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This paper examines Hmong funeral beliefs and rituals as it is expressed in Laos, and as it is performed within the Hmong American communities in the United States. How has it changed from its traditional form? What particular beliefs and rituals changed? How has it remained the same? Most importantly, the underlying theme of this paper discusses and analyzes the symbolic meaning of the many rituals performed during the funeral process. Before analyzing the funeral process in length, I will, albeit briefly, discuss several significant conceptions of the Hmong beliefs of life and the afterlife to foreground the examination of changing of the Hmong funeral rituals.

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This envoy gives them the boy's family background and asks for the girl's in exchange. Before the new couple enters the groom's house, the groom's father performs a blessing ritual, asking the ancestors to accept the new bride into the household Lwm qaib.

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The head of the household moves the chicken in a circular motion around the couple's head. After three days or more, the groom's parents will prepare the first wedding feast for the newlywed couple hu plig nyab tshiab thaum puv peb tag kis. The wedding is usually a two-day process.

On the second day, the family of the bride prepares a second wedding feast at their home, where the couple will be married Noj tshoob. The bride price is compensation for the new family taking the other family's daughter, as the girl's parents are now short one person to help with chores the price of the girl can vary based on her value or on the parents.

The elders of both families negotiate the amount prior to the engagement and is traditionally paid in bars of silver or livestock.

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During the bride's time with the groom's family, she will wear their clan's traditional clothes. She will switch back to the clothes of her birth clan while visiting her family during the second day of the wedding. After the wedding is over, her parents will give her farewell presents and new sets of clothes.

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Before the couple departs, the bride's family provide the groom with drinks until he feels he can't drink anymore, though he will often share with any brothers he has. At this point the bride's older brother or uncle will often offer the groom one more drink and ask him to promise to treat the bride well, never hit her, etc.

Finishing the drink is seen as the proof that the groom will keep his promise. Upon arriving back at the groom's house, another party is held to thank the negotiator sthe groomsman and bride's maid tiam mej koob. During and post-wedding, there are many rules or superstitious beliefs a bride must follow.

Here are some examples:. In the 21st century, Hmong people who practice Christianity may follow traditional Hmong weddings; however, some rituals such as "lwm qaib" and "hu plig" are no longer practiced.

Some of them follow both traditional Hmong weddings and westernized weddings. When a husband dies, it is his clan's responsibility to look after the widow and children. If she chooses to marry an extended member from her deceased husband's clan, her children will continue to be a part of that clan.

If she chooses to remarry outside of her deceased husband's clan, her children are not required to stay with the clan unless a member of the clan usually the deceased husband's brother or a male cousin of the same last name is willing to take care of the children. This is mostly the practice today in many Western Nations.

If no one from the deceased husband's clan is willing to raise the children, they will follow their mother into her second marriage. Once the children go with their mother to be a part of their stepfather 's family, a spiritual ceremony may take place. The children can choose to belong to their stepfather's clan by accepting his surname, his family spirits, and relatives or they can choose to remain with their original clan the family, spirits, and relatives of their deceased father.

Often, regardless of the wishes of the mother or children, the clan would keep the son s. Polygamy is a form of marriage among the Hmong, it has been documented. It is rare among those Hmong who have migrated to Western nations.

Divorce was rare in traditional Hmong society, however it is becoming more prevalent in westernized Hmong communities.

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If a husband and wife decide to divorce, the couple's clans will permit a divorce but will evaluate the situation fairly. If just the husband wants to divorce his wife without any firm grounds, the husband will have to come up with some money to send the wife back to her family with all the daughters and the sons will stay with the husband, as the husband will be the one choosing to leave the household.

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By tradition, the man and the woman do not have equal custody of all the children. If it is determined the wife had committed adulterythe husband will receive custody of the sons, the bride price and an additional fine. However, if it is determined the husband had committed adultery or married a second wife and the wife can not continue being part of the family, she will have the option to leaving her husband without paying back the dowry.

If the husband allows it, she can take her children with her. If a divorced man dies, custody of any male children passes to his clan group. Traditional gender roles throughout Hmong society has changed throughout the dominance in China along with Confucianism.

