Đạo Mẫu

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A priestess holding a "hầu bóng" (lit. 'serving the reflections') ritual in a shrine.

Đạo Mẫu (Vietnamese: [ɗâːwˀ mə̌wˀ], 道母) is the worship of mother goddesses which was established in Vietnam in the 16th century.[1][2] While scholars like Ngô Đức Thịnh propose that it represents a systematic mother goddess, Đạo Mẫu draws together fairly disparate beliefs and practices.[3][4][5][6] These include the worship of goddesses such as Thiên Y A Na, The Lady of the Realm (Bà Chúa Xứ), The Lady of the Storehouse (Bà Chúa Kho) and Princess Liễu Hạnh,[7] legendary figures like Âu Cơ, the Trưng Sisters (Hai Bà Trưng), and Lady Triệu (Bà Triệu), as well as the branch Four Palaces.

Many people mistake that Đạo Mẫu is commonly associated with spirit mediumship rituals—known in Vietnam as lên đồng— much as practiced in other parts of Asia, such as Southern China, Myanmar (Mon people) and some community in India, however, that is not correct. Even though some of the priests and priestesses of Đạo Mẫu have the ability of spirit mediumship, that is not the main ritual. The most prominent ritual of Đạo Mẫu is the ceremony of "Hầu Bóng" (lit. 'Serving the (Holy) Reflections'), in which a priest or priestess would mimic the deities by dressing and acting like them. The priest is in full control of their body. A successful ceremony is one in which the priest feels the deities' essences but it does not mean the deities' spirits enter the priest's mortal body. As a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities, the "thanh đồng" in Đạo Mẫu is more of the equivalent of a priest rather than a medium or a shaman.

Although the Communist government had initially proscribed the practice of such rituals, deeming them to be superstitions, they relented in 1987, once again legalizing their practice.

The worshipping of the Mother Goddesses contributes to the appreciation of women in society. Recognized by UNESCO, this Vietnamese ritual was inscribed on Representative List in December 2016.[8]

Four Palaces (Tứ Phủ)[edit]

The most prominent form of Đạo Mẫu is Four Palaces (Tứ Phủ), which worships a hierarchical pantheon of Vietnamese indigenous deities with a strong influence from historical figures, Taoism and Buddhism. Four Palaces is the most common in the North. Other forms in different areas have also developed an interference with other local beliefs. The name literally means "Four Palaces", which includes the four realms Heaven, Mountains, Water and Earth.

A portrait of the First Mother Goddess of Heaven in Lê dynasty's costumes. This painting is from the project Divine Portraits by Four Palaces - Tứ Phủ.
A portrait of the First Courtier of Heaven. This painting is from the project Divine Portraits by Four Palaces - Tứ Phủ.
A portrait of the Second Courtier of Mountains and Forests. This painting is from the project Divine Portraits by Four Palaces - Tứ Phủ.
A portrait of the First Mistress of Heaven. This illustration is from the project Divine Portraits by Four Palaces - Tứ Phủ.

Worship of Saint Trần[edit]

Saint Trần[edit]


  1. ^ Asian Ethnology, Volumes 67-68 2008 p.305 "mother goddess religion (Đạo Mẫu)"
  2. ^ Karen Fjelstad; Thị Hiền Nguyễn (2006). Possessed by the Spirits: Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities. SEAP Publications. pp. 38–. ISBN 978-0-87727-141-3.
  3. ^ Ngô Đức Thịnh,"The Cult of the Female Spirits and the Mother Goddesses 'Mẫu'," Vietnamese Studies 121, no.3 (1996):83-96
  4. ^ "Đạo Mẫu ở Việt Nam" [The Mother Goddess Religion in Vietnam] (Hà Nội: Nhà Xuất Bản Văn Hóa Thông Tin, 1996)
  5. ^ "The Pantheon for the Cult of Holy Mothers," Vietnamese Studies 131, no.1 (1999): 20-35
  6. ^ "The Mother Goddess Religion: Its History, Pantheon, and Practices," in Possessed by the Spirits: Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities, ed. Karen Fjelstad and Nguyen Thi Hien. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 2006), 19-30.
  7. ^ Nguyen Quoc Tan, Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh under the View of Religious Studies, Religious Studies Review Vol. 1, No. 2 – May 2007.
  8. ^ "UNESCO - Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms". ich.unesco.org. Retrieved 2020-07-20.

External links[edit]