Possessed by the Spirits, 2-3. [Vietnam]


pp. 31-54 Ė 2. Pham Quynh Phuong : "Tran Hung Dao".

pp. 32, 34 deities

p. 32, fn. 3

"First Mother (Mau De nhat), Second Mother (Mau De nhi), and third Mother (Mau De tam) are believed to descend into a spirit mediumís body under the red veil (hau trang bong)".

p. 34, fn. 11

"Vietnamese people distinguish between spirits, deities (than), and saints or holy sages (thanh). If than can be natural ... spirits, thanh are often human deities".

pp. 31-32 Tran Hung Dao cult

p. 31

A woman pleaded : "I am possessed ny Saint Tran [Duc Thanh Tran]. I cannot breathe." A commentator commented on this case : "The spirits are training her, and she will be a medium!" The woman undergoing this training by the spirits "told us that she had been experiencing a dreadful ordeal, and that for several days, Tran Hung Dao / Saint Tran came to her every night to "train" her."

p. 32

Usually, "the Saint Tran cult and the Mother Goddess cult (Chu Vi cult) are treated as quite separate Ė with frequent distinctions between

female mediums (dong cot) of Chu Vi and

male mediums (thanh dong) of Saint Tran Hung Dao."

"the main activities of the Saint Tran cult were expelling ghosts and evil spirits".

pp. 34-35 hagiography of Tran Hung Dao

p. 34, fn. 12

"Tran Hung Dao ... was a green or pure youthful angel (Thanh Tien dong tu) who was sent to the earth by the Jade Emperor (Ngoc Hoang)".

p. 34

"Considered an exorcist, magician, ...

p. 35

protector of children ["There is a popular custom called "contractual sale" (ban khoan) in which a child is sold symbolically to Saint Tran until the child is thirteen years old." (fn. 13)] and women, the god of land (than giu dat), ... Tran Hung Dao ... is the most powerful of spirits."

p. 37 Ba Linh

p. 37

"Saint Tran cult rituals were usually exorcisms to expel an evil spirit (Pham Nhan)" : "the incantation of an infertile woman begins. The most aged man ... waves red and green banners in front of her, while gongs are beaten to attract the genieís attention. ... Then suddenly, she has seen Pham Nhanís evil spirit : ... she stands up and runs madly toward the river ... . Finally, she throws herself into it to "drown the evil spirit.""

p. 37, fn. 24

"Ba Linh, a pseudonym of Nguyen Nhan, who is usually called Pham Nhan. Ba Linhís father was a trader from Kang T>ung in China. ... Ba Linh ... followed his father back to China ... in the Yuan dynasty. He was a highly able sorcerer who could make himself invisible. He usually treated women in the palace who were sick but then underhandedly went into the seraglio to have secret sexual relations with them. {"Nagarjuna ... made himself invisible, and, entering the royal harem, seduced its ladies." (HBPh, p. 160)} ... Since then, after Nhanís death, his soul has wandered around the country, following any woman who is about to give birth or who has just given birth and making her sick and beyond treatment. But if her relatives go to Tran Hung Daoís temple and ask for an old sedge mat in the temple, stretch it out for the patient to lie on, and then dissolve incense ash taken from the temple for the patient to drink, she will recover quickly."

HBPh = David J. Kalupahana : A History of Buddhist Philosophy. U of HI Pr, 1992. http://books.google.com/books?id=SlDArya3YvcC&pg=PA160&lpg=PA160&dq=Nagarjuna+invisible&source=bl&ots=IQFEiBHrW8&sig=Qb7Dpm7EXvZlH8ujORiTPNmwzak&hl=en&ei=DcWKS5rwJoq1tgfOsrSxDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CBMQ6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=Nagarjuna%20invisible&f=false

p. 38 the 3 kinds of worship

worship of __

conducted by __

Chu Vi ("assembly of spirits")

ba dong (female mediums)

generals of Tran Hung Dao

ong dong (male mediums), thay phap (ritual priests)

souls in the netherworld and its devils

thay bua (amulet-makers), thay phu thuy (sorcerers)

p. 38 blood-encrusted amulets

"mediums of Saint Tran and his generals ... treat patients, distribute favors ... in the course of which they thrust two big puncheons ... into their cheeks and they make cuts to their tongues. {cf. votariesí puncturing their own tongues in honor of Skanda} The blood that gushes from these wounds is collected on the amulets that the faithful and the patients will carry or swallow."

