Laos Baci Ceremony,
a Lao cultural encounter from the heart of the Lao people.
Spending four nights in a very remote village in Laos is in many ways challenging, but even more rewarding. My colleague and I joined one of the World Volunteer groups in the village Ban Nongkhuay, in order to help them with the Eco Bungalow project. During our time in the village, we lived with a super-friendly local family, who provided us with awesome food and beds. On our last night, our host family prepared a Baci for us, a ritual for good luck and for connecting with the spirits. Conveniently enough, this was the same day as
their baby turned one month, so we had two bacis at the same time.
It started when we, tired after work, were lying in our beds resting. In the kitchen next to our rooms we heard chicken sounds. Confused, we peaked through the open spaces in the wooden wall and witnessed the slaughter of two chickens.
Two hours later, the chickens were all ready to eat and the small house was full of friends and relatives of the family, almost 30 people! When everyone had gathered, the ceremony begun. The local shaman sat in the middle, chanting prayers at first. Later on he put a few rice grains in his hand. Chanting, he moved the grains around, reading them, and eventually he found the newborns name; Suay (Lao for beautiful). After that the guests all tied heaps of white strings around the arms of the baby, connecting the good spirits for good luck. However, there was one thing we could not understand; more than half of the strings remained on the table. Apparently they were for us. So, we putour arms out, and all the guests started tying bracelets on our arms, still chanting. It was a magical feeling and really fun in the chaos of the tying.
After the ceremony we cracked the wishbone of one of the chickens. If you get it straight it means good luck. Ours was not straight. The shaman looked suspiciously at us and said that it was okay for the night, but he was happy we were leaving the next day.
A bit spooked, we started eating the delicious, very organic chicken. They also brought in a big jar with some yeasted kind of rice. Then they put water in the jar, creating some alcoholic liquid that we drank through bamboo straws. The drink was very strong, but good. However, I’m not sure the locals agreed with us on that point, judging from their massive sips. One thing I can be sure of though is that it was a magical night and that I will never forget it. Also, I’ll never say Asians can’t handle alcohol again.