn should be blown in traditional Taoist funeral because the purpose is to invite gods and armies to protect a dead soul; and to escort this soul to the other side.
Common folks call a ritual horn as a “cow horn drum” (牛角鼓) but Taoist calls it a “dragon horn’ (龙角). In ancient times, the sounding of a horn was used to convey a general’s message; so Taoists use the same method to convey their messages to their military.
Older generations even hold fast to the thinking that any Taoist should know how to blow a ritual and also to blow a horn beautifully. Otherwise if a horn is not blown properly, the gods would not come to assist and when this happens, the Taoist would not able to control spirits.
Of course, that really depends on individual Taoist sect. To a Lu Shan Taoist, the blowing of a horn is mandatory, other sects many not follow this practice. Whatever case that may be, Taoists who are proficient in horn blowing techniques are getting fewer. Perhaps we can attribute this as a loss in Taoist culture and I only mentioned this so that people aware there are various horn blowing techniques in Taoism.
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