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When they were still young, they performed an au xae, and when her husband was preparing the pig outside the house, dogs came to pester him, and he became so angry that he struck one of them to death.
Besides the innumerable strictures of the au xae ritual -- in the rite itself, in rearing and consuming livestock, in the way a house is built or rebuilt, in post-marital residence, in material living, in social mobility, and in social life in general--its performance requires that participants act strictly within Karen custom (a lu a la).
It is a grave offence to have a missing member in au xae performance.
One is to invite Buddhist monks to perform a ritual to exorcise the spirit of au xae. The other is conversion to Christianity (Baptist in the research village).
The practice of inviting Buddhist monks to perform the au xae spirit exorcism ritual is a product of the Thammacarik project of propagating Buddhism among the hill population, initiated jointly by the Thai Buddhist Sangha and the Public Welfare Department of the Thai Government in the 1960s.
As noted earlier, conversion to Christianity is another alternative to the au xae ritual and its abandonment.
The choice to abandon the au xae rite, which can be made only by the women themselves, involves a change in women's role and position in the family.
Even if there was desire to limit the number of children, contraception was not available.(9) Against such a background the au xae ritual underlined the value of fertility and motherhood.
Her ill health continued for over a year, and the family repeated the au xae and other rituals of curing, and even moved their house following the advice of a medicine man.
However, their concern is no longer over the status gained through fertility best exemplified in a large au xae gathering, or over transmitting knowledge for life in the Karen social, environmental, and ritual setting.
I have no qualms with this, but my own argument is that even as it is based on the bilateral principle and conjugal ties, the Sgaw Karen rite of au xae articulates the woman's position and role in the domestic realm and reproduction.