Although the early Hmong had no real commitment to subordination of women, over time Confucian teachings were expanded upon. It was during the Han dynasty BCE - CE that Confucianism was adopted as the government's state doctrine in China, becoming part of official education. In later dynasties, Neo-Confucian interpretations further reinforced male authority and patrilineal customs.

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According to the Confucian structure of society, women at every level were to occupy a position lower than men. Most citizens accepted the subservience of women to men as natural and proper. At the same time they accorded women's honor and power as mother and mother-in-law within their family.

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There are traditional gender roles in Hmong society. A man's duty involves family responsibility and the provision for the physical and spiritual welfare of his family.

The body will be buried (not cremated) after what might be several days due to the Hmong belief that only one funeral may occur at a funeral home at a time. The Hmong believe that the souls remain close to the body after death and do not want dead persons' souls coinciding with one another. Background. The funeral is the most elaborate of all Hmong overall goal of the performed rituals is to guide the soul back to the placental jacket, or motherland, then to Heaven to ask for reincarnation. Description. After death, the body is bathed by the sons or daughters of the deceased while extended family members are notified and begin to travel to the home of the dead. Originally, Hmong funeral services lasted for 7 days. However, today they typically last 3 or 4 days. The body is embalmed so that weekend services can begin on Friday morning. Services last continually, 24 hours a day until Monday. Then on Monday, the body is buried.

Hmong men have a system for making decisions that involves clan leaders. Husbands may consult their wives if they wish before making major decisions regarding family affairs, but the husband is seen as the head of the household who announces the decision.

Hmong women are responsible for nurturing the children, preparing meals, feeding animals, and sharing in agricultural labor.

Traditionally, Hmong women eat meals only after the Hmong men have eaten first, especially if there are guests present in the house. Contemporary Hmong people cannot be characterized as subscribing to a single belief system. Missionaries to Southeast Asia converted many Hmong people to Christianity beginning in the 19th-century and many more have become Christian since immigrating from Southeast Asia to the West.

However, most Hmong people, both in Asia and the West, continue to maintain traditional spiritual practices that include shamanism, and ancestor veneration. These spiritual beliefs are combined with their beliefs related to health and illness. In traditional Hmong spiritual practices, one does not separate the physical well-being of a person from their spiritual health; the spiritual realm is highly influential and dictates what happens in the physical world.

According to these beliefs, everything possesses a spirit, both animate and inanimate objects. There is a delicate balance between these two worlds; thus the necessity to revere and honor the ancestors for guidance and protection.

Hmong Funeral Service Rituals

The spirits of deceased ancestors are thought to influence the welfare and health of the living. Individuals perform rituals which include the offering of food and spirit moneypouring libation, and burning incense to appease the spirits and earn their favor.

Role - the male head of the household does the worshipping of ancestral spirits. However, it is not surprising to find women also partake in this role. It is mainly to call upon the spirits of the house to protect the house.

Each person is thought to have 12 main souls. These souls must remain in harmony to remain healthy. Some souls have specific roles.

One of the 12 main souls is reincarnated after death while another main soul returns to the home of the ancestors. Another main soul stays near the grave of the deceased.

According to Hmong cosmology, the human body is the host for a number of souls. The isolation and separation of one or more of these souls from the body can cause disease, depression and death. The Hmong for dead body is rooj tuag. Find more Hmong words at! Hmong words for body include lub cev and cev. Find more Hmong words at!

The souls of the living can fall into disharmony and may even leave the body. The loss of a soul or souls poob plig can cause serious illness. The number of souls lost determines how serious the illness. A soul calling ceremony hu plig can be performed by shamanswhen the soul has been frightened away, within the community to entice the soul home with chanting and offerings of food.

Shamans perform rituals because they are the ones who have special access to go in contact with souls or spirits, or in other words, the otherworld. For soul calling, there are a couple of different ceremonies; One usually done by the head of the household and one by the shaman.

Usually, the head of the household would be the one to call the baby's soul home as a sign of welcoming it to their family.

However, that's not the end to the process of welcoming a new baby into their home. There is still the ritual the shaman must perform. The shaman performs this ritual, which usually happens a month or two after the baby is born, to notify the ancestors of the arrival of a new baby.

For followers of traditional Hmong spirituality, the shamana healing practitioner who acts as an intermediary between the spirit and material world, is the main communicator with the otherworld, able to see why and how someone got sick.

