(Continued from Au Revoir, Kitchen God)
So, it’s after midnight and my work with the Kitchen god is done, even though the rain never let up. I was going to edit the previous post to show photos of the preparations that I made, but I decided to create a second post because there was so much I needed to add to clarify the customs.
1. Firstly, the ceremony tray is supposed to be placed outside in the middle of the yard or if in an apartment building, in the middle of the house. Unfortunately, it’s been raining dogs and cats outside all day, and it’s also really cold, so I decided to set up inside to keep the food from being rained on, and to keep the incense and candles burning properly.
2. Secondly, the ceremony tray is supposed to be placed in the southern direction, which means that I have to face the South to perform the ceremony. From within my house, the southern direction is a bit awkward because my house faces south-west, which traditionally has been ascribed to ghosts. This means I have to angle the table to the correct direction–awkward but doable.
3. Third, the invocation must be written down on either red or yellow paper with black ink (unless it’s memorized, but who memorizes this sort of thing?). I have some yellow legal sized wide-ruled paper pads which should handily satisfy this requirement, and a black gel pen will do in a pinch.
But what invocation am I supposed to jot down, you might ask.
Since I don’t feel the need to create a brand new invocation (although I suppose I could since I am a creative writer) I will just continue to use the invocation that’s been passed down for thousands of years. It’s a bit stiff and formal, and somewhat self-deprecating, but it has quite a bit of power since it’s been used for so long, and uttered by so many people.
The ông Công ông Táo Invocation
So here is the invocation that I translated into English. I will annotate this invocation to identify the areas where Taoist tenets conjoin with folk traditions that have flowed and meandered throughout the ages. We’ve been doing this new year shuttle bus for Mr. Apple for such a long long time that nobody even knows when it started.
At first, I thought maybe I should write down the English version that I had translated, but I decided it was best to use the Vietnamese version. You never know. Mr. Apple and those Sky Lords may not know how to read English.
Praise the Heavens. This is to indicate that the invocation is starting, so please listen up, ye gods!
I respectfully bow to the Five Directions Emperors: the Blue Emperor of the East, the Red Emperor of the South, the White Emperor of the West, the Black Emperor of the North, and the Yellow Emperor of the Center. These are the directions, North, South, East, West, and Center, with the corresponding colors Black, Red, Blue, White, and Yellow. This is basic I Ching knowledge. It is the first thing that is mentioned because this is a Taoist invocation and not a Buddhist invocation. The Buddhist invocation starts off with ‘Nam mô A Di Đà Phật’, which means ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha’ in Sanskrit.
I respectfully bow to Sky General, Earth General, and Underworld General. These are the domains that are ruled by a royal court of deities who answer to the Jade Emperor. This bureaucracy of Heaven consists of Sky, Earth, and Underworld Lords.
I respectfully bow to the Mountain god, River god, Earth god, Kitchen god, House god to please accept my affidavit and testimonies. This is the important invocation where the three house gods, among a few others, are personally invoked.
Today is the 23rd of December, which is the day the gods return to heaven. My name is… born on… month…… country of origin… permanent address… They get a lot of requests, so we have to identify ourselves so they know who we are–although…if the kitchen god’s been living in my kitchen all these years, unless they have a touch of dementia due to their advanced age, they should already know all this…
With a sincere heart, I present the food offerings and incense. This is a petition to the Sky Lord, the Five Emperors, the Generals, the Soldiers, the Horses, and the gods in heaven and on earth, to witness the ceremony to send off the Kitchen gods to heaven. Here is where we do the kow-towing to announce that we are sending off the Kitchen gods.
Respectfully, I bow to the god of the earth, the god of the hearth, the god of the house to bear witness. In the past year, thanks to your blessings, we have been healthy, happy, and blessed with good things. Now, I pray with a sincere heart to send you off to heaven and ask God, the Five Emperors and the gods to bless and protect my country, my homeland, my ancestors, and my family with peace and prosperity. (Here is where we scrape and beg for good stuff to come raining down on us from above. No, we ain’t too proud to beg.)
I ask Sky God, the Five Emperors, the gods, and the fairies to witness my devotion. May God, the Five Emperors, the fairies and the gods live forever! (One last huzzah to mollify and flatter the gods before we end the show. Note that the last sentence is something that is normally said to a king or emperor at the end of whatever speech is given, wishing him health and immortality. Of course, gods are immortal, so this is redundant, but people like to say this sentence so that it signals to the spirits that we are coming to the end of the invocation.)
I thank you (3 times). Gotta say it three times because this is how we ‘hang up’ the heavenly phone line.
- After worshiping, pay respects 9 times. (I’ll explain this one in another post)
- When the ceremony is over, take three steps back before you turn your back on the ceremonial altar.
- Wait for the incense to burn 1/3 before burning the votive paper to offer for the gods, then pack the ashes into a clean red paper and dispose of properly. If using live fish, the goldfish or carp should be released in rivers, streams, or lakes with circulating currents. They should not be released in dirty lakes and ponds or (horrors) flushed down the toilet. Since I’m using paper fish, I just burn the paper fish along with the other paper stuff.
Once all the extraneous preparations are done, I set the table with a table cloth. It should be red but I don’t have a red table cloth that doesn’t have Christmas decorations all over it, so white it is. I place my two chrysanthemum pots on either end and then I fill in the rest of the table with food I cooked or had foraged from various grocery stores around town.
I also found two red candles and a swirly incense. I do have the tall incense sticks, but I found clean up to be such a chore when the incense ash drops. There is also bound to be some wasted food because sometimes, the incense ash would drop onto a platter of food With the circular incense, it is so much cleaner, and afterwards, I can still eat the untainted food.
There should be three types of alcoholic beverages, one red, one yellow, and one white. Red was easy. I had an open bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Yellow was also not difficult to procure as I had a bottle of passionfruit moscato which is a nice golden color. For white, I had nothing but some soju. Good enough.
For the chicken, since I ate the leg quarter for dinner, all I had left was the wing/breast section, so that’s what Mr. Apple got, along with sliced boiled pork, bitter melon soup, and a croissant in place of the sticky rice.
For dessert, he got vanilla pudding, cookies dipped in chocolate, an assortment of peanut and sesame brittle, and chocolate mint candy.
After having offered the feast, I waited around for about fifteen minutes and then gathered my paper stuff to be burned. This is super cheap, very thin paper that I bought at the Asian supermarket for a dollar a pack. No need to get fancy. It’s all going up in smoke anyway.
As you can see, I found some gold paper to signify that the new year is a metal year. I didn’t check the records so I got the color wrong. It’s supposed to be platinum, which is a white metal (not to be confused with silver). Oh well. It’s the thought that counts, right?
The new year 2023 is Quý Mão, which is Kim Bạch Kim, making this year a gold-platinum cat.
FYI: For more information regarding the Year and what Metals and Animals they align with, please see my post The Original Asian Zodiac 6: The Ten Heavenly Stems. In that post, I have the entire chart for 120 years with explanations as to how we are able to get a gold-platinum alloy cat.
You may be scratching your head thinking, is there such a thing as an alloy made of gold and platinum? I assure you, there is. Kim Bạch Kim is gold mixed with platinum. This is an amazing combination because back in 2018, scientists were able to mix gold and platinum together, creating a new material that is 100 times more wear-resistant than high-strength steel–making it the first metal alloy to join the same class as diamond. (1)
Hmm. It looks like I’ll have to dig into the new year’s platinum cat and give everyone the updated astrological horoscope. I’ll do a quick youtube video of my kitchen god send-off and then I’ll start on the Platinum Cat posting. Until next time, have an amazing day!