Hu Plig (who plee), a soul calling ceremony performed by shamans, when the soul has been frightened away. To bring and entice the soul home, there is chanting and offerings of food. The ritual of a hu plig can be performed for those who are sick or recovering from a sickness.
His Sickness Came Back
Kyson came home with a fever from school. For the next two days, his fever ran mild but manageable. After those two days, it was the weekend and he went to go stay with Grandma. On Monday, he went back to school for the full week. The following week, we get a call again from school saying he has been quiet all day and seemed really cold. They weren’t able to get his temperature.
Once the bus stopped, Kyson was sleeping on the bus as he does most days. I carried him off, I could tell he was in pain. We came into the house, took off his boots and his fever was at a high 104°. I gave him some ibuprofen and he slept the rest of the night only waking up once to ask for his milk.
The weekend comes around again and Grandma calls for him. I tell her that he’s not feeling well and will see when he wakes up if he’s up for a ride. He hasn’t moved from the couch all day besides to use the bathroom. Grandma tells me immediately to bring him to her so she can “hu plig” for him.
The Hu Plig
My husband goes with her to pick up 2 chickens from the farm. Then the chickens are butchered and boiled. The chickens, placed in a bowl along with an egg, some rice and 2 incenses. The incenses are then lit.
The bowl is placed by the front of the door on a small table. The door is opened and Grandma holds more incense her hands and starts the chant.
I wasn’t able to capture her doing this portion but wanted to share how the chant went. It was very similar to this one, by Ntsuj Spirit. You can skip the intro to the one minute mark to hear how the chant sounds like.
The chant is storytelling. This chant is for a “boy” who is sick. It tells of how the soul wondered off, how the soul is out looking on different paths.
The chant starts by saying today is a good day, a good night. I am calling this not for the bad. I am calling for “son’s” spirit, soul, person who is lost in the fortress, I am calling him to wake up and come back. (There is more being said, but shortened here for you). It goes into saying, regardless if he is on his path to find his mom, dad, relatives. Regardless if he has been frightened, scared, or depressed I am only calling him to wake up and come back.
After the Chant
Grandma called out for Kyson’s soul to come, not in chant but said aloud. She takes the chicken’s head and checks it over. There is an inspection with the chicken’s mouth and tongue portion where she can tell if his soul came home.
It’s also the tradition that the chicken and egg is eaten, however with Kyson’s picky diet, the family can eat it and that, we did.
Grandma gets a white cotton string and with it says a blessing. She ties it onto Kyson’s hand during the blessing and with the knotted tie, it’s meant to bond the blessing in that string that he wears.
He felt better, his fever went away and besides a minor cough that seemed to linger on longer than usual, Kyson was back to himself. I get many would say that the sickness probably just needed to play out its course, many will not believe anything, and I understand that. But just like many religions where you pray for healing, this is just one way that Hmong find their healing.
Grandma (my mother-in-law) has always been the one to have done these for our family. We are fortunate to have her do this all the time for us. Every new family member, every sickness, and every new year, she always “Hu Plig” for us. For that I am thankful.
I just wanted to share an old video I found of Kyson helping Grandma “Hu Plig” when he was 1 year old. He’s always been so fond of these ceremonies, I’m not sure why but the minute he hears a chant he automatically goes and watches the performance.