Hua Miao spirit worship.
10. Be-a-dli. (Sowing souls.)

Compiled by Wang Ming-ji.


As Wang Ming-ji noted in his index, (M351), the ritual of be-a-dli, literally "sowing souls", was strictly speaking not worship. It was rather a fertility rite of imitative magic. There seem to be considerable gaps in the information provided. Either the writer did not know the detail of all that took place, or he chose not to write it down.

No sacrifice was offered. Apart from the "horse food", as the fee due to the shaman-healer was called, all the elaborate laying out of grain in the loft, and the setting of cooked maize meal and bowls of meat below in the living room, were dramatic representations of the lavish prosperity for which the family was looking, and which the ritual was intended to induce. In particular, the basket of meal filled with spoons betokened the desire for a large family, each having his own spoon, with plenty of food for all to eat.

In all probability there were incantations which the shaman-healer or even the head of the family had to chant, but these have not been recorded. The ritual concluded with an action which was called the "sowing". When Miao planted wheat or barley, the seed was sown broadcast, a handful at a time. Wang Ming-ji does not explain exactly what was done, but since members of the family had to hold up the hem of their skirt or gown in order to catch something, it seems that someone, possibly the shaman-healer, was throwing handfuls of seed, or something similar, into the air, hence the word "sowing". The more that the family was able to catch the better, for this "seed" represented the

"a-dli" or "ki-lao". These two words appear to have had, if not identical, very similar meanings, since they are used interchangeably. They refer to the spirit-element in people, cattle or crops. These seed-spirits were then scattered on the bed, in the loft, where the Miao always kept their store of grain, or in the cattle shed, according to whether it was increase in the family, crops or livestock which was being sought.

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