Dogs and Snakes in the Lahu Spiritual and Daily Life

Lahus have several myths that focus on the contributions of dogs to human life. In one of them, the ancestor of the Lahu was fed with the milk of a female dog (not unlike the she-wolf story of the founders of ancient Rome). In another myth, similar to stories told by other minorities, dogs delivered the five important grains to the human beings. If somebody eat dog meat, they must wait three days and change clothes before entering into a Lahu village. On New Year, before they eat their first meal, the Lahu feed their dogs first. The importance given to dogs is perhaps also related to how important dogs are for hunting.

For the Lahu, every 12th day is serpent day. The Lahu follow the Chinese calendar of 12 animals, using them to naming days and hours as well as years in a cycle. Serpent day is the equivalent of Sunday or the sabbath. On this day the Lahu don't work, nor do they leave their house or village. This is to commemorate Zhanuzhapie’s death. Zhanuzhapie was a hero in the Lahu mythology, who trusting in his strength, disobeyed the orders of Esha (the main Lahu god). Zhanuzhabie was a strong man. One day Esha ask him why not offer part of his crops as a sacrifice. Zhanuzhabie answered that he could worked his fields by himself, so he didn't need the help of the gods. This answer enraged Esha, then the disasters were sent to Zhanuzhapie one after other, until he was killed. Lahu people don't work on Zhanuzhapie's death day out of fear of irritating Esha and to avoid a disaster.

The importance given snakes is also manifested in two Lahu beliefs: 1) If a snake enters a home, Lahu believe it is a soul returned home; 2) If they find a snake blocking the road, they come back home immediately. Pedro Ceinos Arcones wrote in Ethnic China: “The snake represents a force that can not be understood, a beast that come from the realm of the hidden world. Its presence at home is tolerated as a strange circumstance, and is considered a spiritual phenomena. Its presence blocking the way is an unavoidable sign that the spirits consider the journey must not be continued."

Some say that Lahu name means "those who eat roast tiger". On Tiger Day the Lahu don't sow seeds and don't plough. Chickens also have an important symbolic meaning to the Lahu. They usually receive their guests with a chicken, but it can not be a white chicken which means that the host doesn't want to have relations with the guest. Ox and Sheep days are not considered auspicious. Horse, Sneak, Tiger, Rabbit, Pig and Roaster days are considered suitable to start the New Year.

All the photos are from the web and the copyright retains with the original author. If there is any problem, please contact us.
You Might Also Like
Residence of LahusResidence of LahusThe houses of the Lahus are quite similar in style and structure to those of the Dai. The size of the house varies according to the size of the family, from smaller houses, which accommodate four or five people, to large...
Lahus Marriage and Wedding CustomsLahus Marriage and Wedding CustomsMost marriages are monogamous. Traditionally, boys marry when they are 16 or 17 and girls marry when they are 13 or 14. Young people are given a fair amount of freedom in choosing their partners as long as they are not...
Lahu People Like Spicy FoodLahu People Like Spicy FoodThe Lahus like spicy food. They have a saying that goes "cooking without chili is the same as cooking without oil". Rice and corn are the staple grains, and Lahu eat two meals daily, but they also eat smaller amounts of...
New Year Festival of the Lahu peopleNew Year Festival of the Lahu peopleThe main festivals of the Lahu people include the Lahukuzha Festival, Torch Festival, New Rice Festival, Duane Festival and others. The Lahukuzha Festival is the New Year Festival of the Lahu people. It...