- Topics & Settings
- Browse Sites
Hu Plig: The Soul Calling Ritual
At Ia's house, we witnessed the shaman as she performed the Hu Plig ritual. In the first part of the ritual, she grabbed a large hooped rattle-like tool called the txiab neeb and her kuam, the divination horns. She stood at the front door with her tools, two live chickens and an egg placed in a rice bowl with incense. She chanted in Hmong while rattling the txiab neeb and knocking both sides of the door with her kuam. This process helps call the soul of the infant to return home, and to communicate with the spiritual world to see what was wrong with the spirit. This is relevant because it indicates what was wrong with the soul and where the shaman needed to go and what must be done in the spiritual world to retrieve the soul. Next, she communicated and negotiated with the spirit world using the kuam. The shaman said several chants and verses and then tossed the kuam down onto the floor. As she explained later to us, the point of this was to make sure both worlds agreed to the trade of pig and paper money for the infant’s soul. When the flat part of both horns face down, the spirit is bound, and can be raised up, but only with further communication. If one is up and the other is down, this is bad, and more bargaining must be done between both worlds. If the flat parts of both horns are facing up, both worlds are happy and then the spirit can be raised up.
"Come home. This is where you belong. Come home with your mom and dad and brothers and sisters. We all love you and you belong here" To [name of infant], come home. This is where you belong. Come home with your mom and dad and brothers and sisters. We all love you and you belong here". —Call to the infant during Hu Plig ceremony
In the second part of the ritual, the shaman performed the same general movements and chanting at the door, but with cooked chickens and a cooked egg to complete the sacrificial soul calling ritual. As I observed the shaman perform the ritual, I was intrigued by how different the chanting sounded from what I was used to. I was not able to make out any of the chants or delineate what was being discussed. At the end of the ritual, the family and guests of the infant began to call the name of the infant in order to call her soul to return home. When they do this, they say something similar to "(name of infant), come home. This is where you belong. Come home with your mom and dad and brothers and sisters. We all love you and you belong here".
At the end of the ceremony, the shaman set the table with many delicious dishes. Then, in an act of divination, she looked at the feet of the chicken and its tongue to see if the soul of the individual had successfully returned. The shaman started with a process that helps to cleanse the soul and brings good fortune to the individual. White strings are tied to the infant, which signify good luck and wealth, and a tray of goodies are passed around to guests so that each one of them can also share a little of the wealth.