The mysterious fire dance of the Pa Then people

 The Pa Then people are perhaps one of Vietnam’s smallest ethnic minorities but their mysterious ritual fire dance resonates far beyond their communities in the northeastern provinces of Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang.

the mysterious fire dance of the pa then people
Pa Then girls gather for fire dancing performance

The dance, performed on top of burning coal, illustrates the daring of this remote people in coping with dangers and adversity.

The Pa Then, who number more than 5,000 people, believe fire is a supreme god that brings them good luck. The festival is usually held from the tenth lunar month, the month of the harvest, to the end of the first lunar month.

Each family brings bundles of wood, some chickens, 2-3 kilograms of pork and some rice as offerings. The fire dance is only for males who are deemed strong, skillful and agile, and is held in the evening in the village yard.

The shaman first announces the official reason for the festival and invites the gods to attend the ritual with the locals. If the fire god agrees, the participants go into a trance-like state, jump into the blazing fire and dance on the live coals with their bare feet. Some put a live coal in their mouth.

the mysterious fire dance of the pa then people

Young boys start dancing on the coals

Each dancer performs several times to display his strength and courage, to the sounds of cheering and clapping from the audience. Around the fire, local girls dressed in their best clothes sing and dance.

When the fire goes out, the shaman thanks the gods for joining the festival. The participants gradually emerge from their trance and regain full consciousness. Interestingly, the young dancers’ feet are blackened, but not burnt or injured.

the mysterious fire dance of the pa then people
Dancers’ hands and feet look black, but are not burnt

Can Dung