Na Nhem festival

Known for its procession of linga and yoni, Na Nhem is an original festival of the Tay in Mo village, Lang Son province, to pray for peace and bumper crops.

On the fifteenth day of the first lunar month every year, tens of thousands of people flock to Tran Yen communal house in Mo village, Lang Son province, to join Na Nhem, a festival dedicated to the tutelary god to pray for peace, fortune and bumper crops in the New Year.

All rituals of the festival are held in Tran Yen communal house, and Xa Vun shrine which honors Kings Mieu Tinh and Cao Quyet and deity Cao Son Quy Minh, a Tay national hero in the Ly reign in the 12th century.

Mo villagers escort the throne of King Cao Quyet from the communal house to Xa Vun shrine.

Young men joining the procession have their faces smeared with soot.

The four men selected to represent the general and his assistant generals prepare their costumes before the ceremony…

… they must come from families which are not in mourning, and must neither have sex
nor drink liquor for two weeks before and after the festival.

The procession of linga and yoni stops in the middle of the field for festival attendants to see the symbols of fertility.

Women from Mo village perform the tinkling bell dance in the processions.

Young men in the procession from time to time stop to perform a mock fight.

Na Nhem is the biggest festival of the Tay in Mo village.

After the offerings are brought to Xa Vun shrine, a ceremony is held to pray for the deities’ support
for a year of peace and prosperity.

The festival includes two processions; one, to escort the god and the deities from Tran Yen communal house to Xa Vun shrine for worshiping. This procession is led by four men who represent a general and his three assistant generals. The other is to escort the sacred offerings to the shrine. The offerings include rice and taro, cycad and medical herbs, accompanied with linga and yoni, the symbols of fertility and harmony of heaven and earth, which imply bumper crops and peace for villagers.

The processions stop by noon when all the offerings are given to the gods at the shrine. In the afternoon, attendants to the festival join cultural activities, including folk games and folklore performances of the Tay./.

Na Nhem in the Tay language means sooty face because the festival originated from a legend on fighting the enemy to protect the village. Young men at the festival have their faces smeared with soot to show the ugly appearance of the looting enemy. The disguise as looters is believed to drive away their evil spirits and spare them from harming the villagers.

By Viet Cuong