With around 5’500 people the Pa Then are one of the smallest minority groups in Vietnam, mostly living in Quang Binh (Ha Giang, Vietnam). The Pa Then believe the universe was created by the god Quơ Vo and the devil goddess Me Quơ O. Their cosmology divides the universe into four parts.
- The sky, where the sun, moon, stars, ancestors, God of Thunder, God of Lightning, Great Buddha, and others gods and spirits reside.
- The earth, where human beings, plants, animals, ancestors, and various ghosts and spirits (soil, forest, stone, plants, etc.) reside.
- The water, where there are various naiads, dragons, and gods of rivers and springs.
- The underworld, where the devil goddess Me Quơ Lê and various spirits live.
The idea behind the „Fire Dance“ is to ward off danger and evil spirits with the power of fire, but also to worship heaven and earth and to encourage the youth to master their path. The shaman calls out the gods to induce the dancers into trance. As soon as he’s satisfied with the stage of the bonfire, he gives his fellow dancers absolution and sends them into the blaze. A good dozen Pa Then men prove their strength and throw themselves into burning coal. Some say it’s the courage, I believe in the power of a farmer’s cornea.