Water and Fire on Oct 15 and 16, 2010
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Ampang is well underway – today is the 5th Day of the Ninth Moon. Last evening the festival seemed quiet, but that is compared to the crowds and chaos of the weekend. It was still plenty smoky and there were special prayers all evening as well as a spirit medium in a state of possession who provided advice and answers to those who approached him to “ask for peace”.
On Day 6 (Wednesday Oct 13) there will be another ritual celebration to feed the soldiers of the Emperor at 2pm. This was one moment at the scene on Day 3 during the same ceremony.
On Days 8 (Friday) and 9 (Saturday) we come to the community highlights of the festival. Yin and Yang, Water and Fire, Finding Balance – that’s what these final ceremonies of the festival are about. There will be a bridge crossing ceremony on Oct 15th that will help those worshiping the Nine Emperor Gods to rid themselves of the Yin forces in their lives. Then the ultimate ritual of the festival takes place on October 16th when the forces of Yang are reaffirmed by the firewalking devotees carrying the deities, the chariots and other temple paraphenalia. Being Friday and Saturday events this year, the crowds will be big.
You can read some info about the Yin and the Yang ceremonies on the Nine Facts blog that I did last week or keep reading here…
The Bridge Crossing ceremony symbolizes surmounting the forces of Yin (Water is high yin). The ceremony takes place in front of the main temple. The vendors, currently set up there, are moved out to make space for a wooden bridge that is 6.5 meters long, 1 meter high and 1.2 meters wide. The bridge is then decorated with flags and bouquets of yellow and white flowers.
Buckets of water and tiny oil lamps are placed under the bridge on top of ritual papers that protect the bridge from evil forces. The 7 small lamps represent the 7 star deities that protect devotees and are worshiped in the Southern Altar.
The Trance Master, in a state of possession by the Emperor himself, sits at the end of the bridge on the chair of nails and as devotees walk over the bridge he beckons them to come forward and receive a blessing.
The ceremony is open to everyone. As devotees cross the bridge they receive a red stamp on their head scarves to indicate that they have crossed the bridge with the blessing of the Nine Emperors. Some carry clothing and personal belongings of family members, that are also stamped, to bring good fortune for the year ahead to the whole family.
When all devotees have crossed the bridge, the Spirit Mediums cross ceremoniously to block any evil that might be trying to follow. Here is a shot that I took last year that I just missed. I’m going to be there again on Friday evening and I will nail it this time! Remember that if you are trying to photograph this event, it all happens very fast.
Firewalking – That’s enough blogging for now – I will discuss the firewalking ceremony in my blog tomorrow. I’m looking for links to some good photos so send me a link to what you have and I’ll include them in the post!