The Hmong people, an ethnic group originating in Southeast Asia, predominantly inhabit the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. With a rich cultural history spanning thousands of years, the Hmong people have developed a unique set of beliefs, mythology, and rituals that continue to inform their way of life today. This article aims to provide an indroduction to Hmong culture, focusing on their deities, mythological figures, and rituals, while highlighting the unique aspects that distinguish their belief system.


At the core of Hmong beliefs is the concept of animism, which posits that all living things and natural elements have spirits or souls. This includes not only animals and plants but also rivers, mountains, and rocks. These spirits, known as "dab" or "neeb," are believed to influence the lives of Hmong people and must be treated with respect to ensure harmony and balance.

The Hmong also believe in ancestor worship, valuing the spirits of their forebears as a critical link between the living and the spiritual world. These ancestral spirits are thought to offer guidance and protection to their descendants.

Deities and Mythological Figures

  • Saub: Saub is the primary deity in Hmong mythology, revered as the creator god. He is responsible for the creation of the earth, the heavens, and all living beings. Saub is often portrayed as a wise and benevolent figure, guiding the Hmong people through challenges and providing them with knowledge.

  • Ntxwg Nyug: Ntxwg Nyug is the deity of darkness and is often portrayed as a malevolent figure. He is Saub's rival and is associated with chaos, destruction, and suffering. In Hmong mythology, Ntxwg Nyug is often depicted as attempting to harm the Hmong people, with Saub intervening to restore order and protect them.

  • Shee Yee: Shee Yee is a revered hero in Hmong folklore, celebrated for his bravery and strength. As a warrior, he fought against evil spirits and monsters to protect the Hmong people. Shee Yee is also known for his moral compass and wisdom, often providing guidance to those who seek it.

  • Txiv Nraug Ntxuam: Txiv Nraug Ntxuam is a prominent figure in Hmong mythology, associated with the spirit world and shamanism. He is believed to be the first shaman and is often invoked during shamanic rituals for guidance and protection.

Mythological Creatures

  • Nkauj Hnub and Nkauj Hmoob: These two celestial sisters are often mentioned in Hmong mythology as guardians of the sun and the moon. They are associated with light, fertility, and prosperity.

  • Plig: Plig are spirits that are believed to accompany the souls of deceased Hmong individuals. They guide the soul to the afterlife and help to protect the living from harmful spirits.


  • Soul-Calling Ceremony (Hu Plig): When a Hmong person experiences illness or misfortune, it is believed that their soul may have wandered away from their body. The soul-calling ceremony aims to reunite the soul with the body, restoring harmony and health. A shaman typically performs this ritual, invoking the spirits of ancestors and other deities to assist in the process.

  • Shamanic Healing (Ua Neeb): Shamanic healing is an essential aspect of Hmong spirituality, addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments. A shaman, guided by spirits, uses various techniques, such as chanting, drumming, and the use of sacred objects, to diagnose and treat the individual in need. This practice is deeply rooted in Hmong beliefs about the interconnectedness of the spirit world and the physical realm.

  • Ancestral Worship (Txoj Kev Cawv): Paying respects to ancestors is a central aspect of Hmong culture, reinforcing the connection between the living and the spiritual world. Ancestral worship typically involves offering food, incense, and other items to the ancestral spirits, either at a home altar or a dedicated space. This ritual serves to honor the ancestors and seek their guidance and protection.

  • Hmong New Year (Noj Peb Caug): The Hmong New Year is an important annual event that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of a new year. This celebration includes various rituals, such as the offering of food and gifts to ancestors and deities, traditional music, and dance performances. The New Year festivities aim to restore balance and ensure prosperity and good fortune for the coming year.

Unique Beliefs

  • Spiritual Twins (Npuj Npaum Liab): The Hmong believe that each person has a spiritual twin, or "npuj npaum liab," that exists in the spirit world. This spiritual twin is thought to be connected to the individual's life force and well-being. When a person experiences illness or misfortune, it may be attributed to the spiritual twin's actions or condition in the spirit world. To address such issues, Hmong shamans may perform rituals to communicate with the spiritual twin and restore balance.

  • Reincarnation and Soul Lineage (Kev Qhia Tawm Ntawv): The Hmong believe in reincarnation, the concept that each soul undergoes multiple lifetimes in various forms. A unique aspect of this belief is the idea of a "soul lineage," which posits that souls are reborn within the same family line. This belief strengthens the importance of ancestral worship, as the spirits of ancestors are thought to be directly connected to the souls of their living descendants.