Len Dong Ceremony — Vietnamese Spiritual Medium — A Cultural Phenomenom
A Len Dong ceremony can be held at any time but it is usually timed to coincide with a festival or anniversary or birthday, and it is usually performed in a temple or pagoda. Each Len Dong includes a number of artistic elements, such as music, singing, dance and the use of costumes.
The medium asks for permission from Buddha to perform the ritual. Once permission is granted he/she begins to incarnate many different spirits. The medium has two assistants to assist him/her in changing costumes to match the particular spirit being incarnated at the time. Each costume more elaborate and beautiful than the one before! The medium goes through many different types. Some are soft and gentle, some are loud and bullying, some are great singers or dancers, some are very stern and foreboding, others are really funny or generous. One of the spirits the medium I saw seems to have incarnated must have been a rich uncle. He started throwing money to the crowd which drew many of the older locals in to watch and collect some of the monies.
It is real money—not monopoly money—it is a great, fun way to interact with the locals, and provides a really interesting and coveted souvenir to bring back with you. Each guest was helping the other to collect more money. Our particular medium was very theatrical in his incarnations, and his many costumes were simply fabulous! Whether a believer or not, it does not matter. Participating in a Len Dong is a warm and wonderful connection with the locals.
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