July 5, 2009
“Each house that is built is, in a certain sense, a reenactment of the creation of the world.” Mircea Eliade.
Topping-Off rituals has been practiced all over the world and we saw some of it in China in our last trip, but the Europeans like the Romanian, the French and the German do them as well.
The Chinese version is to burn some incense, make a lot of noise like doing drums, letting off fire crackers and lion dance and then paste lucky charms or talismans on the beams and rafters like the picture showed below taken in Dali by Michael Rapp.
In Romania, when the top of the rafters is installed, it is adorned with a fir tree or a green branch decorated with paper flowers or ribbons. In France, the ridge beam bouquet is still sometimes carried out, hung by the youngest member of the crew, and in Germany, where I am living now; the Richtfest is still practiced, and often accompanied by a Spruch (a poem read aloud by the head craftsperson). The picture showed below is the result of a Richtfest I downloaded from one of the Internet sites.
Are rituals like these considered superstitious? It is not a religious practice, it is like a celebration of things well done without any mishaps. More importantly, it affirms the house is the center of the world for the occupants. It is a pity more and more building rituals are dying out both in China and the West. May be we just take things for granted?