SHAKING OFF GHOSTS

Many single 30-somethings in Vietnam seek the help of a shaman to break ties with a love from a previous life.

By Le Diem on February 12,2019 09:58 AM

SHAKING OFF GHOSTS

Most people who have seen the movie “Ghost” would hope they also have someone in the “afterlife” that looks out for them. While it’s a common belief among Vietnamese that they have an “invisible lover” from a previous life following them around, they don’t want this admirer at all, because he or she is not a protector but a saboteur of their love life and it’s become necessary to be rid of them.

HAUNTING ADMIRERS

If you’ve long been single or your dating seems to never be smooth and always ends badly, the belief is that you have one or more admirers in the afterlife that are madly in love with you, follow you around all the time, and try to stop you getting close to anyone. For many it’s the only possible explanation for continually being single.

It’s what Kim Loan, a 27-year-old marketing executive, believes, having heard such stories growing up. Attractive and with a nice job, everything in her life is perfect except for her love life. Though she regularly meets men, the dating usually lasts only a short time. “When my friends say there must be a ghost following me around, I wonder if there’s something to it,” she said. “If not, why does it always go wrong with the guys I date?”

Influenced by the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, Vietnamese have firmly believed in previous lives and the after-life for thousands of years, according to Professor Vu The Khanh, Director of the Union of Scientific and Technological Associations. In previous lives, you may have had the perfect love and vowed to be together forever. But your “partner” couldn’t move on because, for whatever reason, they weren’t reincarnated in the form of human being, and so follow you around and drive away admirers in this life. This has led to a community known as “forever alone”, or “FA”, in Vietnam.

It’s not necessarily hopeless, though. If a single person in this life wants to get out of the FA community, they need to break up with their ghost lover or even divorce their “previous-life husband or wife”, according to shamans. You can’t just say “Goodbye!”, though, and hope that your otherworld admirer will just smile and leave. It’s much more complicated than that. It requires certain rituals be performed that only shamans, who are thought to have a special talent for connecting with the otherworld, can do for you.

CUTTING TIES WITH THE DEAD

Such services cost money, from tens to hundreds of dollars, depending on how strong your otherworld admirer’s feelings are for you, according to Loan. She paid $15 for two spells - one to drive her haunting admirer away and one to attract admirers in this life. “It was the cheapest option,” she said. “The shaman told me if nothing changes after a while, I would have to perform a ritual.”

SHAKING OFF GHOSTS

If you’ve long been single or your dating seems to never be smooth and always ends badly, the belief is that you have one or more admirers in the afterlife that are madly in love with you, follow you around all the time, and try to stop you getting close to anyone.

Also visiting a shaman for the same service, Thanh Mai, a 31-year-old office worker, was offered different “packages” and told the more expensive of them were the most effective. For $700 - the top package - she was assured Mr. Right would come her way within two months.

Like the prices, the rituals are also diverse. No one knows where they stem from but only shamans can tell you what to do.

After the spells didn’t do the trick, Loan went for the ritual. She was asked to bring a tray of fruit, cookies and candies, wine, and some food as an offering to her previous-life partner, so they would leave her alone. She also prepared a mixture of rice and salt, which the shaman threw over her to construct an invisible wall to prevent her previous-life love from approaching her any longer. “It cost me $100. If it didn’t work, I would need to do it again and get a doll for the next ritual, the shaman told me,” she said.

It didn’t work, so she got the doll, which represent a replacement for the haunting admirer. She also had to prepare votive paper items, such as money, a house, and household furniture, to give to her “previous-life husband” as a “divorce settlement”.

After burning incense to connect the two worlds, the shaman began to talk with Mai’s man to persuade him to give up on her and enjoy his afterlife with the new wife and property she’d sent him. “The shaman muttered to himself for hours, sometimes in an aggressive manner,” she said. “He told me that my ‘ex-husband’ did not want to divorce me but he was trying hard to persuade him.”

Similarly single, her friend Tran Hung, a 30-year-old IT worker, went to another shaman, where he was told to throw the clothes he was wearing into a river to sever the connection with his previous-life girlfriend. He wasn’t too keen on seeing a shaman, but his mother insisted.

As a non-believer when it comes to reincarnation, Hung put his single life down to the fact he’s something of an introvert and spends too much time working and playing computer games. But he visited a shaman and performed the ritual to please his mother, who worries about him being single when other men his age are already married. So she urged him to visit a shaman and cut ties with his previous-life love, and was willing to pay for the most expensive package available.

A few months later and still single, Loan performed some additional rituals and, a year after that, found her love and got married. “The ghost seemed to have such strong feeling for me, so it wasn’t easy to end it with him,” she said. “I’m very happy the rituals worked eventually, or I may have been alone forever.”

The truth is, though, the rituals don’t work for everyone. Two months after the visit to the shaman, Hung’s mother just couldn’t believe a future wife had not appeared. “She kept asking me about women, and that and the ritual made me feel quite stressed,” he said. “Then she told me to perform another ritual. But I will never do it again. It’s a total waste of money. I probably do, though, need to go out more and seriously look for a girlfriend if I hope to have some peace.”

Still out of luck, Mai tried even harder. She thought maybe the shaman she visited wasn’t good enough so went to see another. But the new shaman said she doesn’t have a haunting admirer. Her issue is a previous lover in this life, with whom she had to cut ties via a fairly-costly ritual. Mai, though, remained single for many years afterwards. Upon reflection, she recognized that some guys really liked her but she was a little too picky and it was she who drove them away, not some ghostly power.

Unlike previous generations, according to Professor Khanh, young Vietnamese today are largely free to marry who they wish and are no longer subject to marriages arranged by their parents. Many, though, focus on their career rather than love or are too picky and miss the chance at love and become “left on the shelf”. Which is good news for shaman, if no one else.

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