The Cult of Bà Chúa Xứ

NOTE: Today marks the beginning of the 5 day festival of the Vietnamese goddess Bà Chúa Xứ. In her honor I am reprinting my original post about her cult. —Jadi

To see the Mekong Delta on our own by boat proved complicated and required more time than we had. We signed on instead for a tour. We were lucky: only a young couple from Holland had signed up as well.

Travel by boat we did! We took long boats, short boats, boats powered by motors or by human arms. We visited floating markets and stumbled into a tourism promotion festival going on in Chau Doc.

For me the highlight was the festival for Bà Chúa Xứ, the Lady of the Realm on the border to Cambodia. The shrine to Bà Chúa Xứ houses the most important cult in southern Vietnam.

Temple entrance

We had the really good luck to visit Bà Chúa Xứ’s temple during the holiest period of the year. Her three-day festival starts at the beginning of the rainy season on the twenty-third day of the fourth lunar month.

The Lady of the Realm protects female entepreneurs (important in a country like Vietnam where women play a major role in small family businesses). Bà Chúa Xứ’s cult has a fascinating belief in both fecundity and the capacity of the goddess to multiply all that she touches — including money.

If you invoke Bà Chúa Xứ’s help, you must make a pilgrimage to thank your benefactress for her assistance. (She is remorseless to those who betray her favor!) Traditionally men need to spend 9 years making an annual pilgrimage, and 7 years are required of women.

In the courtyard before her temple, spirit money is burned in huge vats.

Spirit $2

Spirit $1

I wanted to make an offering inside the temple and decided to brave the crowds.

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I joined the slow moving throngs and we inched our way forward. All around me pilgrims carried tall flowers,

Pig 6

and men bore platters with decorated sacrifices of whole pigs on their shoulders.

Pig 5

Pig 4

Pig 3

Pig 2

Pig 1

People bought baskets filled with offerings of fruit,

Temple Offering

and still others carried lit sticks of incense, held high.

Entering the temple

The crowds were so thick that I was concerned someone would set my hair on fire!

Incense 1

Once I was inside the temple I managed to make my way up to Bà Chúa Xứ’s altar. Each day in progressive rituals her image is washed and cleaned. On this day, old women were changing her robes. I was unable to get close enough though, and made my offering later out in the (relatively) less-crowded courtyard.

The goddess originally resided on the top of Sam Mountain; her image is popularly thought to have grown from the stones of the landscape.

from the summit of Sam Mountain
from the summit of Sam Mountain, with the temple crowds just below

She wished to be worshipped and caused the locals to move her statue down to Vĩnh Tế village, where her temple still stands today.

I was surprised and moved to realize that her image had mass and strength rather than simple beauty. Some reports state that her statue is a female Shiva (Khmer). Other sources equate her with the queen Thien Y A Na (Cham), the goddess Tin Hau (Chinese), and the Lady Buddha (India). Bà Chúa Xứ is also named The Black Lady, and I see a likeness to Christianity’s Black Madonna.

Bà Chúa Xứ is a powerful deity protecting and bestowing prosperity on her people in the Mekong Delta. In such a fertile area it makes sense to believe in a benevolent, generous goddess.

U&J Temple Entrance

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. More pictures from our trips to Vietnam and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Chùa Hương, The Perfume Pagoda

NOTE: The extended festival of Northern Viet Nam’s Perfume Pagoda begins today, the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar. In honor of this sacred Buddhist site and holiday here is my original post. —Jadi

On our first visit to Vietnam we booked a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda. [1] The Perfume Pagoda is a major Buddhist pilgrimage destination. The Huong Mountains contain fertility and agricultural cults, too.

The name Perfume Pagoda really refers to a number of shrines on – and in – the mountaintop. The most important temple is the Perfume Temple found inside Huong Tich Cave. It’s northern Viet Nam’s holiest site and the setting for the country’s most important and longest religious holiday.

