Since ancient times, with the prosperous natural conditions, Vietnamese people’s livelihoods had long been dependent upon the gifts of nature. Thus, the worship of nature was soon to become the oldest tradition and an important aspect of Vietnamese indigenous religion. Moreover, Vietnam is the at the gate of an open sea where many peoples and cultures gathered. Each religion being introduced into Vietnam was modified to be more familiar with the customs and indigenous ideology.
Fertility rites made an early appearance in Vietnamese history. With the importance of the agriculture and farming, the Vietnamese worshiped the symbol of yin-yang, the harmonious balance of heaven and earth, and the prosperity of beings. Fertility rites are found in Dong Ho folk paintings from Bac Ninh province, with images of buffalo, pigs, chickens, fish; or in the ancient cultural products such as the imagery of sexual intercourse on bronze drums found in the village of Dao Thinh (Yen Bai), dating back to 500 BC. The custom of “mortar pounding to welcome the bride” is also an expression of traditional belief; mortar and pestle are symbols of male and female and of natural production.
Nature worship: Nature is the Great Mother of the Vietnamese people, the image of an omnipotent goddess bringing prosperity, fortune, and protection for everyone. This ideology appeared in the systematic mother goddess cult, formed upon the impact of Chinese Taoism, combined with the Goddess worship tradition from prehistoric times. The fact that women were being worshiped is something very unique when put into the context of the country under the teachings and rituals of Confucianism.
– Three – Four Palaces: Mother of Heaven (or Mau Thuong Thien), Mother of Grand Forest (or Mau Thuong Ngan), Mother of Water (or Mau Thoai) and Mother of Underworld.
– Four natural elements:
Goddess of clouds – worshiped at the temple Bà Dâu
Goddess of rains – worshiped at the temple Bà Đậu
Goddess of thunder – worshiped at the temple Bà Tướng
Goddess of lighting – worshiped at the temple Bà Dàn
– Animals and plants worship: Unlike the many different cultures that worship the powerful animals such as tigers, lions, falcons, etc. Vietnamese people worship animals such as buffalo, snakes, rats, dogs, cats, elephants, these animals are very familiar to the lives of people of an agricultural society.
Veneration of the dead: The Vietnamese people have great respect to the realms of life and death. They believe that the human body consists of two parts: body and soul. The 3 parts of the Soul include Consciousness (the mastery of awareness), Energy (energy causes the body to operate) and Shen (spirit of life). The folk saying, “The livings with wisdom are sacred after death,” explains the fundamental causes for the Vietnamese beliefs and rituals.
“Better to be blind and keep the orders within the household
Than to have clear sight but do not worship your ancestors.” (Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Luc Van Tien)
Although the Vietnamese keep their rituals and forms of worship, but most of the population do not follow a particular doctrine or religion. Would the mixture of religious and folk beliefs, with the vague interpretation of beliefs and disbelief, become a problem for the nation? Or would it be the necessary space for the economic development and integration in terms of knowledge? Ultimately, the worship of nature brings a solid ethical foundation for a sustainable developing society. Likewise, being grateful and showing respect to ancestors and national heroes are the basis of the tradition “when drinking water, remember its source” – which is a valuable quality of the people of Vietnam.
Trịnh Khánh Linh (THE PAVONIS ORGANIZATION)