|Red Dao women (photo: baotuyenquang.com.vn)
The Red Dao believe that a baby is healthy and smart if it is protected and supported by the 12 goddesses and has a suitable name. A person is a flower blossoming on a tree, which is protected by the goddesses.
The date and month of birth is related to a certain part of the tree. A flower in the middle of the tree enjoys good luck and security. A flower on top of the tree is easily affected by outside factors, which means the child will often be sick.
The parents should regularly worship the goddesses to protect it. In special cases, they can pray for the goddesses to relocate a flower to a safer place on the tree.
The offering should include a chicken, a bottle of wine, a bowl of rice, an egg, votive paper, and white yarn for a boy or red yarn for a girl. The ceremony is held on a day that is good for the child and its family.
Shaman Tan Sai Hieng of A Mu Sung commune, Bat Xat district, said, “Newborn babies to children 15 years old are taken care of by the goddesses. Parents shouldn’t scold them or make them afraid. If parents don’t take good care of a child, the goddesses will give the child to another family or take away a part of its soul to make the child sick. If a child is sick, cries a lot, and doesn’t eat and sleep well, its family will invite a shaman to talk to the goddesses.”
During the ceremony, the child should be kept at home. The father presents offerings and prays to ancestors, genies, and the goddesses to protect the child and teach it what it needs to grow up into a useful person.
Strangers are not allowed to enter the house on the day of the ceremony. Family members eat the offering afterward. Three days after the ceremony, they feed the child the rice and egg offered to the goddesses.
A goddess worshipping ritual is organized every year until a boy is 12 years old and a girl is 16 years old. After their maturity ritual, they no longer worship the goddesses.
Ly Ta May in A Mu Sung commune said, “A shaman will take care of the worship until the child is grown up. If the worship is not carefully done, the child will suffer serious consequences, such as sore eyes, blindness, or deafness.”
The Red Dao have many rituals to ask genies to protect children, such as the ritual to relieve children from bad luck and the maturity ritual for boys.