The 2nd Anniversary of Karen traditional wrist tying ceremony at Chinese Assembly Hall in Malaysia 2010. [MKO]
Before addressing about wrist tying I would like to share something about the act of descending of Karen tribe, the Karen race descended from Babylon to Burma by the year of BC 2234 in the ways to Burma they were passing through Mongolia, Turkistan and Yunnan then settled in Burma at BC 1125, as a second group at BC 739. The month of August is a time of year of Karen traditional wrist tying ceremony when the bonds of tradition that bind the Karen people are tied in a symbolic but also quite literal way. In Karen families and communities around the world white threads are tied around wrists in a ceremony know as Lah Ku Kee Su. Lah Ku means August and Kee Su describes the act of binding the wrist. Traditionally the festival take place at the time of the August full moon but the time is flexible in some part of the world.
The festival has no religious significant and much of it is rooted in ancestral belief in spirit – one Karen interpretation of wrist tying, for instance declares that binding a white thread around the wrist of a sick person will cure or alleviate the malady by attracting back to the body a spirit whose absence caused the problem in the first place.
In the time of our Ancestors, the elderly people asked for their family and relatives who are away or abroad coming back together once a year for family gathering, sharing food, and tying thread to the wrist to show and remember that they are one. This tradition becomes part of our Karen culture from generation to generation. Now a day, once a year Karen people gather for the ceremony where the elders tying white thread to the wrist and everyone sharing culture, music, dances and food.
The chief purposes of the festival; are to reinforce Karen identity and contribute to the continuation of Karen culture. Every aspect of the festival is heavy with symbolism. The thread, for instance has to be white because that is the color of good will.
The five different foods eaten at festival are also carefully chosen for their symbolic significance. Two kind of rice are prepared: ball of rice, signifying Karen unity and sticky rice, symbolizing Karen sincerity and faithfulness. Bananas are brought to the ceremony to signify honesty, friendliness and mutual help. Both of the sticky rice and bananas also signify the unification of the Pwo and Skaw sub groups of the Karen. Sugar cane joins the festive menu to symbolize the regenerative vitality of the Karen people.
Water is drunk as recognition of its life- giving properties, these ceremonies begin with prayers imploring the spirits or return from wherever they are roaming and to stay in the family and community. The practice of Karen traditional wrist tying started at Gobi desert, where our ancestors came across to get into Burma hundred years ago. We traditionally believed in spirit and in order to protect bad spirit from harming us, we used white needle, twisted it on our hand as a sign of Holy Spirit to defeat evils. White needle on our hand also reminds us that we are Karen: we are the same groups of people. In the past, our ancestors stayed closed to other groups of people and in order to separate or notice them from other, older Karen marked their children with red and white thread.
There are seven types of wrist tying: 1- for the new born baby.
2- In the marriage ceremony.
3- Before and after making the journey.
4-when a person is physically unwell.
5-when a person is in frighten.
6- After the funeral service.
7- In every month of August of the Year
Our forefathers who led us from Yunnan are:
1- Phue Tot Mae Par
2- Phue Ka Sount Mae Par
3- Phue Ta Kae
4- Phue Kyar pon
5- Phue La Young Hae
6- Phue Maung Tot
7- Phue Phar Theint
8- Phue Ka Ton and
9- Phue Pa La Thu Laung.
In conclusion, it is an inheritance that our forefather left for us, by tying with white cotton on wrist the holy spirit dwell in the body and expel the evil spirit out of the body and in this celebration remind us to reflect the day of our departure from Babylon so we need to cherish our loving Karen Traditional Wrist Tying generation by generation to remember our ancestors and maintain our culture.