This digital exhibition reproduces scenes from ‘Hau Dong’ - the spiritual possession ceremony belonging to the Mother Goddess Religion in Vietnam, and allows the audience to see how this ritual has been a huge spiritual empowerment to Vietnamese women in the past. The exhibition is aimed to represent how feminity empowerment has been nourished in a traditional religion and to engage values from traditional culture to modern world


Creative Director - Chloe Phuong-Thao Phi
Culture Researcher - Anh Hai Nguyen
Artist - Ha Nguyen Khanh


In Vietnamese Mother Goddess worship, which has been there for several centuries, 'Hau Dong' (which loosely means 'to mount the medium' or 'to go into a trance') is the most important step. During the ceremony, mediums (who are traditionally chosen by deities at birth) and their assistants will don bright costumes, make offerings to Buddha, perform folk dances, and petition the goddesses to descend and possess their bodies. When spirits are believed to have entered the body, the medium will appear to change personalities. From that point onward, all actions and words are said to belong to those of the spirit. The purpose? The mediums believe that these spirits will bless them with health, hope, happiness, and good luck.

"When the fragrance of the joss sticks and the music combines... you have the chance to ask God to (incarnate) you. The dance is quite different from normal acting in life." Says Nguyen Duc Hien, a medium.

According to the research ‘The Soft Power and Everyday Lives of Women in Contemporary Vietnam’ by Nguyen Thi Tu Anh, this ritual is not just a superstitious activity. In fact, ‘Hau Dong’ gave women the power to be more happy, independent and gain more freedom in their life.


The ceremony gives the mediums the chance to act as Goddess through the incarnation progress, which allows them to express their hidden personalities, especially those traits that they are not allowed to present themselves in daily life, like charisma, pride, or even masculinity. According to the social norm in the past: a woman is not supposed to be masculine. But in the ritual, it is totally acceptable, because her body is playing the role as a medium to let the Goddess go through and communicate to all the prayers. No matter how unusual it is, people would respect and honnor her behaviors because it is believed that the Goddess are staying inside her, giving the blessing to everyone.

the booster for self-esteem

During the ceremony, the medium receives praises and complimentss from her audiences which became a confidence-booster for the medium herself. The most popular lyrics in different ‘Chau Van’ songs, the kind of songs which only used for this ritual is praises, like “She is so beautiful!” or encouragement words like “Please stay merry!”. Beside that, the medium tends to received the praise, adoration and respect from the audiences as well during her performance. That ‘confidence-booster’ stays inside her even when the ceremony ends and helps her cope with difficulties in daily life.


In the centre of altar where the ritual is hold, there is always a mirror placed as a popular set up for this ritual. This holly mirror represents for the physical apprearance appreciation from the religion. While performing dances during the incarnation process, the medium tend to look at herself in the mirror to make sure she became as beautiful as she expected. The process of grooming and getting-dresseded for the medium happened public in the central of altar with the support from 3 - 4 assistants. In the past the belief of “the beauty of inner soul is more important than the beauty of physical appearance” was popular but this ritual, infact, encourages the women to be and to feel physically beautiful about herself as much as she wants.


The atmostphere of a ceremony is very much like a musical concert, with the combination of songs, music, the dancing, the smell of incense and cigarettes, people giving applause to the medium in Goddess’s costume. The success of a ceremony is measured by the satisfaction level of all the people who joined. While attending the ceremony, all the prayers got the chance to forget about their burden and responsibility in real life for a short time and enjoy a religious, festive event with lots of passion and engagement.


By being envolved in this activity, the women found their peers with the same religion. They became a group of closed friend who hold the same belief for Mother Goddess and support each other not only in the ritual but in daily life as well. Some women taking part in the incarnation ritual later become soulmate for life or even business partners. By hosting together a successful spiritual possession ceremony, people realize which person they can vibe-in. When a ceremony ends, the women left the shrine with not only a new, better energy but also a group of friends who are willing to empower and support each other at their best capacity.