Typical flame dancing festival of Pa Then ethnic people Ha Giang
According to tradition, from the middle of lunar October to the lunar year-end day, Pa Then ethnic minority people in the northernmost province of Ha Giang hold a flame dancing festival to express their thanks to the gods and pray for bumper crops and good luck in the coming new year. Khong Nhung writes .
In their mind, the Pa Then people consider the flame a sacred god. These longstanding cultural characteristics have been handed down from generations to generations.
We came to Mi Bac village, Tan Trinh commune, Bac Quang district of Ha Giang province when the mist on the mountain begins shrouding the road. In such a dim setting, the sound of “ringing” in front of us echoes from the mountain, making us curious. “That is the call to conjure up the spirits of the dead, asking the gods permission to open the festival,” explained the driver from Ha Giang province.
From a far distance, a crowd of people are arranged in a big circle. We walked our way near to a sorcerer who was beating on a steel bar. It seemed that the sorcerer did not know the existence of the crowd and the heat of the flame making him sweat; he still sat and beat without let-up on the steel bar with his right hand. On his left hand, he took and shook a ring with many smaller steel rings attached to it. The mysterious sound that we had heard thus far came from these things.
It was lucky that we could witness the most attractive part of the festival. A young man from Pa Then group sat on one end of a bench opposite the sorcerer and beat time together. The two men kept beating on the steel bar until the young man’s body twitched just like someone who was going into a trance.
“It is the time when the gods give more strength and permit people to dance around the flame,” Phu Minh Tien from Pa Then ethnic minority group whispered to my ears. Then the young man left the bench and hunched his back to run around the flame. I felt the smell of alcohol sweeping past faintly.
It turned out that those who joined the dance had to drink alcohol before dancing. Suddenly, the flame flared and shot the red coal dust up. Bare feet were jumping on the fire and dancing to the tune of the steel bar beaten by the sorcerer. The circle of people clapped for joy and stood back a little bit because of the heat of the flame and the coal dust. Then, they drew in again and looked affectively at the sorcerer.
Another Pa Then young man with red face started twitching and like the previous young man, he hopped around the flame and suddenly jumped into the middle of the flame. The flame blazed up more highly and brightly and the young man now appeared and disappeared in the flame, accompanied by the beating of the steel bar. After that, strengthened by the gods, tens of other young people jumped into the flame also with their bare feet. The sorcerer sat still and beat the steel bar. The sound was getting more and more intense.
Smoke was still rising from the body of the young man who had just jumped out of the flame. He fell and turned several somersaults to the place where we were standing. I intended to ask the young man but the woman beside me stopped to do that and explained, “he was being incarnated and unconscious”. She said that sometimes he put flaming charcoal into his mouth and vomited out. It turned out to me that this was the climax of the rite.
It can be said that the flame dancing festival (Vietnam dance)of the Pa Then ethnic minority group is one of the most unique festivals, bearing its own characteristics compared with festivals of other groups. The festival is now often held to serve tourists.
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