"...The majority of people in Nabule are Buddhist and celebrate nat festivals but they do not keep nat statues to worship at their home.
‘We do believe and worship the village’s nat but now seeing Thai spirit houses in the area, it is like a guest is taking forced residence in our house. We do not want spirit houses in a religious Buddhist area like this. There is a possibility for cultural mixing and I am concerned about our culture being threatened by another culture’, said U Aung Ba, member of the Nabule Spiritual Group.
Nabule famous for it’s ancient religious sites has more than 2000 households and around 10,000 Buddhists. Local people are [majority] Tavoyan and Tavoyan is the main language spoken in the area.
In Thailand, it is common to see spirit houses at people’s residences, corporate buildings and mega shopping malls in the city. It is believed that worshiping and making offerings to spirits can bring luck to one’s occupation and business."
Transmission processes in the Burmese cult known as the cult of the Thirty-
Seven Lords are examined here through the analysis of three succession cases
among the ritual specialists of this cult. I seek to understand how transmission
works in a cult whose main ritual manifestation is spirit possession that
involves the logic of inspiration and vocation, rather than the logic of reproduction
and succession. A careful examination of contrasted cases reveals that
succession among spirit mediums, rather than obeying fixed rules, actually
involves the differentiated transmission of assets made of ritual property,
functions, positions, and knowledge. Various combinations -- of spirit possession
and affiliation or fictive kinship, of inspiration and tradition -- appear to
operate at different levels of the cult, with inversions of values sustaining both
its dynamics and its reproduction.
keywords: spirit possession--ritual specialists--transmission--succession--tradition
Benedicte Brac de la Perriere
"Asian Ethnology" Volume 68, Number 2, 2009 via The Free Library
This article illustrates the relationship between religion and political power
in a particular process of contemporary Burmese nation building. I highlight
the symbolic appropriation of a specific national territory through the mediation
of a spirit, and the recent building of a sanctuary in Arakan state by
the wife of a Burmese military officer posted in the region, an action that is
akin to concluding an agreement with a local spirit and then establishing the
foundation of central authority over a local population. It highlights a process
whereby the use of religion by the Burmese in the configuration of territory
is observed as a way of maintaining or legitimizing hegemony over the country's
marginal population groups. The article also shows how this process is
made possible thanks to a specific segment of the local Arakanese elite, perceived
to be the referring authority...
keywords: Arakan state--spirit cults--nation building--territory--
locality--authority and power--tradition
Alexandra de Mersan
Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture: "Asian Ethnology" Volume 68, Number 2, 2009
"A village celebrates its invisible rulers...
Text By Aung Lwin Oo and photos by Olivier Pin-Fat
Burma’s biggest nat festival takes place every August in the village of Taung Pyone, original home of two of the 37 original names in the nat pantheon.
For five days each year Taung Pyone village becomes a fairground.
Taung Pyone, 14 km north of Mandalay, has about 7,000 nat shrines, nearly 2,000 of them elaborate ones dedicated to the village’s famous sons—the brothers Shwe Phyin Gyi and Shwe Phyin Lay.
They are said to have been executed by the 11th century Pagan ruler King Anawrahta for failing to help in the construction of a chedi to enshrine Buddha relics. The story is kept alive today by the symbolic absence from the ancient chedi of two bricks which the two brothers were instructed to contribute..."
Ancient nat cult still rules in Burmese households...
The wedding announcement in a Burmese newspaper read like any other. But there was one startling discrepancy—the bridegroom was dead.
The bride, though, believed she was marrying someone who could support her as well as any living being. Her chosen partner was a nat, an influential member of the spirit world. She became a nat kadaw, or nat spouse.
Such “unions” are quite common in Burma, even though the country is devoutly Buddhist. As in neighboring Thailand, Theravada Buddhism exists happily enough alongside a widespread belief in the existence of a spirit world, and it’s commonly accepted that the Lord Buddha himself went through cycles of being a nat..."
"The cult of the 'Thirty-Seven Lords', known in Burma as the thirty-seven 'naq' is
commonly viewed as being a remnant of practices prevalent before Buddhicization, that is
to say, as superstitions having their origins in the obscure period predating the
establishment of Burmese civilization. This article will argue against this assumption and
will assert that this cult cannot be properly understood if it is not considered as a part of
the Burmese religious system still evolving with Buddhist society. The socio-religious
structure of the 'naq' cult shows that it is neither a pre-Buddhist remnant, nor is it
borrowed from India. Close analysis of the actual cult, of its legends of foundation, and of
the historical evidence, clearly shows that it is a construct of Burmese Buddhist kings or,
in other words, a produce of the localization of Buddhism in Burma..."
Benedicte Brac de la Perriere
Newsletter, Issue 25, International Institute for Asian Studies (Leiden)
directed by Lindsey Merrison – Burma, 86 minutes.
56 minute version also available.
video sale $225 rental $65
“Buddhism and nat worship are like mangoes and bananas”
"...Whether contending with a deceitful daughter-in-law, forecasting financial prospects for a tea
shop, or freeing a husband from government detainment, Friends in High Places reveals the
central role of nats and spirit mediums in alleviating the day to day burdens of modern