p. 40 foods offered to deities


foods offered to that deity

Duc Tanh Tran

"pork head"; sticky rice

Phu Thuong Ngan (Mother of Forests)

shrimp, crab, snail; bamboo-shoots

pp. 40-41 an instance of a seíance by a female medium

p. 40

The female medium started her possession by covering her head with a red veil. Shaking her head under the veil and giving a sign with her fingers, [she] indicated that the three mother goddesses (the Mothers of

p. 41, fn. 35 "since mother goddesses are very sacred (thieng), they never show their faces {viz., speak through a medium whom they possess} but instead incarnate under the red veil (trang bong) {of silence}, in contrast to the other spirits that do appear (toa bong) {viz., speak through a medium}."

p. 41

Heaven, Water, and Mountains ...) had entered into her body and then left without appearing (showing their faces ...).


After these three incarnations (gia), she went into a trance with the descent of Saint Tran. She threw off the red veil while raising her forefinger, and ... this was Saint Tranís incarnation. Her assistants then started to change her dress and serve her. In a red robe, she received ... a sword. After standing up and kneeling in front of the altar three times, she danced with the sword ... .


She sat down on a chair and listened while her husband, who was kneeling behind her, extolled her (as the manifestation of Saint Tran) ... . ...

p. 41, fn. 36 "A chair is used only for the spirits of nha Tran, not for spirits of Tu Phu."


After that, she covered her head with the red veil, indicating that Saint Tran was leaving and a new spirit was descending.


This time, Saint Tranís second daughter appeared, and all [her] assistants swiftly changed her clothes, dressing her in a green robe. ...

p. 41, fn. 37 "Tran Hung Daoís first daughter never appears because she became a nun (di tu) and a civil mandarin (quan van)."


Two other incarnations of Nha Tran spirits followed :

the young prince at Suot sea gate or the youngest son of Tran Hung Dao (Cau de cua Suot) and

the young lady at Suot sea gate or the youngest daughter of Tran Hung Dao (Co be cua Suot) ... .


After the appearance of Nha Tranís spirits, many manifestations of the Tu Phuís spirits appeared in the following order :

great mandarins (Quan Lon),

ladies (Chau),

princes (Ong Hoang),

princesses (Co), and

young princes (Cau).

... the ritual ended with an incarnation of the Youngest Prince (Cau Be). In the role of Cau Be, [the female medium] gesticulated excitedly as she danced, speaking with a lisp and simulating the gestures of a young boy."

p. 42 praerequisites for initiation into spirit-mediumship generally

payment of specific amount of currency (reckoned in quan) &

# of prayer-books owed, to the treasury of a specific spirit

# of trees to be planted,

# of votive shoen to be bought,

# of captive animals to be freed

pp. 42-43 distinctions between can of Nha Tran and can of Tu Phu

p. 42

p. 43

"The quality of a personís voice can also indicate their can."

"two essential systems of government for a country : civilian (van) and military (vo)"

"those with Saint Tranís can speak with hoarse voices, whereas

"the mother goddesses are civil mandarins, whereas

the voices of those with Tu Phuís can are likely to be strident."

Saint Tran is a military mandarin."

pp. 43, 45 requirements for serving Tran Hung Dao

p. 43

"if ... their families have ... a tremor under the ancestorsí graves [as cause of mishaps] of a member in their families is stuck with a ... ghost, serving Saint Tran is necessary."

p. 45

A female spirit-medium described "what occurred when Saint Tran descended into her, "I feel very intense cold in my head and body [cam thay rat nang va ret].""


