Hua Miao spirit worship
1. The Spirit Zu-gi-za and the ancestors. 2.

Compiled by Wang Ming-ji.


This passage illustrates the close connection between the Spirit Zu-gi-za and the ancestors. The shaman-healerís initial pronouncement that "a spirit had arrived" was ambiguous and the family had to press for further information as to which spirit was responsible for the sickness. The shaman-healerís second response indicated that it was in fact the ancestors who were causing trouble this time. However, they could not be propitiated without an offering to the Spirit Zu-gi-za, so the first step was to devote a large pig to him.

Presumably, had the patient a clearer recollection of what he had done on the day when he was taken ill, the sickness might have been attributed to some other local spirit encountered in the course of his travels.

"Thirteen years" is an example of the use of a kind of ritual code language. The shaman-healer might say "next year" quite plainly, but the family avoided speaking directly, saying rather "in thirteen years time", and this was repeated in the incantation which followed and was spoken by the zu-mu , who, of course, was also a member of the family. Though Wang Ming-jiís note gives the meaning of the expression, no reason is offered for its use.

The large flat basket, was one which was normally used for storing grain. It was made from bamboo and would have been seven feet or more in diameter and some six or eight inches deep. The idea seems to have been that it was safer to entertain the spirits in this little "pretend" house than actually to bring them indoors.

In the context of the life of the ordinary Miao people, under-nourished, scantily clothed and badly housed, colds and coughs were very often the forerunners of pneumonia, pleurisy and even tuberculosis, though the latter was less common than among the Chinese in the crowded cities. The common cold was therefore to be feared as a harbinger of death. This explains why it figures in the incantation for protection offered to the ancestors.

Literal Transcription

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