Việt Nam's worship of the Mother Goddesses has received UNESCO recognition as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.”
The UN Intergovernmental Committee made the official announcement at the 11th Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, from November 28 to December 2, 2016.
The news comes with much celebration from Việt Nam, including the ancestor worship community and scholars who have been advocating for the UNESCO recognition for many years. Việt Nam originally submitted the dossier in 2015 for “Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms” but the recognition was delayed until this year.
The worship of the Mother Goddesses in Việt Nam showcases the Vietnamese cultural heritage and the people's spiritual needs to honor their ancestors to safeguard a prosperous life. The spiritual practice also expresses a maternal affiliation toward the mother figure, perhaps reflecting on the matriarchal system that once existed in the country.
The Mother Goddesses of the Three Realms represent deities from heaven, water, and mountains and forests, and have been affiliated with real historical figures as well as mythical ones.
One key practice in the Mother Goddesses worship is lên đồng, a ritual in which the practitioner goes into a trance and assumes a particular deity in costume and dance to honor the Mother Goddesses. These practices are carried out daily in local ceremonies as well as at larger festivals and pilgrimages throughout the year.
Việt Nam houses 10 other UNESCO-recognized intangible cultural heritages, including Tugging rituals and games in 2015, Worship of Hùng kings in Phú Thọ in 2012, and Quan Họ Bắc Ninh folk songs in 2009.
Tune into Loa’s on-the-ground coverage of Điện Hòn Chén, one of the biggest spiritual festivals in Việt Nam for practitioners of the Mother Goddess Religion: A Look Inside - A Pilgrimage to Huế: Of Spirits, Rituals, and Trances.