"Spirit mediums generally must serve spirits of the Mother Goddess cult for three years before serving spirits of Saint Tranís family because these years help their "fates to be steady" (ban menh vung) before receiving Saint Tranís energy. Their bodies need training to prepare them for possession by saint tran; otherwise they will faint away (xiu) or suffer possession by ghosts (tau hoa nhap ma)."

p. 46 how a woman became a spirit-medium

"she used to climb trees and sing nonsensically. ...

Finally a female spirit medium came to visit and told [her] that she was ... spiritually ill (benh am) and encouraged her to undertake the initiation ceremony to become a spirit medium. This was a momentous day in her life."

p. 50 king Bat Hai

"Local people in the Dong Bang temple in Thai Binh province ..., where King Bat Hai (a sacred snake) was originally worshipped, ... printed a brochure indicating ... a story in which Bat Hai appeared in Tran Hung Daoís dreams, giving him hints".

p. 52 position of amulets

p. 52

"In many private houses, Tran Hung Daoís amulets hang above the ancestorís altar, on doors, or are hidden under pillows to expel ghosts and evil spirits."

p. 52, fn. 50

"Many people believe that carrying Saint Tranís amulets helps to avoid accidents and helps babies to sleep and not cry."

p. 53, fn. 51 apparition of Lieu Hanh

"In legends, the apparition of Lieu Hanh often took the form of a beautiful innkeeper or

The woman Rah.ab was zanah (innkeepress) at Yrih.o^ (Yho^s^u<a 2).

a vendor along the important traffic routes."

"She maketh linen garments and selleth them" (Mas^li^ 31:24); "let her works praise her in the gates." (Mas^li^ 31:31)


pp. 55-75 Ė 3. Barley Norton : "The Performance of Music in Vietnamese Mediumship".

p. 56 music band & musical instruments

p. 56, fn. 4

"Chau van (literally, "serving literature") may also be referred to as hat van (literally, "singing literature")."

p. 56

"a band of musicians, known as cung van, perform songs of the chau van music genre. ... In northern Vietnam, the main instruments used to accompany chau van are the moon lute (dan nguyet) and a set of percussion instruments, which usually include

bamboo clappers (phach),

a small-headed drum (trong), and

a small cymbal (canh)".

p. 57 "reasons why more women than men became mediums"


the ... women ... are "seized" (bat) by the spirits more than men;


women suffer "madness" (dien) more than men;


women are interested in "spiritual matters" (duy tam), whereas men are concerned with "material matters" (duy vat);


women, rather than men, are drawn to the mother spirits ...;


woman "carry the weight" of the family, so if anyone in the family needs the protection of spirits, one of the female members must become a medium"

pp. 59-60 male temple-custodians, male ritual specialists, male musicians, male singers

p. 59

"male mediums usually preside over famous temples in prominent locations ... . For instance, many of the main temples in the center of Hanoi and at the famous pilgrimage site of Phu Giay in Nam Dinh province are run by male temple-mediums."

p. 60

Male specialists in "aspects of ritual life are referred to as "spirit priests" (thay cung). ...


The main instrument used in chau van, the moon lute, was in the past known as the instrument "held by noblemen" (quan tu cam). ... the moon lute is not considered suitable for women ... .


... many mediums said they preferred male singers because they were able to "flatter" (ninh) the spirits better than female singers."

pp. 60-61, 67 gendre in performance of spirits

p. 60

"When possessed by spirits, mediums traverse genders : when a medium of one gender is possessed by spirits of the other gender, s/he adopts the spiritís gender ... . The mediumís clothes, mannerisms, way of speaking, ritual acts, and way of dancing ... are all influenced by the gender of the spirit. The music performed also evokes the gender of the spirit incarnated."


garb worn and dance danced by medium when possessed by a spirit :-




female (from lowlands)



"mandarin tunics (ao bao)"

"womenís tunics (ao dai)"



"tiara-like hat (khan xep)"

