When people play with fire, seriously, uncannily

By Hoang Hai Thinh    December 1, 2018 | 10:45 am GMT+7

During the Fire Festival in northern Vietnam, men of the Pa Then ethnic group rush bare feet into burning embers.

When people play with fire, seriously, uncannily

Every year after their harvesting season, the Pa Then people, an ethnic minority living in the northern province of Ha Giang, celebrate the Fire Festival on 16th of the 10th Lunar Month, usually November in the Gregorian calendar. For the Pa Then people, fire is a symbol of divinity that delivers happiness and well-being.

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Offerings made to the gods on this occasion include a rooster, a bowl of rice, incense, wine and joss paper.  The shaman lights candles, arranges the offerings on a tray, puts three burning incense sticks on the altar and three others on the ground. Then he sits on a chair, knocking a bamboo stick on a wooden musical instrument and shaking a traditional ring. He himself shakes along with the sound of the instrument and chants prayers related to the festival.

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In a festival-related event, when the shaman calls, Pa Then people and visitors play a game in which 5 or 6 people try their best to pull a suspended stick to touch the ground.

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Pa Then women perform a traditional dance to cheer the men to jump on the fire.

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The worship can last 2 to 3 hours. During the prayer, the men seem to go into a trance, and their bodies begin to shake.

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Then they begin jumping into the burning coals with their bare feet, creating a magical, mysterious and beautiful scene.

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They wade into the flames to cheers and encouragement of the viewers. It seems they do not feel the heat. As this happens, the shaman keeps knocking on the musical instrument and chanting the prayer. The activity goes on until the fire dies off.

The Pa Then fire festival has a long history and has been celebrated through many generations.

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At the end of the festival, the fire dancers perform a ritual in front of the altar.

Not one of them suffers any burn or pain.

 
 
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