Red Lahu Merit Day

Red Lahu (Lahu Nyi) Shaman

Red Lahu Shaman playing traditional music at Full moon Ceremony

One of the villages we visit as a part of our North Thai Healers journey is a Red Lahu (Lahu Nyi) village. Our visit is timed to coincide with the Full moon so that we are able to share in an important village ceremony.

Lahu believe in worldly spirits called “Ne” and an inner soul which they call “Aw Ha”. For health and survival, they appeal to two deities; a supreme one they call “G’ui Sha”, who created the heavens, and his wife, “Ai Ma” (great mother), who created the earth.

Their roots go back to the mountains of southwest China. As their hilltribe ancestors have for generations, they cultivate the surrounding jungle to sustain the growth of wild herbs for their traditional healing remedies. Lahu men are enthusiastic hunters and it is not uncommon to see them carrying crossbows and handmade guns. There are no clans among Lahu, thus no surnames.

Lahu Nyi do not regard the spirits and their powers as always malicious but, because they “know” nature spirits can attack people, they appease them in order to prevent or to remove the chances of misfortune falling upon them or their village. The Lahu Nyi believe that other spirits are able to protect people, their houses, their crops and their animals. Most important of  these guardian spirits are the yeh ne or house spirit. Yet more spirits are those of the ancestors who have passed on peacefully into the land of the dead and those who because of violent or unnatural death are thought always working towards bringing others to an untimely end.

The special rites associated with a merit day begin on the eve of that day with three events:

  •  A ceremonial mixing of water and hand washing by women and girls
  • Presentation of uncooked rice grains to the wife of the village’s senior priest or to bo pa_y
  • Ritual dancing in the haw~ yehv or village temple.
Red Lahu Full Moon Ceremony

Red Lahu Shaman conducts full moon ceremony

After darkness falls on shi~ nyi eve, the village temple becomes the center of dancing in honor of G’wz sha. This is a very moving experience for us the visitors although I am certain we do not understand beyond the surface the deep significance the different dances are to the Hau Nyi people.

Other than taking part in rituals a merit day is mostly spent relaxing with friends and neighbors, visiting friends or relatives in other villages, or perhaps doing some small odd jobs around the house. Work in fields or hunting is expressly forbidden. Work in the fields and hunting are positively forbidden.

Click here to view the full North Thai Healers & Shaman Itinerary and find out how you can visit the red Lahu