The fest starts in the middle of the first lunar month (February 15) and runs from February to April. Hundreds of thousands of worshippers make the trek to present offerings at the mountain’s shrines and temples. At the high point of the festival, peak traffic will back up for as long as 8 hours on the Yen Vi River.

While the entire trip can be made by road, we took the water route. Reaching the site involved a two hour taxi ride to the pier located 70 km southwest of Hanoi in My Duc Town, a boat trip being rowed for two hours on the shallow Yen Vi River to the base of the pilgrimage site, and finally a two-hour hike up into the limestone Huong Mountains.

For the taxi ride we traveled with our guide on one of Viet Nam’s first highways. As you can see in Uwe’s photograph, the traffic on this main artery a decade ago was nothing like what we’re used to seeing in America and Europe.

Autobahn traffic
Autobahn traffic
Boat launch at Bến Đục
Boat launch at Bến Đục

A young woman rowed us upriver. 12700_V_10_15_82The boatwomen at Bến Đục (Duc Pier) make enough money to support their families, and are chosen by lottery.

We made our slow way past rice paddies and limestone peaks. 11900_V_10_15_74

Fishermen in impossibly tiny boats balanced, standing, as they shocked the water with weak electricity to stun the fish they collected in the bottoms of their flat vessels.

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After disembarking we hiked 4 kilometers straight up.

Beginning the pilgrimage up the mountainside.
Beginning the pilgrimage up the steps

Good shoes are needed as the path is steep in places and the stone stairs are slippery if it’s been raining! The landscape is lush, and the spectacular views are worth the strenuous hike.

Taking a break
Taking a break on the hike up the mountain

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The Huong Mountains are rich in myths and legends. One story relates how a Buddhist monk came here to meditate in solitude two thousand years ago. Another legend tells the story of the Perfume Pagoda’s Quan Am or Guan Yin. [2] A stone at Phat Tich temple contains her preserved footprint.

It’s believed that the Buddha stopped at the Giai Oan temple to wash. Pilgrims clean their faces and hands in the Long Tuyen Well to wash away past karmas.

But older deities are present. Cua Vong shrine is where believers make offerings to the Goddess of the Mountains. And inside the holiest of holies, the cave’s stalactites are sought out for blessings.

Entrance to Huong Tich grotto
Entrance to Huong Tich grotto

Once we reached the cave, we descended back down 120 wide stone steps to the Huong Tich Grotto, which translates as ‘traces of fragrance’.

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We entered the cave, whose opening is a dragon’s mouth. Inside Chua Trong (Inner Temple), our guide positioned himself underneath a stalactite and tried to catch a drop of moisture on his tongue.

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The stalactites grant good fortune. Pilgrims through the ages have named them: Basket of Silkworms, Boy Stone, Buffalo, Cocoon, Girl Stone, Nine Dragons Compete For Jewels, Pig, Rice Mound, Gold & Silver Mound, and the Mother’s Milk Stone.

Couples wishing for offspring gather under the Boy and Girl Stones; those wanting prosperity seek out drops from the stalactites hanging from the ceiling that grant abundance and wealth. The Perfume Pagoda Festival is considered an auspicious time and place to find a mate, and is the starting point for lots of successful romances.

At the time we visited, the remote northern region had just gotten electricity. And as our boat headed back down the Yen Vi we passed by boats bringing materials to build a new pier even further upriver. [3]

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NOTES: [1] This excursion instantly became one of my favorite trips of all time. [2] Guan Yin is the bodhisattva (usually female) associated with the quality of compassion. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being who delays Nirvana, staying behind to assist others in finding enlightenment. The Guan Yin of the Perfume Pagoda is identified with Dieu Thien, the third daughter of Dieu Trang, King of Huong Lam. She refused to marry, wishing to spend her time in prayer instead. [3] An ingenious way to transport the needed materials to the site!

© Jadi Campbell 2017. My post The Cult of Bà Chúa Xứ is scheduled to post. Go there after May 5th to read about south Viet Nam’s most sacred shrine. More pictures from our trips to Vietnam and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de. 

