The religion of the Pai Yao
The religion of the Pai Yao
The Pai Yao living in Liannan County believe that the world is populated by a multitude of spirits that they roughly divide into big and small spirits. According to their behavior regarding human beings, they are classified also as good or evil spirits. All these spirits originated in the human and animal world; because they think that after a person or an animal dies his soul will become a spirit. If the dead were a good person the spirit will be a good one and a bad one if he was bad. Sometimes if a good person suffers a bad death or a death that is the result of an injustice, his soul can become a bad spirit.
In this world full of spiritual beings the most important for the Pai Yao are their ancestor spirits, who can protect the people of his own family. The cult of the ancestors, and especially of King Pan, their mythical ancestor, is, therefore, the most important belief of the Pai Yao. In their temples, where they worship and pray to the good spirits, King Pan is unfolded in Pangu Emperor and Pangu Empress, both considered to be their ancestors.
Among the evil spirits there are four main types:
– The four brothers and sisters: They were the first people among the Pai Yao. During their lives they did many bad things, stealing pigs and cows. So after their dead, they become evil spirits.
– The 24 devils of the temple.
– The third kind of evil spirits are the spirits that become evil after an extraordinary death, as those who died before being born or killed by a tiger or a snake.
– Epidemic spirits are the souls of the people that die by cause of an epidemic disease.
The good spirits must be honored during their main festivals. If not, they can become bad. The bad spirits can cause sickness to the people, who will go to visit the sorcerer (xiangsheng gong or wushi) to be cured. He will first divine the size of the spirit to know if it is a big or a small one and make the opportune sacrifice.
Religious specialists and shamans
They have a great number of religious specialists, usually one in every five families. They had not given up the agricultural activities but, due to the fact that their status and income was only a little better than the common people, many young Pai Yao wanted to become sorcerer and to study under an old one.
They have another religious specialist called laomiangong in their language whose activities are closely related to shamanic experiences. People call the laomiangong when the sickness cannot be healed by the sorcerer, to determine which spirit is causing this illness. After arriving at the sick person’s home he starts to shake and tremble and finally faints to the floor, a sign that he is already in the shadows world, where he will search for the culprit to this illness.
They have many religious activities, mainly related to the yearly cycle and the life cycle, and also with extraordinary events in the life of the individual or de community.
Based in the report of Li Feng and Si Tujing Nangang.- Pai Yao shehui diaocha (Researches on the society of the Pai Yao in Nangang) In Liannan Yaozu zizhixian yaozu shehui diaocha (Researches on the Yao society of Liannan Yao Autonomous County). Guangdong Peoples Press. 1987
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