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A Hmong Thing of 18 Clans

As covered previously on Celebrate Hmong, I cover the 18 clans of Hmong. 18 clans, meaning 18 different surnames of community. Within the community, because there are so very few of us, certain clans believe you should not marry into another clan because they are so closely related. Such as the belief that Hangs and Hers are basically the same clan, just different spelling of the surname so they should not date each other. And Vangs and Fangs are the same, then Kues and Thaos are not the same but basically are so they shouldn’t date each other too. I don’t know the certainty of this, but it’s what I’ve heard and it’s very confusing at times.

Within each clan, there are subgroups of each clan as well. Such as I am “said” clan, but I belong to this subclan. So you could initially have 3 groups in the Yang clan. In some of these subclans, there are certain old beliefs and traditions that still are practiced today. However, over time I found these beliefs to perhaps just be myths to scare or warn others of bad practice. So here goes, some of the many stories I’ve gathered from elders in regards to these practices along with how they came to be.

Yangs are not allowed to eat hearts, hearts of animals that is.
The story goes, a long time ago, during a funeral two men were cooking up a stew to feed the people. The heart organ was to be used for a certain ritual. The two men were called away to do something else and needed someone to watch the stew. They asked a young boy to watch the pot so that it wouldn’t boil over. When it came time to retrieve the heart for the ritual, it was nowhere to be found in the pot. The two men accused the boy of eating it. The men didn’t know what to do and didn’t want shame to be brought on to them for losing or taking the heart. The men killed the boy and took the boy’s heart to replace the missing heart from the stew. Now, the sister of that little boy was searching for him all over the funeral and couldn’t find him. You see, the boy was mentally challenged and lost his way from his sister’s side. Because of his disability, the men should’ve never asked him to watch the stew. And when they accused the boy, the boy wasn’t even sure what they were asking due to his disability. After hours of search, the sister found his brother’s body mutilated by the area outside where cooking was taking place. She accused the two men of killing him, but they weren’t having any of it. After all, she’s just a young girl. They threw her out of the kitchen.

After the long day of the funeral and feeding the people the stew, it was time for the two men to make a new pot of stew. As they retrieve the pot and it’s very little bits of leftover, there they saw the heart sitting on the bottom. The men were shocked and knew they had killed the young boy for such a selfish reason. Little did they know, as they discuss what they should do, the little boy’s sister was outside and heard the entire conversation. From that day on, the girl cursed all men with the last name of Yang to go blind when they eat hearts.

Then there are the Yangs who can’t say “tsov tom” (tiger bite) out loud as this subgroup attracts tigers and will initially become a meal for one.

Another thing I remembered from when I was young, I’m not sure if it’s a Yang thing or just boys in general, but boys are not allowed to go under the legs of girls. I don’t mean that in a sexual way, but girls would not be able to hop “like playing frog”, over a boy. I think shows the boys of weakness if it does happen, sort of like hierarchy, boys-come-first mentality. Talk about sexism! But, I could be totally wrong or this may not even be a thing!

Vangs shouldn’t eat fruits mixed in food. When I say fruits in food, it’s like pineapple on pizza, grapes in chicken salad, and any stirfry that would include fruits.
The elder says that many years ago a young son wanted to eat fruit so he asked his dad and said “Kuv xav noj txiv”. The dad thought his son wanted to eat him, so he killed his very own son. When the mom found out, she cursed all the Vang men to never be able to eat fruits in food.

No fruits in food

In the Vang clan, the daughter-in-law cannot enter the parent’s bedroom.
There is a story in which a daughter-in-law ended up having an affair with her father-in-law. They all lived in the same household. After this happened, they put a “rule” that no daughter-in-law of a Vang man should enter the man’s parent’s bedroom. This is also practiced between brothers and their wives. If you are younger, you may not enter the older siblings’ room. Including this practice, daughters-in-law can’t eat at the same table if the father-in-law is seated.

It’s said that Vue girls are a bad omen. Long ago a Vue daughter married a well-known successful Hmong man. Now in the Hmong culture, when relatives from far away go home after their visitation with you, you pack food for them to eat on their journey home. After a few days, her brothers were going to journey back home and she packs them some food. They didn’t stop on their way to eat it but eventually opened the package to see what their sister had packed for them. Upon opening the package, the brothers weren’t sure what was packed but it had a horrible stench. Their mother came to view the food, which was definitely not food, but feces. The mother was so irate that she cursed her daughter and all Vue girls to never have any wealth when they get married. So men who marry Vues and become wealthy and successful will lose their life, and in turn if you are not wealthy or successful, your life will be filled with misery and always be poor.

What can I say? For some of these stories, you can’t help but laugh at how they came to be. There are so many different versions, but many of them seem to have the same ending. It’s sad to say, how so many of these stories involve murder or hateful and harmful tactics, but it is what it is. As I mentioned before, I feel like these stories are just myths to scare people from bad practices.
However, even if they are just myths, I myself am married to a Vang and I’ve never eaten at a table with my father-in-law or served the men of the family fruits in food.

-Anna MV

Anna MV

A Hmong woman practicing life finding art in everything. Blogger of Family, Life, Culture, Autism, Self Awarenes

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