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

 

You Rang?

Passion Red Stock Photography Passion Red Stock Photography Passion Red Stock Photography Passion Red Stock Photography

NOTE: This is one of my all-time favorite posts. It combines love, memory, and a goodly dose of laughing at myself. Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all!!!

When I was in high school I dated a guy who was a good friend. I’ll call my friend Joe.  We drove the back roads in Joe’s car and partied with our friends. We laughed a lot.

I was shocked to go back for a high school reunion and learn that Joe had died. Too many cigarettes and alcohol; his heart gave out and he simply fell over dead. I had hoped he’d be at the reunion to say hello and yes, share a drink and a laugh again.

Sleep well, Joe.

Winters in upstate New York start early and go on forever. In February, the ground is still frozen and covered with snow. In February, tulips and bluebells, snow drops and crocuses are wishful thinking. Baby, it’s cold outside!

Back then I had a ratty old bathrobe. It was a quilted white thing with a floral pattern. The buttons fell off one by one and I never bothered to sew them back on. I just belted the robe tighter around my waist.

One lazy morning I woke late and took a shower. In those days I thought I could tame my curly hair, and washing it always involved a tedious process of destroying it afterwards on hot curlers. Believe me, I know how counter-intuitive it sounds!

It took an hour for my hair to dry this way, so I decided to give myself a face mask. No sense in getting dressed yet. When I pulled on my robe I saw it had lost another button. About two and a half buttons were left, the third one hanging literally by a thread.

I put on big fuzzy pink slippers and went downstairs to get a cup of coffee.

As I headed back through the house the doorbell rang. Whoever was waiting there spotted me. There was nothing I could do but go and answer the door.

I opened the door and … it was Joe. He took in the sight of the racoon mask of cracking green mud, my hair up in 15 spiky hot rollers, the psychedelic dead animal lookalikes on my feet and that rag of a robe.

I decided to brazen it out. I pulled the belt tighter and leaned against the door jamb. I raised an arm above my head. I struck a vamp pose: Domestic Goddess, in Disguise. “You rang?” I asked.

He smiled. “This is for you. Happy Valentine’s Day!” And with a flourish he held out a single long-stemmed red rose.

Sweet Joe: he’d gone out and gotten a long stemmed red rose for his mother, his sister, Long Stem Rose

and me.

I’ve looked better at every other Valentine’s Day (and no, I have not looked worse!). But I’ve seldom gotten a red rose that means more.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE!!

Passion Red Stock Photography Passion Red Stock Photography Passion Red Stock Photography Passion Red Stock Photography

(Photos courtesy of dreamstime.com)

NOTE: © Jadi Campbell.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Christmas Markets

It’s time again for the Weihnachtsmärkte. Stuttgart’s Christmas Market runs from 29 November to 23 December. Uwe and I always go to drink a glühwein with friends. You should, too!

The Christmas Market began as a short winter market. [1] Europe has held seasonal markets for centuries. Vienna, Austria’s Dezembermarkt dates all the way back to 1294/1296. But a Weihnachtsmarkt is special, and signals the beginning of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. This tradition is found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Alsace region of France. [2]

The Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt

Medieval guilds tightly controlled who could produce or sell wares, so each city market was unique and had a distinct, regional flavor. This remains true today. At a German Christmas Market, you’ll find these items for sale at open-air booths:

  • Tin, blown glass, wooden, and straw ornaments
  • Round wooden presses or molds for cookies known as Springele
  • Nutcrackers
  • Gebrannte Mandeln (candied toasted almonds)
  • Magenbrot and Lebkuchen gingerbread (Lebkuchen is often sold in beautiful and reusable decorative tins)
  • Eierpunsch (eggnog)
  • Candles

  • Clothes, including hand knit hats and gloves and scarves
  • Hot sausages and
  • Glühwein: a magical drink of mulled wine served from huge brass vats, with a shot of liquor added if you want to get extra-warm [2]

Our city of Stuttgart’s Weihnachtsmarkt is famous for its decorated booth roofs.

