The elephant, a big asset, plays an important role in their cultural life. They consider the elephant a member of the community and its life follows M’nong customs.
Traditionally, when the M’nong caught a wild elephant, they tamed it in a training field outside the village for about 2 to 3 months. When the elephant was domesticated and could understand human orders, they organized a community ceremony to admit the elephant to the village.
The ceremony honors the martial spirit of the M’nong men and their ability to conquer nature. People pray for the elephant’s health and the mahout’s safety and prosperity.
The elephant will be treated kindly, join in community activities, and follow M’nong rules.
Dam Nang Long of Buon Don, Dac Lac province, says 4 generations of his family have tamed elephants: “The elephant has both material and religious value. The M’nong and the elephant develop an emotional bond and share prosperity and hardship. In the rainy season, we hold a ceremony to inform the elephants that nature has begun to give them food. A ceremony is held at the beginning of the dry season to inform them that food is running low and they must struggle to survive through the drought.”
Many M’nong families consider elephants their greatest assets and their closest friends, gifts from the Jade Emperor. A ritual to pray for the elephant’s health is carefully planned.
A shaman, who is a respected person with profound knowledge of the M’nong customs, goes with mahouts to families who have elephants to perform the ceremony.
The offering includes rice wine, bee’s wax candles, steamed rice, a bottle of water, and pork. They ceremony is accompanied by gong performances.
The shaman prays to the Jade Emperor to bless the elephants with good health and safety so they can share the hard work of the villagers. He sprays alcohol and places the offerings on the elephants’ heads.
Beside this health ceremony, the M’nong have a ceremony for when an elephant is born, gets sick, or dies or when they sell an elephant, or name an elephant.
These customs have been organized as an Elephant Festival in Buon Bon, Dac Lac province, in March to preserve ethnic traditions and entertain tourists.