Shaman and Healing Cloths
Shaman ( “ phaa phi mon ” ) and healing cloths ( “ phaa sabai ” ) are shawls that are break and used by a shaman during any of a variety of healing rituals – from curing a physical wound, disease, or a mental illness to protecting a newly born child or performing a richness ceremony. The shaman, which can be of either gender, follow a complex custom that includes elements of Buddhism, ancestor worship, and animism. Healing rituals are basically performed to chase out bad spirits and return the ill person ‘s own spirit binding into their body. Discussed below are the shaman and curative clothes specific to the Tai Daeng people, a larger heathen group in Houaphon Province in northeast Laos. Many other cultural groups in Laos and northerly Vietnam have similar designs and ritual .
“Phaa Phii Mon” (Shaman’s Shawl)
The “ phaa phii mon ” shaman cloths are used entirely by Tai Daeng shaman for ritualistic curative. These hand-spun, naturally-dyed silk shawls have colored, close geometric designs, and it is unmanageable to pick out an obvious design without study. however, buried in the mirror-image patterns are figures designed to help connect with the ancestor spirits – the source of shamanist power. These figures include : spirit boats, which transport the shaman ‘s spirit to the world of the ancestors ; fabulous creatures, such as two-headed crested river dragons, elephant-birds, pregnant serpents, and spirit birds ; and plant patterns, including flower, sow, hook shot, and fern designs. See motifs for more data. They range from 16-20 in. wide ( 40-50 centimeter ) and are 40-60 in. long ( 110-160 curium ). Some “ double-wide ” shaman cloths ( 32-36 in. wide ( 80-90 centimeter ) ) may be bordered with plain cotton and used as a ceremony marriage blanket. Either size makes a stunning shawl !
The “ phaa sabai ” healing cloths are used by both shaman and ordinary people, and use a combination of tinge and design for their powerful healing auspices.
The building complex geometric patterns hide the fabulous figures from the evil spirits which are causing injury. Through dancing and tone, the shaman calls upon the spirits of the ancestors to release the power of these hidden figures which then chase the bad spirits from the infected consistency or seat .
Patricia Cheesman writes :
” The symbolism of the textile was a nerve pathway, with the brawny box of river dragons, spirit birds, and crested river dragons to chase out evil spirits and send them to the early end of the fabric, which had cosmetic bands representing a ladder. It was besides a pathway for the soul of ill persons to return to their body, and for the helpers of the shaman to come from the spirit universe. ”
The “ phaa phi mon ” shaman ‘s cloths are woven in discontinuous auxiliary woof design : in one course of woof ( the leave to right threads ), in accession to the basal woof thread, extra threads are added to create the radiation pattern in which the thread changes each time the color changes. If, in one woof course, the color changes 20 times, the artist manually weaves 20 spools of thread through a hand-pick form to create the specific design. broadly, there over 40 rows of woof per column inch, and there is no plain, central, solid-colored section. This detail, time-consuming weave process takes up to four months ; this is time spent in summation to raising the silkworms, spinning the thread, gathering the natural dyes, making the dyes, and dying the threads. Designs and colors used change by greenwich village and region based upon traditions and the weaver ‘s artistic feel .
Sukavit modeling her man-woman healing cloth in Houaphon Province, Laos.
Weaver in Houaphon Province, Laos, showing her shaman cloth with Siho and Naga patterns.
Weaver in Houaphon Province, Laos, with her shaman cloth with lantern patterns.
“Phaa Phii Mon” (Shaman’s Shawl)
The “ phaa sabai ” healing cloths are used by both shaman and ordinary people, and use a combination of color and design for their herculean bring around security. These hand-woven, naturally-dyed silk shawls, normally woven with a bright-red backdrop, have complex supplementary woof details woven on either end of the fabric, with a center sphere of a single, unadorned color. One end of the fabric has a lozenge-shaped diamond, normally red on white, in either the “ lantern ” model filled with flower, fern, seed, and other geometric patterns, or a “ box of river dragons ” convention with the heads of the “ naga ” ( fabulous river serpents ) in the convention. On either side of the rhombus is a band of fabulous creatures, including elephant-birds, “ hong ” birds, or dragons. The face-to-face end of the healing cloths includes ladder-like cosmetic bands of flower, animal, shuttlecock and early motifs. “ Phaa sabai ” are normally 16-20 in. across-the-board ( 40-50 centimeter ), and range in duration from 40-85 in. ( 110-230 centimeter )
Another type of healing fabric is the “ man-woman mend fabric, ” with each end of the shawl containing an identical diamond-shaped design, but with unique color. The “ man ” side is of one discolor with a small motley lozenge in the middle ; the “ charwoman ” side is brilliantly motley ( rumor has it that charwoman are more complex than men, and therefore the glare ). “ Man-Woman ” healing cloths are peculiarly stunning !
