One of Vietnam’s most fascinating rituals is lên đồng, a practice that was recently recognized as an integral aspect of the nation’s intangible cultural heritage. Lên đồng is associated with Đạo Mẫu, or worship of the Mother Goddess, and involves a spirit medium who acts as an earthly conduit for deities.
The ritual can last from 2 to more than 6 hours and is usually performed in a pagoda. Spirit mediums change costumes during the ritual, to reflect the deity they are channeling. A group of musicians play music while the medium sings and dances in a trance-like state. Towards the end of the ceremony, the audience can have their fortunes told by the medium, or ask the medium to send requests to the deity of their choice. Lên đồng practitioners can be male or female and must abstain from sex and eating meat for several days before they perform the ritual.
If a Vietnamese friend invites you to attend a lên đồng ritual, accept the invitation! It will be a once in a life-time experience.