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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Witchcraft and Shamanism in Laos

It’s interesting when you’re gathering with your families and starting to talk about their histories, lives, and etc. My mom and my aunts always have things to talk about their childhood life back in Laos (next to Vietnam and Thailand). There are times my mom she’s in a ghostly mood, she’ll tell my husband and me about her childhood ghostly life and how she put up with her chaotic life. I recall when I was 11 years old or maybe older, I asked my mom how did she became a Christian and why we go to church? She gave me this really long story, it begins…

As you read they lived in a village with no electricity or no toilet, sink, and etc. It sounds like they were in the 1600s but actually this happened in 1956 – 1970 during my mom’s childhood.

My mom said her dad (my grandfather) was a huge fan of becoming a shaman (spiritual leader who protects good spirits from the bad spirits). When anyone in the family were sick or feeling odd, my grandfather performed the rituals and did some blessings for that family. My mom had a grandma, not her dad’s mom but it was another cousin’s mom, who was really heavy on shamanism and witchcraft (I will call her my great grandmother). My great grandmother practiced not voodoo, but I guess a lot of witchcraft and etc. If my great grandmother does not serve those spirits well, they can eventually make her go nuts or hallucinate. My mom said these kinds of witchcraft can make you fall in love, attack your enemies and etc. However, the person who does not use it wisely or care for their spirits well can cause them deadly.

My mom told me that once my great grandmother was going to use the bathroom in the woods (no portable toilet in the village), back then there was no toilet paper, so they had to use leaves or sticks to clean themselves. My great grandmother threw the sticks away and 15 minutes later the stick that she was using appeared in front of the trail that she was walking home. She was shocked and started talking to the stick. I can’t remember exactly what my great grandmother was saying. The way I interpreted what my mom told me was my great grandmother tried to trick the stick. My great grandmother was not the owner and the stick was following the wrong person. It was some type of weird words to fool the spirits.

My grandfather realized learning witchcraft was a great tool and an enhancement for his shamanism too. I guess the more stuff you learn, the more power and fame you have and money. At that time my great grandmother passed away because she was of course old and her witchcraft was driving her crazy so she died with her spirits, I guess the bad evil spirits. She didn’t die peacefully. The relatives knew she was weird.

After the funeral and past six months, my mom said someone was killing and eating the chickens in the chicken coop. They knew it was the great grandmother looking for food with her little ghostly spirits. My mom said great grandmother was toothless and the way she ate the chickens, great grandmother chewed and then tossed the chickens away around the coop. My mom explained that you could see small little foot prints like the size of an infant around the chicken coop trying to eat the chickens. At dawn, my mom and her family could hear the chickens running crazy, flapping their wings, and crying. I asked her could it be a fox, a wolf, or any wild animals and she stated normally it’s always the ghostly spirits who are the one trying to capture their animals.

The final night my grandfather was so tired of the chickens crying and running around. He knew it was great grandmother and her ghostly spirits chasing the chickens. My grandfather stood up and took his gun (back then it was gun powder) and started to shoot up the air, the sky, just invisible area around the chicken coop to make it stop. Then the next night it stopped but something got very, very ugly that will haunt my mom and her family. Stay tuned, more later.

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