Talismans and amulets are items that are used in Vietnamese daily life that originated from China, Islam, Buddhism and Hindu religions. These spiritual items help to bring luck, wealth and protection depending on the kind of item one chooses.When traveling to Vietnam, you may encounter talismans to protect yourself and your family while visiting different parts of the country. Talismans are usually superstitious pieces of fabric found in temples, many are made with wood chips, sand or lizard eyes.
Despite being called taweez in islam, these talismans are not religious mystic items compared to other types such as amulets or lucky totems but carry intricately designed aesthetic quality that make them look similar to most Catholic jewelry with ornate details such as crowns, reusing or recycling pre-existing icons that symbolize “weightiness” such as Bodhisattvas and angels.
Talismans trace their roots back to China thousands of years ago said be preserved as holy relics. This decision led to the emergence of traditional/ folk methods such as reciting mantras or giving offerings to Buddha figures depicted on them. Anyone could emulate this practice and make taweez by themselves based on what they find funny or interesting.During the war between America and Vietnam in 1975, when many American troops died while escaping North to South through rice paddies during the night, there was significant rise in need of taweez and talismans in Vietnam to protect them while they are on their escape journey.
The term “taweez” goes back to the days that the Muslim population in the region was split between Hanoi and the QangHoa area, with a land border running between these two regions. In the Vietnam culture, talismans and taweez possess high spiritual affiliation. For this reason, they are guarded during religious rituals or private moments.
‘Taweez is the fusion of both traditions between Vietnamese Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam creating an exotic way that populations historically have been practicing without registering as a formal religion like more popular ones such as Christianity or Islam.’ says Nguyen.Nguyen believes that taweez is one of the most “unique and eclectic” forms of religion in the world. He says it has a “great deal in common with the kind of experiences found in New Ageism, witchcraft, or pagan traditions.”The taweezin islam is also similar to what happens in Haitian Voodoo and African traditional folk religions in that they are not formal religions.
The item can be attached to the body or cover what their forefathers had painted on their huts, where they believed in protection from evil spirits. They believe that if someone with a taweez enters into your home, you cannot die until you hear your name uttered three times by your family members throughout the house.
Although the government has made a temporary ban on talismans such as knots, the belief in the power of this items has been very strong in Vietnam and presents a chaotic environmental influence. Due to this discordant influence, it seems that the practice is increasing more during divisive time such as the Tet holidays.
Some famous talisman-taweez are those in District One which date back to the reign of Emperor Le Kien in 1429 and those during the Le Dynasty in 1795-1802. Other famous talisman origin in Vietnam are those exhibiting Buddhist religion tales. from the temples in Thang Long-Hoi An.
In Vietnam, even today superstition has great effect on the mindset of people. In a certain part of Viet Nam, allegedly there is a vast network of talisman-taweez sellers and buyers where people have turned to these talismans to bring healthy babies, improve prosperity in their lives, or ward off ghosts and bugs. From tribal folklore to national newspaper exposes on how people lack the science to find proof that things are real, this is yet one example showing how deeply ingrained traditional beliefs are in cultural outlooks scattered internationally.