Photographer's Note

It is the time before 'Khow Pansa' again and the start of the Buddhist rainy season retreat.The monsoon has started to sweep across Asia. It is the time for the fertility festivals in Laos and the ethnically Laotian parts of Thailand. These ceremonies predate Buddhism and are intended to awaken the spirits, to bring the rains and to restore fertility to the land. In past times the failure of the monsoon would bring starvation to these villages. Even today, their lives depend on rice and on the rains. In Dan Sai, in the mountains of Loei, on the boarder of Laos, they have a tradition of dancing in exotic masks and being possessed by the spirits as they dance. They dance and cavort wildly through the village for a day and a night. The other tradition is for men and boys to cover themselves in mud and to dance in a similar way. This young boy is dancing the spirit dance for the first time. He dances it as his ancestors have danced many times before. The mud is a sign of fertility, earth and life-giving rain mixed together. He is calling to the spirits to send the rains again, for, without the monsoon rains there will be no rice and the people would starve.These rituals are, to western eyes very bawdy and the cult of the penis (representing the penis of Lord Shiva)is prominent the the festivities. The eyes of this 'spirit' met mine and he dances his ancient ritual through the village streets.His culture and tradition is kept alive by a new generation.

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Additional Photos by kevin o'sheehan (kevinos) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1023 W: 173 N: 1802] (7517)
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