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Rituals, offerings and dancing

Dizhengdang


Dancing for wealth

Dancing for wealth.

When someone passes away, there is a great risk for the mourning family that the “dead-soul” of the deceased could take the wealth of the household away to the “Land of the dead-souls”. This threat concerns all aspects of wealth, from the abundance of game to that of cereals, and during the funerals a collective dance (called “holding prosperity”) is performed to exhort the “dead-soul” to leave with all that has been already offered, to let the wealth remain with the living, and not to behave badly and influence people's lives. During the dance, people firmly hold dough figurines representing wild animals and corn ears and cobs symbolizing prosperity in cereals.

Ritual figurines

Dough figurines used during rituals.

Dough figurines are used for a great variety of rituals. At the center, a conical form represents the mountain deity and is surrounded by figurines of wild animals of different kinds. Small flags are sometimes stuck into the mountain effigy to complete the offering. The ritual use of these figurines exemplifies the role of hunting and the importance of wild animals as symbols of prosperity. As indicated by the presence of the conical representation of the mountain, all rituals during which these figurines are used involve a relationship with the mountain deity. All villagers of the locality are in regular interaction with this deity for obtaining wild animals and prosperity in general as well as its protection against calamities.

Hunt ritual

Ritual before the hunt.

Hunting is a very important activity for Dulong people. Hunting parties can last for a few days in the mountains surrounding the village, or sometimes up to a month when seeking big game far away. To secure their success, regardless of the type of hunt, using traps or crossbows, hunters perform a ritual in order to obtain the wild animal from their guardian, “The Master of Game”.  Ritual dough figurines are made to represent the animals the hunter wishes to obtain, and big flags are made as offerings for the deity.

New Year ritual

Assuring prosperity for the coming year.

The New Year’s festival, abandoned in almost all the villages in northern Dulongjiang, was exceptionally performed during the winter 2000 in Dizhengdang. It lasted for three days, with a complex succession of ritual sequences, dances, and social rejoicing involving the consumption of a great amount of fermented alcohol. One of the most important parts is the ritual performed in front of the altar, and for which each household has to prepare tall colorful ritual flags intended for the mountain deity of the place.

offerings for local spirits

Offerings for the spirits of the place.

Some spirits are located in the earth, and often have their residence in cave-like places near boulders. Not ordinarily harmful, they may cause sickness if disturbed or hurt by people working on the fields close to where they reside. In order to appease them, it is necessary to make some offerings, using ritual flags, eggs, or even, like in this picture, a piece of wood representing a sword: it will be a toy for the spirit’s child.

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