The market attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors each year! Tour busses pull up and unload shoppers from all over Europe. The Weihnachtsmarkt takes over several piazzas downtown; the 3x weekly Wochenmarkt for fresh produce and flowers moves to the Königstraße, the main pedestrian street.

A huge carousal, lit up and spinning
This larger-than-life nutcracker eats a constantly revolving nut

I try to go a couple times each year. I head for the weekly market for fruits and vegetables and then meet a friend for a Bratwurst and a Glühwein. Or I arrange to meet Uwe after work.

We wend our way through rows of booths, enjoying hearing so many different languages along with the local Schwäbisch dialect.

Stuttgart’s Christmas Market

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2017. Last photo courtesy of Wikipedia; all other photos © Jadi Campbell 2017. [1] Also called Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, or Christkindlmarket. [2] The tradition has since spread to Romania, England, and other countries. [3] Nothing is worse than a glass of hot Glühwein if the weather refuses to get properly cold. It’s just, wrong, on too many levels….[4]

NOTES on NOTES: [4] ….and nothing is better than a starry winter night, a hot mug of Glühwein, snow gently falling as you stand with your sweetie, the sounds of talk and laughter of other Weihnachtsmarkt visitors all around you as carolers sing in the courtyard of the 16th century castle across the plaza. Prosit, und Fröhe Weihnachten!

Go to my earlier post A Guy Goes to a Christmas Market to read an excerpt set in the Stuttart Weihnachtsmarkt. Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_market

http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.htm

http://www.german-way.com

http://www.christkindlmarktleavenworth.com

 

 

Happy Halloween!

NOTE: In 2012, this was one of my very first posts when I began these Adventures in Blogging…. Happy Halloween to my readers everywhere! 

In the early 1960s Mom had three small girls and was the leader of a troop of Brownie Scouts. My mother was a sucker for holidays, and she loved Halloween. From personally answering the door with big bowls of apples and candy (both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ treats) she progressed to dressing up as a witch in cape and hat. We had a Walt Disney “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” record that played over and over in the background. Mom began to dye her face and hands a rather convincing green. She perfected a witch’s cackle and would slowly open the front door to a dark living room. The yarn cobwebs and paper skeletons hanging from the ceiling then became visible in the lights from the candles.

Needless to say, our house became cult. Little kids (and their parents, who discovered it had to be seen to be believed) saved our house for last to visit on the trick-or-trick circuit. We ended up having to buy lots more apples and candies every year as the number of visitors grew.

Mom was always slightly hoarse and had a sickly green-y pallor for days after that holiday. Green food coloring does not wash off easily….

I wish I had some pictures from those days but this one will have to suffice. As a massage therapist I have a (not-real) skeleton standing in my treatment room as a visual aide. Each year on October 31st I set him in a window backlit by candles, to honor my mother and all the dead.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

© Jadi Campbell 2012.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

J’aime la Vie

No, the hotel walls aren’t an optical illusion. They’re the colors of the French flag

I’m a girl who moved to the damp Pacific NW from upstate NY, where it can snow in April. When Uwe and I first fell in love, it was springtime in Europe. Flowers bloomed everywhere, the sun shone, we sat at outdoor tables in cafés holding hands… Mid-April and I’m in a t-shirt drinking wine at lunch with my sweetie ? Now this is the life!

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was falling in love with a way of life, too.

It’s twenty-five years later and I’m still here. I remain in love with the way of life. But we joke that if the weather had been different I might not have been so quick to agree to stay. Some years it snows here in April, too. On April 18 & 19, it came down hard and then melted.

Possible snow showers are in this week’s forecast.

Snow flakes and a cloud bank coming our way

But two weeks ago we were in Paris and the temperature hit 22° C (71° F). Everywhere the trees and flower beds were in bloom, and yes, we sat at outdoor cafés…

We made a day trip to Amiens’ magnificent cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in France. I was excited to discover that Amiens contains one of the few labyrinths still in existence. [1]

While I wait for the weather to decide if it really is springtime, I’m enoying the photos from the City of Lights.

