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The cult of man

The cult of man and ancestors

The cult of man is the belief that to die is to return with the ancestors to the Nine Sources, but from there, their souls constantly return to visit and protect the descendants, it is the basis of the Cult of the ancestors.

tutelary genius in vietnam

An indispensable tradition in Vietnamese life

Among the Vietnamese, this belief became the most widespread and developed until it became almost a religion. Even non-believers have an altar of ancestors in their homes.

Unlike Westerners who pay attention to the date of birth, Vietnamese attach great importance to the day of death in ancestor worship, because it is the day on which man enters eternity.

In addition to this day, devotion is practised on the 1st day and the 15th day of the lunar month called Soc vong (sygygia) as well as on days of ritual festivals and during major family events.

During this prayer, they are usually asked for blessing or thanks on a particular subject: birth, marriage, building the house, great journey, examination…

Statue of the Emperor of Heaven
Statue of the Emperor of Heaven

The altar and offerings

The altar of the ancestors is always placed in the central room at the most respected place of the house. According to the Vietnamese conception, there is no difference between the world where we live (Yang) and the world of the dead (Yin): So we present at the altar for the ancestors, perfectly material things: Food, clothes, everyday objects and money (the latter things in paper, called vang Ma-votive objects)

Only the food is real and usually accompanied by flowers, incense and alcohol (optional) which must be rice.

One thing that should not be lacking is a cup of clear water: It is the most valuable good of the rice farmer after the earth. After burning the incense chopsticks, the votive paper is burned and the small cup of alcohol or water is poured over the embers. This is how the dead receive their gifts in the afterlife. Flames and smoke rise in the sky, liquid alcohol mixes with fire to impregnate the earth: before our eyes there is a fire-water osmosis (Yin-Yang) and sky-earth-water “three powers”.


Loaded with philosophical content:

The cult of the Tho Cong, this Genius of the Soil, a form of Lady of the Earth is the one who watches over all the things concerning the family, its happiness and its daily life. Wherever you live. There is always a Tho Cong (each land has its own genius and each river has its own). The relationship between Tho cong (Soil Genius) and ancestors (Human Genius) within the family is very interesting. Tho Cong who decides the future-becoming, happiness or bad luck for the whole family, is the most important genius. But the ancestors to whom one owes one’s life must be the most respected. To maintain a good understanding of all minds, in Vietnam the main room of the house is reserved for ancestors. Tho Cong occupies the room on the left which, according to the “five principles” represents the East), is the most important place after the centre.

Photo of a Villagoise party in Vietnam
Photo of a Villagoise party in Vietnam

The protective geniuses of the villages and the nation are venerated. In each village, there is of course a temple, or a communal house to honour the cult of the Tutelary Genius.

The family maintains the cult of ancestors, the village that of the Tutelary Genius of the village, and the country venerates the original King -King Hung.

The Vietnamese also worship Tu Bat Tu (Four Incredibles), Mr. Ta Vien, Giong, Chu Dong Tu, and Place Hanh. It is the geniuses who help the people of Vietnam in the fight against enemies, natural plagues, etc.

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