What is Baci?
Baci or Sou Khuan basically means “the calling of the soul”. The procedure of the ceremony require white cotton strings tying around one’s wrist. The ceremony is held on every special event of one’s life including birth, marriage, departing, returning, the beginning of a new year, welcoming and the entering of monkhood. According to ancient belief of Buddhism, “khuan” are considered the elements to connect every part of the soul. In another word, “khuan” simply are vital forces that give harmony and balance to the body and the soul, vital breath for all men, women and animals on earth from the moment of their birth.
The human body is an entity of a total 32 organs and each has a “khuan” to protect them. But these “khuan” – spirits – often wander outside the body causing unbalance inside the body, which leads to illness. That is why Laotian practice “sou khuan” to call these spirit back and use the white strings to tie them and bring back the harmony, good luck as well as prosperity.
When is Baci used?
Baci is used on many occasions and events throughout the year. The ceremony is applied to both happy events and sad moments. Happy events such as weddings, welcoming guest, Laos New Year and house warmings. In addition, after a women giving birth to a new born, she and her baby also given a Baci to welcome the baby to the family and call back the “khuan” for the mother.
The Baci is believed to heal both physical and mental sickness according to Laotian. Therefore, when someone passes away in a family, they also hold Baci to soothe the sadness of the rest of family’s members.
In rural areas, before Baci taking place, elderly women gather around to prepare “pha khuan” – a handmade marigold pyramid and a key centerpiece of Baci.
The “pha khuan” – a handmade marigold pyramid and a key centerpiece of Baci.
The “pha khuan” is placed on a white cloth at the center of the room. In Baci ceremony, there is a person called “mor phon” who is a respected and knowledgeable person in the community.
“Mor phon inviting” is the first session of the ceremony. “Mor phon” will place a glass of Laos whiskey, a small amount of money wrapped in a banana leaf with a pair of candle and flowers on one hand and ties a white string around the wrist of the main person while murmuring words to invite good wishes.
A small amount of money wrapped around the "mor phon".
Then the “mor phon” starts to lit up the candle and ask the ones that would receive the blessing to lay their hands with palms facing down, brush them with white strings and say the bless “hai kuard nee, dee kuard kao" - "bad is swept out, good is wept in". After strings are put into palms, “mor phon” will chant in the religious Pali language, it could be an extract from a Laos poet, everyone else must keep silence. At some point during the chanting, the ceremony attendants throw rice in the air so the rice grains fall down on their heads which represents good luck and say at the same time “ma der khuan euy” – please come spirits. After finishing chanting, the “mor phon” will tie the first end of the blessed string around the wrist of the main person who is being honored. Then everyone else join in to tie strings around the wrist too, they can family members, guests and everybody should whisper good wishes when receiving the strings.
The Baci ceremony often lasts for thirty minutes to one hour. Usually, after string tying procession has finished, everyone gathers around and enjoy the feast.
» If you want to discover more about Laos, feel free to check out An Overlook of Laos Culture.