In ancient times, it is said that humans and the spirits used to live with each other. However, due to conflict between the two very different beings, the deity Saub had blinded the two from being able to see each other. Rituals, which serve as a treatment, might include herbal remedies or offerings of joss paper money or livestock. In cases of serious illness, the shaman enters a trance and travels through the spirit world to discern the cause and remedy of the problem, usually involving the loss of a soul.

This ritual ceremony, called " ua neeb ", consists of several parts. The first part of the process is "ua neeb Saib": examining the spiritual aura of the situation to determine what the factors are. If during ua neeb Saib the shaman observes something seriously wrong with the individual, such as a soul having lost its way home and caught by some spiritual being, the shaman will end the first part of the ceremony process by negotiating with the spiritual being "whoever has control of this individual soul" to release the soul; most of the time this will do.

After that, the shaman would lead the soul to its home. After a waiting period, if the sick individual becomes well, then the second part of the ceremony, referred to as ua neeb khowill be performed, in which joss paper is burned and livestock is sacrificed in exchange for the well-being and future protection of the individual's soul. Extended family and friends are invited to partake in the ceremony and tie a white string around the wrist khi tes of the individual.

The strings are blessed by the shaman and as each person ties it around the individual's wrist, they say a personalized blessing. Studies done within the Hmong American communities show that many Hmong continue to consult shamans for their health concerns. Domestic worshipping is usually also done in front of this. This wall paper altar serves as the main protector of the house.

It is the place, wherever a household decides to place it, where worshiping, offerings joss paper, animal, etc. In addition, Shamans also have their own personal altar that holds their special instruments and dag neeg. During a ritual, or when a shaman is under a trance, it is prohibited to walk between the altar and the shaman when the shaman in speaking directly with the otherworld.

Not everyone gets to become a shaman; they must be chosen by the spirits to become an intermediary between the spiritual realm and physical world.

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In Hmong shamanism, a shaman can be a man or a woman. Typically, there is a strong chance for an individual to become a shaman if their family history contains shamans. Usually the amount of time for a shaman to be done with training depends on the spiritual guardians that guide the shaman in the process of performing the rituals dag neeg. According to traditional Hmong beliefs, these symptoms are the result of shamanic spirits dab neeb trying to get through to the Shaman-to-be.

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For those that still practice Shamanism, they're able to recognize these symptoms and cure their loved ones by helping them develop into full fledged Shamans. For those that are blessed to become a Shaman and do not want to practice Shamanism, they often turn to Christian exorcismwestern medicine, and psych wards. For the few that accept becoming Shamans, it is considered an honor to help their own. In the Hmong community, shamans are highly respected.

Many Hmong still follow the tradition of taking herbal remedies. In Western funeral practices, ritual sacrifices do not take place at the site of the funeral services. It is appreciated and appropriate to prepare food for the family.

Hmong New Year celebrations have Hmong ethnic traditions and culture, and may also serve to educate those who have an interest in Hmong tradition. Hmong New Year celebrations frequently occur in November and December (traditionally at the end of the harvest season when all work is done), serving as a Thanksgiving holiday for the Hmong people. Nov 17,   Dimensions and Foundations of Hmong Death Rituals and Beliefs. Death for the Hmong and Hmong Americans is one of the most essential cts of their culture. To have a proper burial and ceremony is of great importance as this would guide the soul to the afterworld. Vincent K.

The family dresses the body in black and white clothing, avoiding colors like green and red which are thought to make the deceased ill. Specific shoes made of cloth are provided for the deceased. A chicken is often placed by the head. The spiritual significance of this practice is to provide a meal on the journey into the afterlife.

Hmong funeral services are considered the most sacred of the Hmong rituals. It may be months after death, however, before a Hmong funeral can be arranged. In the West, many Hmong rituals must be adapted for financial and cultural reasons. In some cases where the Hmong people have converted to Christianity, church services are held in lieu of other ritual practices. However, the mourning process still lasts for three days. You might be interested in our blog post about the funeral of Vang Pao who lead the Hmong of Laos from their farms and villages to fight the North Vietnamese and later helped resettle thousands of Hmong in California and the Upper Midwest of the United States.

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