Baby, souls, name and health: traditional customs for a newborn infant among the Hmong in Melbourne Academic Article uri icon


  • In this paper, I discuss childrearing beliefs and practices in Hmong culture. In particular I focus on issues related to souls and ceremonies for a newborn infant in Hmong society. The Hmong believe that each living body has three souls. For a newborn infant, the first soul enters his or her body when he or she is conceived in the mother's womb. The second soul enters when the baby has just emerged from the mother's body and taken its first breath. The third soul, however, will have to be called on the third morning after birth, as will be discussed in this paper. If all three souls are secured in the infant's body, he or she will be healthy and hence thrive well. On the contrary, the infant may become ill and eventually die if all three souls do not reside in his or her body. This, therefore, makes a soul calling ceremony on the third morning after birth essential in Hmong culture. I will show that for Hmong society to survive, the Hmong strongly adhere to their cultural beliefs and practices related to a newborn infant. These beliefs and practices tie the Hmong with not only their family and their society at large, but also the supernatural world.

publication date

  • March 2000