The Spiritual Pork
By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
May 15, 2010
The Faster Times
This is the second in a three-part series examining the lives and deaths of Asian pigs.
I wake to the stench of burning hair. It’s the start of a three-day “Support the Village” ceremony held each year by Tai Daeng and Khmu villagers around the spring equinox-the hottest, driest time of year when rice is running low and farmers have nothing yet to grow. Families feast on rich slabs of pork-then dance and sing and drink for three riotous days.
But first: the gods must be honored.
On that first afternoon, Jerry and I follow a path at the edge of the village school house, through a tangle of forest to an opening around a single towering tree. A small wooden spirit house stands at the base of that tree.
Some 30 men and boys, and just a few little girls, gather around a freshly slaughtered pig on a blanket of banana leaves. It’s shaved (thus the acrid burning hair), with its back to the ground. The head is hung to the right of the spirit house, the rump (with tail) to the left. One man slices the belly, then a flutter of hands digs inside. The liver is gently extracted, the intestines tossed into a pail. Blood spatters the earth, ruby against emerald. The men continue to dig, plucking guts and stringing meat and feet with bamboo twine. A big black wok burns fiercely, full of entrails mixed with salt and MSG. READ MORE