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Junior experiences differences in Hmong ceremonies, customs

The Hmong people have several beliefs differing from Reincarnation to Shamanism and Christianity. Each belief has its own influence on events such as funerals and parties.

Since my father’s side of the family are Shaman and my mother’s side are Christian, I attend funerals that deal with each religion, on both sides of the family.

However, my dad prohibits me from going to many Shaman based funerals because our family belief is Christianity. By attending too many Shaman based events, he fears I might get influenced and become a Shaman.

Hmong Shamans believe that when someone passes away they must perform the right rituals to safely send the spirit to the afterlife. However some Hmong Shamans believe in the rebirth of the dead through reincarnation, and perform other rituals. While Christian Hmong funerals are held like Shaman funerals there are no rituals performed and normally the church pastor leads the ceremony.

Some of you may ask, “What normally goes on in a Hmong funeral?” With the exceptions of rituals performed, Hmong funerals are similar. Hmong funerals can last from a day to a month depending on whom has passed away. During those days the family provides meals for the guests of the funerals. Throughout the funeral relatives visit and come to pay their respects.

On Jan. 31 my father’s brother in law Haoxeng Yang died from cancer around 9 p.m.. My parents didn’t tell me until the day after because I did not see him except for the times he came to watch me play on my drum set when I was little. But after they told me of his passing, I remembered the times I saw him watching me play, and what we talked about.

Whenever he came over he would ask what career I would pursue in the future. I would tell him that I didn’t know and that maybe while at college I would find out. He would just smile and nod.

Shaman Hmong funerals are held by Shamans who carry on the Hmong tradition of helping the deceased journey to the spirit world. During funerals, Shamans perform many rituals to scare off and repel evil spirits.

One common shaman practice performed uses the Qeej, a flute-like instrument which sends the spirit of the departed safely away to the afterlife. The first song played is referred to as “Showing the Way.”

Hmong people who believe in reincarnation use other methods at funerals. Most of these rituals are used to show the spirit that their reincarnations are always welcomed back into the family, and in the hopes that the deceased comes back into the family.

If someone passes away they must be kept at home for a few days to ensure that the spirit does not lose their way and wander the earth.Many other rituals are performed. Some involve visiting the spirit world to see past relatives and to honor the dead.

Death is a part of life, and it is a constant reminder of our human condition; we are not invincible. Whenever someone close to us passes away we think about the times we shared with that individual. The things we did, what we said, and how we lived.

For more opinions, read the March 5 article, Shantytown performance highlights Chinese New Year.

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