Paris remains the most satisfying of cities.

It doesn’t matter if I’m in Paris for the art, the food, the shops, or the French way of life. Paris appeals to all of my senses. Whenever I’m there I fall right back in love with being alive. J’aime la vie!

I lost my head for love. I wonder what his story was

NOTES: We took the direct fast train from Stuttgart. In 3 hours, we were in Paris. [1] Go to my earlier post Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres to read about another labyrinth and the glory that is Chartres. © Jadi Campbell 2017. To see  Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

What a Year!

2016 was the Year of the Monkey. Wong Tai Sin Medicine Temple, New Territories, China

I’m a little slow sometimes. I recently realized that my new-and-improved wordpress website jadicampbell.com had a birthday in January and is now a year old. (Yes, I’m aware it’s already March!) So, what did I do with a year of blogging?

My usual bounce of topics around the world….

If you want humor, dance to the world’s oldest Beatles cover band in A Boogie With the Bootlegs and survive a terrible trip at The H(ot)ell in Dubrovnik. Mess with the wedding caterers in You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too and listen in as I gleefully confess to embarrassing my long-suffering spousal unit in The Honeymooners. Attend an office party that goes south with a whole lot of alcohol in Holiday Insurance 1 & 2.

I weighed in on current events with both outrage and compassion: Ending the Year Pregnant with Hope, Our House is on Fire, Outrage, Role Models and Positive Acts, and my continued thread on refugees The Long Haul. Helping Refugees: Part 5, 6 & 7.

Last summer I lost my mother-in-law, an old friend, and my dad Bobbo, all within a shocking three-month period. Those were by far the hardest posts to write. But I discovered something: the most personal blog essays are the ones my readers (i.e., all of you) respond to most.

Phew. And, thank you for your comments regarding Breath, Loss and Remembering How to Feel.

I wrote seasonal posts about Christmas Holiday Insurance 1 & 2, A Guy Goes to a Christmas Market…, the Hindu Nandi Purnima in Holy CowsBazaar/Bizarre, watching the World Cup from The H(ot)ell in Dubrovnik, and the (in)famous Oregon Country Fair.

Somewhere last year I managed to finish and publish a new novel, Grounded. Here are excerpts: Holiday Insurance 1 & 2, Holy Cows and Bazaar/Bizarre, The Reluctant Pilgrim, Save the Recriminations, History’s Loop 1, 2, & 3.

I took part in wonderful projects with NEAT (New English American Theater) involving Gershwin 1 & 2 and The Vagina Monologues.

I wrote about Nature’s waterfalls and snakes.

As always, I blogged about places we’ve visited on this incredible planet. Hong Kong, Laos markets & waterfalls, Hampi, India here and twice again in The Reluctant Pilgrim & Bazaar/Bizarre; Croatia and (the bus) to Canada.

2017 is the Year of the Rooster! Wong Tai Sin Medicine Temple, New Territories, China

What you can look forward to in the Year of the Rooster: a huge blog thread for my father Bobbo that I’m calling The Animal Kingdom. Occasional notes about my volunteer work with refugees. Lots more quirky posts about places Uwe and I visit. And on-going musings about life, the Universe and everything in-between as I deepen the process of saying goodbye to those who have left.

May you find something here that makes you laugh, creates a spark of connection, and moves you enough so that you reenter your own life with a sense of touching upon mine. That would make the new year of blogging – and all the years to come – worthwhile. As Mae West says, “Come on up, I’ll tell your fortune.” [1]

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I’m now posting once a week!

NOTES: [1] Quoted in She Done Him Wrong (1933). Photo of Mae West courtesy of Worth1000.com at http://jeanrojas.tripod.com/ Copyright © 2017 Jadi Campbell. Photos Copyright © 2012 Uwe Hartmann or Jadi Campbell. More of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.