My theme this year is Burma AKA Myanmar. I used to live in Laos, so I looked forward to returning to Southeast Asia. I spent a little over three weeks exploring this country, learning a bit about its culture: its history, religion, and language. I thought others might enjoy some of what I learned and see some of what I saw.
|A Land of Old and New|
The Kayan tribe live in Burma’s northeast They’re also called Padaluang (sometimes English spelling is Padaung), meaning long necks. Actually, their necks do not stretch, but their collarbones are pushed down slowly as the rings are added. If they use the old traditional number of 31– their necks are so weak they can’t remove the rings and hold their heads upright. Today that practice has changed and girls only wear 20. They can take the rings off if they choose.
|A Padaluang Weaver with 30 Neck Rings|
|A Younger Padaluang Woman With 20 Neck Rings and an Older One With Traditional 30|
The irony is these are lake people. Imagine trying to swim with about 30 pounds of brass around your neck. I picked up one set of these rings and knew just how long I’d stay afloat with them on me.
So why do they do this to themselves? One version is it’s to protect themselves from tiger attacks. They encircle the throat and put brass at their shins. Their hair pins are weapons in case of attack. Of course, the men don’t follow this practice, and today, tigers in the area are rare to none.
|Looking Across the Canyon at a Cloud Shrouded Mt. Popa. This was an infinity pool on the edge of the mountain.|
|Mt. Popa When the Clouds Lift|
Mt. Popa is a monastery. You have to hike to the top, wave off monkey attacks and be careful of where you step. Monkeys poop a lot.
Answers to O
F 1. People believe that giving offerings buys them a place in Nirvana. (They believe it’s an act of generosity, and that the offerings symbolize giving the best of who they are to something higher than they are. I think of it as a way to visualize goodness, but I’m not a Buddhist, so I could be off base.)
T 2. Offerings are a way to pay respects to the wisdom of Buddha or the Dharma, the Truth. (I suppose this is somewhat similar to the lighting of candles for others. Well, not quite, but offerings focus our thoughts and, in my mind, so do candles in churches.)
NOW what do you know about the Padaluang Tribe?
T/F 1. While the practice of using neck rings seems abusive and sexiest–since men do not wear them–this was a vestige of a matriarchal society.
T/F 2. The rings were considered magic and could cure illness by touching them.