Two snakes and an abandoned grave show how quickly worshippers gather in Vietnam

By Hoang Tao   March 2, 2018 | 05:36 pm PT
Thousands of people have gathered to bow to the snakes and give them over $8,800 in offerings, acts described by officials as 'superstitious.'

A pair of snakes showing up on a grave have drawn big crowds of curious people who have quickly turned into a group of devoted worshippers that authorities in the central province of Quang Binh have struggled to dismiss.

The snakes were first spotted slithering over a roadside grave in Quang Van Commune on February 24. After noticing that they were still at the grave a few days later, some locals started to say that the snakes were gods, and set up an altar together with a box for cash offerings.

One of the rumored snake gods crawl around on the grave. Photo by VnExpress/M.T.

One of the rumored "snake gods" on the grave. Photo by VnExpress/M.T.

Thousands of people from nearby communes and districts soon started flocking to the grave to witness the "snake gods" and pray to them for luck and prosperity, causing a traffic jam on a nearby road. Locals also set up a pavilion over the grave for worshippers who have come every day from 7 a.m. to past midnight.

Local authorities attempted to clear the crowds by cutting electricity to the site and sending staff to dismantle the pavilion on Friday morning, but their efforts were met with fierce resistance and the grave remained untouched.

Police and forest rangers returnedcame back on Saturday morning and finally managed to remove the pavillion. One snake had died on Thursday, and forest rangers said they had caught the other one, saying they will make sure it is treated according to the laws and protected if it is a rare species.

The snakes of nearly one-meter (3.3-foot) looked like water snakes and did not react to the presence of the large crowd, locals said.

Tran Van Trong, chairman of Quang Van Commune, said the grave belonged to a beggar believed to have died during the French colonial era many decades ago. It lies next to a pond, and was renovated by locals a few years ago.

"Locals burn incense at the grave sometimes, but the appearance of the two snakes has escalated into something superstitious," Trong said.

Locals put flowers on the grave and pray to the snakes. Photo by VnExpress/M.T.

Locals put flowers on the grave and pray to the snakes. Photo by VnExpress/M.T.

Officials have sent police officers to the site to maintain public order while waiting for further instructions from their superiors. The collection box, which had more than VND200 million ($8,800) as of Friday, will meanwhile be managed by local elders.

Vietnamese people preserve a tradition which commemorates the dead and the spirits. Sometimes, what seems to be a beautiful act of remembrance goes beyond the boundaries of common sense.

Last month, hundreds of people flocked to a river in the central province of Nghe An to pray to a "fish god". The fish had been spotted in the same section of the river for days displaying strange behavior, and did not die when fishermen tried to elecrocute it.

The rumor was however quashed when a fisherman successfully caught the fish and confirmed that it was just a common carp that had been injured.

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