Sen Ruen

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title.alternative : Sen Huen
event date.month : January,February,March,May,June,July,October,November,December
event date.lunar month : except 5th,9th and 10th lunar month
location :
:
:
:
province / region : Central
: West
: Northeast
: Nakhon Pathom
: Phetchaburi
: Ratchaburi
: Loei
subject : ethnic rites,festive rites/rites for social auspiciousness
relations :
keywords : Tai Dam,ethnic,Tai Song, Lao Song, Tai Dum, tradition
creator : Thanwadee Sookprasert,
date.issued : 12 Jan 2016
date.last updated : 1 Oct 2018

Sen Ruean

                 Sen Ruean is the Lao Song ritual of worshipping the people’s ancestral spirits. These spirits include those of the deceased parents, grandparents, etc., and are invited by the house residents to dwell in a special corner in the house called ka-lor-hong (room corner). There are no bones or remains there – it is virtually empty. But it is where the spirits are supposed to live. Only a few bowls and plates and glasses meant for the spirits are seen there. Close to this spot is the room wall with a round hole, the size of a duck egg, in it. Food for the spirits is put in the containers every 10 days.

                   Sen Ruean is observed in every household every 2-3 years. The spirits are offered sacrifices of food by their descendants. This is believed to be an expression of gratitude for the deceased’s benevolence. There is this belief that if the spirits are worshipped and appeased, in return they will give protection to the family, as well as ensure their prosperity. The rite can be conducted in any month except in the 9th and 10th months, during which time the spirits are away to pay respects to some heavenly beings. Generally the good time for Sen Ruean is after the harvest season. The 5th month is not good either because in the dry season crops are not growing well.

                   The important day comes. Mo sen, a spiritual leader who conducts the rite, brings out the pap phi ruean (book listing the names of the deceased persons) and reads out loud the names, and invites each spirit to accept the sacrifices being offered to them. The household guardian spirits are respected as being responsible for the well-being of the family members. The tradition of keeping their family lineage by inheriting the right from the ancestors is called suep phi. To the Song people it is the same as continuing the family’s sucession. The heir of the deceased is the father, the male leader of the family. Therefore it is his responsibility to perform any rites or rituals with regard to the household guardian spirits. When the father passes away, it means a temporary disruption of the succession. So there must be the next heir – the son. In the case of the family having many sons, the most suitable one will be entrusted with the responsibility. If the family has no sons, it is possible for a nephew to become the heir.

                   Pigs are commonly raised in every household and are to become sacrifices for the spirits. The people make a wish regarding their pigs. They wish for prosperity, which will then enable them to take good care of the pigs. To thank the guardian spirits for the fortune, they will offer their pigs in the sen ritual. The pigs raised for the purpose must be strong and healthy males of good breed. The sacrifices also include home-fermented liquor, but these days 35-degree rice whiskey is also acceptable. The host must consult mo sen about the auspicious time for Sen Ruean. A few days before Sen Ruean, the host needs to pay respects to mo sen by presenting the latter with sets of betel nuts and other worshipping items. Ngnai mo follows i.e. inviting mo sen to eat a special meal. He is served a boiled chicken. The chicken is believed to be a “fortune teller”: if its paws are straight, this means bad luck; if the paws are bending, this brings good fortune and prosperity. The left paw is meant for mo sen himself, while the right one is for the host. After the meal, mo sen invites the spirits 3 times to take the sacrifices consisting of pork and liquor.

                   Mo sen starts worshipping the spirits by squatting near the sacrifice tray in the ka-lor-hong corner. He inserts some rolled banana leaves into the small hole in the wall, which is for delivering food to the spirits. Next to him there are a half bowl of water (drinking water for the spirits during meal), a sticky rice bamboo container, a pair of chopsticks, an open packet of steamed sticky rice, and the bap containing the name list of the deceased.

