Although Vietnam is in name a Communist state, the practice of mother goddess worship endures through much of the country. Mother Goddesses are thought to represent heaven, earth, water, mountains, and forests. They are celebrated in rituals as symbols of fertility and creation. For the first time, the worship of Mother Goddesses is on display at a public museum in Hanoi. The exhibition, “Worshiping Mother Goddesses: Heart – Beauty – Joy,” opened at the Vietnam Women’s Museum on 5 January 2012. Its installation comes after two years of research among practitioners by the Vietnam Women’s Union.
Organizers of the exhibition reported approval difficulties with local authorities. According to anthropologist and Mother-Goddess-worship specialist Professor Ngo Duc Thinh, these problems are unsurprising, “since in the past, the worship was seen as superstition.” However, signs suggest a change, since Mother Goddess worship is at last “being officially acknowledged in modern society.” The ritual may be proposed as an UNESCO cultural heritage. This exhibition may be the first step towards greater recognition and appreciation of the ritual, as Vietnamese anthropologists propose to found a private museum focused on the worship of Mother Goddesses.
Overall, Vietnam is generally regarded as having a relatively low level of religious freedom, as indicated in this admittedly highly problematic Wikipedia map. Vietnamese human rights activists have recently accused the government of discriminating against religious minorities, especially among the country’s tribal populations.