The Tai Daeng weavers in NE Laos, as they have for generations, hush insist on raising their own silk and creating their own 100 % -natural dyes.
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Healing cloths are used in healing ceremonies, and are besides used in ceremony to foster a healthy future for the village or crops. They may be worn by the therapist, or the ill person, or even laid in the garden depending on the alone traditions of that village and the type of healing that is being sought. Each cultural group, sub-group, valley, and even individual villages often have unique styles of weaving and ritual to express their spiritual lives and needs ; even individual weavers have input as to a healing cloths ‘ design elements and color .
Shaman besides wear and use many other extra ceremony items : hats, belts, knives, tassels, staves, masks, and melodious instruments such as bells and cymbals. Please see our veranda section on Spiritual Art for examples of these ritual items .
Tai Daeng Textiles and the Broader Market
The interest of Phaa Phii Mon and Phaa Sabai in the small but developing broader market has allowed the artistic talent and voice of these extraordinary Tai Daeng weavers to supersede the narrower needs of the traditional village shaman and therapist. For exercise, alternatively of the traditional red background color, a weaver may now choose warp, woof, and supplementary colors that play to her creative eye and spirit. Artists are freer to make elusive modifications to design elements or variations to dyes, or they may “ borrow ” a motif from a adjacent tradition. indeed, a ceremonial blanket, minus its traditional apparent hemp boundary line, now finds a newly commercialize as a stun opera shawl .
The Tai Daeng weavers in NE Laos, as they have for generations, hush insist on raising their own silk and creating their own 100 % -natural dyes. They hush weave on wood-frame, hand-built looms, and their artistic expression is hush closely married to their traditional motifs and spiritual values. Most even live in traditional small villages and adhere to their animist and Buddhist traditions. But the broader market for these textiles has empowered the Tai Daeng to more highly value the time exhausted lift, weaving, and dying silk. The fabric arts immediately can help support a village financially, a well as maintain the traditional arts and beliefs. In summation, because women are normally the textile creators, this market acts to empower women both within their own greenwich village and in the larger business global .
We have visited many cultural groups and villages throughout SE Asia who had rich textile traditions until two or three generations ago. synthetic materials, chemical dyes, and access to factory-made western dress have proven excessively big a convenience for all but those cultures, like the Tai Daeng, with strong traditions tied to their textiles and the understanding to reach a commercialize that can support the huge investment of time and endowment .
Some older cloths that have seen authentic ritual use can be found, more much in an urban denounce catering to collectors. They are rarely in commodity condition and may command a high price. Above the Fray does not seek antiques and culturally meaning rarities ; Lao and Vietnamese customs strictly and appropriately prohibit the export of such items. We occasionally are privilege to gain older pieces allowed for export as would be noted in the token ‘s description. The “ Museum-Quality ” and “ ceremony Objects ” galleries may besides include older textiles .
Ancestor spirit on the back of a Siho (elephant-lion) with hong bird and flower designs.
Siho (elephant-bird) pregnant with a Naga (mythical river serpent – look for the triangular head and s-shaped body).
Tai Daeng Textiles at Above the Fray
Above the Fray travels immediately to the weavers in thehill tribe region to obtain our survival of textiles. thus, we can select the best of the newest creations equally well as often obtain a photographic record of the person whose time, endowment and imagination created that fabric. Often we can call ahead of our arrival, allowing weavers the opportunity to “ hold back ” the late best creations for our perusal and leverage. [ The weavers otherwise normally distribute their pieces for commitment sales in Laos ‘ tourist and business centers, and some pieces move on to boutiques in Singapore, Tokyo, and Paris. ]
phonograph needle to say, the friendships and warmth that these talented people have offered our family has been our deep enrichment. We are grateful for their cordial reception and trust. Our blog introduces some of these talented artists and their villages ampere well as shares stories of our relationships with them .
Our ongoing, personal relationship with artists has allowed Above the Fray to uniquely represent some of the earth ‘s finest-quality silk textiles. You will find these pieces on our gallery pages on this site and at our “ Fine Silks and Tribal Art ” Events .