                   Using their Song language (and rhyming terms) mo sen addresses the ancestral spirits. He says that on this good day the descendants bring good food for their ancestors. He asks them to come forth and accept the sacrifices. He reads out loud the names of the deceased, starting with those of the parents’. He uses chopsticks to put some spiced pork in the hole, then a lump of steamed sticky rice and a few drops of water. The second name is called and the ritual is repeated until all the names are called. After the meal sacrifice, sweetmeats and fruit are offered. Every single thing is picked up and delivered to the spirits through the same hole. The sacrifices actually fall down to the ground under the elevated house. After the spirits are all appeased, mo sen does the last offering without calling out any names. The sen pang paeng, the first offering, is thus completed. After a short break, there is yet the second offering called the sen kam kok.

                   The sen kam kok has in it pork, dishes and desserts. Mo sen makes each offering by calling the names of the house owner’s spirits only. Those of other kins are called by 5-10 at a time. The offerings are presented in the same manner as the first time.

                   In the third offering, the sen song thup, mo sen uses the chopsticks to pick up sticky rice, spiced pork and water, and deliver everything through the wall hole, like the first time. But 3-5 names are called at a time.

                   After the 3 offerings are done, it is time to give liquor and small dishes to be eaten with the drink – the sen kam hae. This time the sacrifices are put a little farther away from the usual spot – toward the house center. The sacrifice set contains 1 bottle of whiskey and a glass, 3 halves of fresh banana leaves to be spread out on the floor, 3 packets of spiced pork on banana leaves, 6 packets of cooked sticky rice, 6 pairs of chopsticks, 3 bowls of pork broth and 1 bowl of cold water. Mo sen, in the same squatting position again, with a fan is his right hand and a bamboo strip one arm-length long in the left hand, dips part of the strip in the liquor bottle while inviting, in the Song language, the spirits (the names are called out one by one) to drink the whiskey. He pours the drink into the glass. His assistant, using chopsticks, puts some spiced pork from the plate in 3 packets. Then the next name is called. The ritual is repeated altogether 7 times.

                   While mo sen is performing the sen kam hae outside, his assistant conducts a rite of worshipping the spirits of the same ancestral lineage but which live in other provinces. He also invites the bad spirits to come and take the sacrifices. This is known as the sen khao wa. No specific names are mentioned because any spirits or those without relatives can come. After all the rites are done, mo sen and the hosts and their kins of the same ancestral spirits sit down to have a meal together. This luncheon is called lang mo or lang klang huean. The guests are treated to a meal too, but not in the room. After the meal and a short rest, another rite takes place – the spirits are again worshipped, 3 times, with liquor offerings.

                   The first offering is called the sen lao luang, which is done on a rather large scale. The spirits are called by names by mo sen and presented with the liquor. These spirits must be the household guardians of the host family only. Those of the distant relatives are called and invited collectively.

                   The second time, the sen la kang, is an offering of liquor to wash away the taste of food the spirits just ate.

                   The third offering, the sen lao ku, is for the purpose of taking back the sacrifice tray. The (leftover) food blessed by the spirits is shared and eaten. Then the spirits are asked to depart to their dwellings in some farther land.

                   The hosts and the relatives of the same forefathers go back again into the spirit room. Mo sen gives everyone some liquor. They do the lang fai huean, meaning drinking altogether 7 times the liquor. Mo sen bequeaths the guardian spirits to protect their descendants and to bless them with good health. After this, he does the lao song sum by pouring away his drink into the gap between 2 floor planks. The hosts and the relatives stand up simultaneously, bow to the spirits and bid them goodbye. This is the end of the rite.

                   Every single family member has their own tai (guardian) to protect them. Mo sen pays respects to each and all so that they will grant the family good fortune and longevity. After this, a meal (fai than po pu) is offered to the village guardian deities, who protect the people and bestow them a good life. Mo sen then hands back to the host the ceremonial robe (suea hi), which is always put in the sen area and leaves the house, thus completing Sen Ruean.


Bibliography

นุกูล ชมภูนิช.(2538). ประเพณีชาวไทยโซ่ง หมู่บ้านเกาะแรต. นครปฐม : เพชรเกษมการพิมพ์. (in Thai)