|Preparing for a Then worship (Photo: VOV)
ld concepts considered Then to be a spiritual bridge conveying people's requests and wishes to the Heavenly God and deities. Therefore, Then is indispensable at major occasions such as ceremonies to pray for peace, housewarming ceremonies, ancestral worship, and longevity ceremonies for parents and grandparents. Then is a combination of literature, music, dance, and fine arts. It contains many elements of primitive religion and has a strange charm to create a sacred, mysterious space but one that remains familiar to people.
Dam Thi Sinh of Cao Bang province, says: “Each January my family invites a Then master to perform a ritual to release misfortune and pray for good health and bumper crop. We pray to the midwife for blessings over our children. There are many prestigious Then masters. Most families organize a Then ritual at the beginning of the year.”
With their extraordinary abilities, it is believed that Then masters can travel from the earth to heaven and hell to carry offerings and wishes of the host family to their ancestors and deities. The Then masters begin their journeys to heaven and hell by singing Then songs and playing Tinh musical instruments.
|A Then master holds a ritual for the midwife for blessings over their children. (photo: VOV)
Then master Nguyen Van Tho of Lang Son province, says: “Then rituals are closely attached to the Tay and Nung people from birth to death. When they are sick or experience unfavorable things in life, they often invite Then masters to perform a ritual to pray for good luck, peace, and health.”
Then rituals demonstrate the moral and cultural values of the Tay and Nung. For example the tradition of respecting old people and loving children of the Longevity ceremony, and the Midwife ceremony for receiving blessings over children.
Vi Hong Nhan, a researcher of Tay and Nung culture, says: “The Tay and Nung hold Then ceremonies in the beginning and the end of each year to pray for good things such as peace and prosperity. Relatives and neighbors join Then rituals to foster relationships. Then rituals are believed to bring health and good luck to all people.”
Then is closely associated with the religious and cultural life of the Tay and Nung and is maintained by the community.
Dang Hoanh Loan, former Director of the Institute of Musicology, says Then is a treasure of cultural and artistic values.
“Folk rituals of ethnic groups still firmly exist. The religious belief of the Tay and Nung is eternal and is intended to satisfy people’s spiritual and emotional needs. Then rituals will last forever,” Loan said.