Hua Miao spirit worship.
4. Water ki-zo.

Compiled by Wang Ming-ji.


The washing of clothes in Miao households was commonly carried out in a mountain stream, and normally the task fell to women and girls. Garments were beaten on a smooth, flat rock in the running water, squeezed up and down with the feet, and sometimes pounded with a wooden washing dolly. Afterwards they were laid out to dry in the hot sunshine which also served to bleach the hemp cloth from which they were made.

Separating the ki-zo is a further example of exorcism by shock treatment. The hole that had been dug was in a bank of earth. It was big enough for a person to crawl in at the bottom and wriggle up through, emerging at the top. Its purpose was to protect the patient from being seriously burnt by the sudden sheet of flame ignited immediately over her head by the shaman-healer spewing a mouthful of fat in a spray of fine droplets upon a lighted torch. Thus was the water ki-zo frightened away.

The spinning cross was made from two pieces of wood joined together at right angles, with four arms of equal length, in the ends of which bamboo pegs were fixed so that yarn could be wound around them into skeins. The cross revolved on a wooden peg which passed through a hole in the centre and was fixed to a stool. The purpose of unwinding yards upon yards of make-believe yarn is not explained. It may be that this was deemed to become real yarn in the spirit world and was intended to entangle the ki-zo if, having been frightened out of the victimís body, it tried to follow her back to her home.

The point of the music is likewise unexplained. No doubt it was directed at the spirit, but whether to soothe, excite or distract it before the flame flash is not clear. The water in the "drum" was possibly a trap. Being a water spirit, when it had suddenly been driven out of its lodging by fire, there was a bowl full of water conveniently placed near at hand in which it could take refuge, only to find itself unceremoniously tossed out and forced to find its way back to the stream whence it had originally come.

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