Caroline, the other intern in the office, is leaving at the end of next week. Before people go in big trips, it’s part of a Lao tradition to have a Bawsee. Lao people also do them altering buying a new car or house, having a baby, getting married, or anything along those lines of importance. The one, at least for me, that doesn’t fit is traveling. At first I thought okay, maybe it’s because Lao people don’t travel too often, so it’s a bigger deal for them then it is for me. Then, I found out it’s because they believe that when someone travels they lose their guardian spirits and the Bawsee ceremony reunites your body with all of its spirits.
The ceremony comes from ancient times and has traces of Animism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditional religions. Part of the ceremony is done in Pali, so a special person is needed in order to read those lines correctly.
Here are some pictures from the one with Caroline.
This is the actual ceremony part. They put a big pile of flowers in the middle and have offerings on the little table under the flowers. The offerings include bananas, fried sticky rice, freshly boiled chicken, beer, and an assortment of locally made sweets. Then as the person does the chanting, everyone grabs the table in the middle. If they can’t reach the table, they will touch the person in front of them. Generally the other hand, that isn’t connected to the alter, is put in prayer position at the persons heart.
After the chanting part is over, everyone gets up to tie little white strings around the person’s wrist who needs the blessings. As they tie it the person should use their free hang that isn’t being tied to put into prayer position at their heart. The person tiring the string is supposed to say some kind of blessing. I generally use which ever language the person so least familiar with and mumble a lot. I’m not too good at that part. As you can see in the picture, the reality is that everyone want to tie it all at the same time so often times both of the persons hands are occupied and you can’t hear any of the individual blessings anyway.
After the Bawsee, tables are set up and then we have the same kind of party Lao people have in every situation. It basically consists of a long table with community food all down the middle and lots of beer. After about an hour some of the tables are cleared and the Kareokee and dancing starts.
It was definitely a fun night, spent with good people. A good way to break up a busy workweek.