Sacred forest of the Wa Nationality

 

Many nationalities of Southwest China keep, near their village, a kind of forest considered sacred. This forest usually is linked in deep symbolic emotion, to the life of the village and its inhabitants. Most of these forests are protected by some taboos, as not cut the trees, not allow domestic animals inside, not allow to be polluted by human urine or excrements, or jokes, etc.

Among the Wa of Yunnan these forest are regarded in different ways according to the place they inhabit. In places where the head hunting activities were gave up long ago, are considered the place were the deities of the village inhabit. In Ximeng and other areas, where these activities were held until recently, the sacred forest is considered a place where the spirits lodge.

Among the Wa of Ximeng, in the past, every village has some sacred forest, some times with one of them allocated to every clan in the village, some times with different functions, one for expel the devils, one for dispose of the head hunted.

When they have a sacred forest for the disposal of the head hunted, they considered that this was the place where the great god Muyiji resided, and consequently was highly sacred.

In the past, when the Wa people get a head to perform their ceremonies, this head was held for a year before the House of the Drum. After this year it was disposed in one of the sacred forests, the place of Muyiji. These head usually was put in a bamboo basket, in a hollow trunk or in a stone.

The bamboo stake was about two meters high and 30-40 centimeters of diameter, with the head inserted in the top, without cover.

The head can be placed also in a hollowed wooden trunk, where they put the head inside, and covered it with a stone. In the outer surface of the trunk sometimes a face is carved, signing that inside there was a head. Near these trunks usually are the stones carried there to sacrifice a female pig, as it was need to offer one when the head was moved to this place.

The heads some times were laced on a round stone with a concave part in its upper surface to receive the skull.

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