Unique rite of passage of Dao ethnic minority

Monday, 2017-12-25 10:02:31
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The ‘Cap sac’ ritual in Hoanh Bo district, Quang Ninh province
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NDO – ‘Cap sac’ ritual is a rite of passage to mark the coming-of-age of the Dao ethnic men, affirming the recognition of the community and gods to them. With the Dao ethnic minority people in Hoanh Bo district, Quang Ninh province, ‘cap sac’ is the most important ritual.

The chairman of the ceremony must be a worshipper who is very familiar with traditional rituals. A rite can declare the coming-of-age for one or a few men, but it must be the odd number. The ceremony is divided into different levels: three lamps (corresponding to 36 troops granted to the mand), seven lamps (72 troops) and twelve lamps (120 troops).

Only when passing ‘Cap sac’ ritual, men were considered to be mature, becoming a member of the society who can attend all the religious ceremonies of the community. In addition, it is believed that in this ritual, a Dao man receives a name from the gods for the salvation in the other world. Men who have been married must pass the ritual, so that the couples are formally recognised by the ancestors.

The offerings in the ritual are pig, chicken, rice, wine and many others. If the man involved in the ritual has gotten married, his wife must be in the room. Other members of the man’s family are not allowed to cook as well as kill pigs and chickens. Kitchen chores will be conducted by his villagers under the direction of the shaman.

There are different kinds of the costumes of Dao shamen, depending on the stages during the ceremony. The ‘Cap sac’ ritual of Dao ethnic people is held annually before and after the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival.

The main rites during the ceremony are quite sophisticated, lasting three days and nights. The first one is the incense offering to inform the ancestors and gods of the event. The ceremony ends in the middle of the night and then the remaining rituals are reserved for the declared man, such as ‘le te troi’ (offering sacrifices to heaven) to pray for peace for the man and his family and naming formality to participate in social activities. ‘Le te troi’ is usually performed outdoor at dawn.

Closing the ritual, the shaman blows a horn to thank ancestors and gods. The village, mountains and forests echo the sound of the horn, making the ceremony more sacred and mysterious.

The ‘Cap sac’ ritual of Dao ethnic minority people is a form of spiritual life activities in need of being preserved and promoted in the current situation.