Tran Thi Thuy Binh, University of Auckland
Spirit mediums of Dao Mau, a Vietnamese indigenous religion, have been officially required to suspend all of their religious activities with other religious practitioners for certain periods since 26 July 2020. The suspension for twice times has been applied with the aim to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in urban and rural communities in Vietnam. Although these mediums have worshipped similar deities and spirits, they have had different interpretation about the invisible response of deities and spirits. Some argue that humans did so much karma that deities and spirits caused the pandemic to threaten humans. They have organized ritual practices and pilgrimages in order to ask for the blessing of deities and spirits. Others propose that deities and spirits are so kind that they always protect their followers. Ritual activities increase the spread of COVID-19 when a number of cases being affected by coronavirus have not been identified. It might distort the image of Dao Mau as an evil religion and mediums as superstitious individuals. Dao Mau practitioners should pray by themselves rather than in a large group when it performs social responsibility of spirit mediums. In spite of different opinions, spirit mediums still show their respect with the acts and thoughts of others. Based on open-ended interviews with three mediums and online observation of 10 public social media accounts of Dao Mau’s practitioners, I argue that various interpretation of spirit mediums about thoughts of deities and spirits reflect Dao Mau’s tolerance with diversity and difference.
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