"tiara-like hat often adorned with flowers (khan hoa)"



"with swords, spears, and sticks with bells"

["use fans, ropes lit on fire, amd rowing oars." (p. 61)]


"Female mountain spirits wear clothes influenced by the clothes worn by women belonging to ethnic minority

p. 61

groups. ... female mountain spirits chew betel. ... When male mediums are possessed by female spirits, they often use a falsetto voice."

p. 67

"When a man has the "destined aptitude of the Ninth Princess Spirit" [can Co Chin], then when that spirit is incarnated, the character ... naturally ... has a sharp tongue, the voice of a woman, and chews betel like a woman. ... Many people hug them and call them women."

p. 62 According to "the Confucianist precept of the "four virtues" (tu duc) ..., women are "virtuous" if they achieve an idealized standard in the areas of

labor (cong),

physical appearance (dung),

appropriate speech (ngon), and

proper behavior (hanh)."

pp. 61-62, 64 various behaviors of possessing-spirits

p. 61

"Young prince spirits ... dance with sticks with bells, but are less serious than other male spirits and are often "naughty" (nghich). When possessed by child spirits, mediums often speak with the voice of a child and sometimes mispronounce words as a child might (for example, by not pronouncing consonants)."

p. 62

"female mountain spirits like the Second Lady (Chau De Nhi) and the Young Princess (Co Be) ... are depicted joyfully strolling in the mountains and forests, but lowland female spirits, ... the Third Princess (Co Bo) is best known for her "rowing dance" (mua cheo)".

p. 64

"In the case of the Third Princess, many mediums develop a close relationship with the princess because of her ability to cure illness with "incense water" (nuoc thai). Similarly, many religious followers are attracted to female spirits who are renowned for their fortune-telling powers, such as the Ninth Princess (Co Chin)."

p. 64 characteristics of spirits in stories and in songs

"In some of the stories of the Fifth Mandarin, the spirit appears in the form of a snake".

"In the song texts, the Tenth Prince ... is a renowned scholar and poet and is known for his womanizing".

p. 65 less formal melodies indicating gendre of spirits

usual melody played for __ spirit dances

is the __ melody


Luu Thuy

female mountain

Xa Mua Moi

female lowland

Nhip Mot

p. 65 more formal melodies, indicating gendre & high status of spirits

played for __ spirits

is the __ melody

female lowland

Van; Ham

male mandarin

Kieu Duong

p. 66 musical traits of songs by gendre of spirits

songs for __ spirits



__-beat rhythm

2 (1/4 note, 1/8-note rest, 1/8 note, 2 ľ notes)

3 (1/4 note, ľ-note rest, 2 ľ notes)

verses of __ vocal phrases



__ melisma






verses ending in repeated phrase sung to vocables



__ instrumental accompaniment to vocal line



sung in unison



pp. 70-71 dominance of spirit over medium

p. 70

"When [a certain female medium] was possessed by the Third Princess (Co Bo), the spirit punished her by making her so cold that she had to stop the ritual temporarily."

p. 71

"Mediums are also the "servants" of the spirits : they are "chosen," "ordered," and "forced" by the spirits to be initiated and have to "obey" them when possessed."

pp. 72-73 among the Temiar : female spirits for male medium; male spirits for female medium

p. 72

[quoted from "I&C", p. 144 :] "Halaa [Temiar mediums] are predominantly male, their spirit guides are predominantly female."

p. 73

"In rare cases when halaa are female, they connect with male spirit-guides."

"I&C" = Marina Roseman : "Inversion and Conjuncture : Male and Female Performance among the Temiar of Peninsular Malaysia". In :- Ellen Koskoff (ed.) : Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Westport (CT) : Greenwood Pr, 1987.


CORNELL UNIVERSITY, SOUTHEAST ASIA PROGRAM SERIES, No. 23 = Karen Fjelstad & Nguyen Thi Hien (editrices) : Possessed by the Spirits : Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities. Ithaca (NY), 2006.