nat

The nats (; ) are spirits worshipped in Burma (or Myanmar) in conjunction with Buddhism. They are divided between the 37 Great Nats and all the rest (i.e., spirits of trees, water, etc.). Almost all of the 37 Great Nats were human beings who met violent deaths (, lit. “green death”). They may thus also be called nat sein (; lit. green spirits). The word ‘sein’, while meaning ‘green’, is being used to mean ‘raw’ in this context. There are however two types of nats in Burmese Buddhist belief. Nat spirits are termed lower nats or auk nats (), whether named or unnamed, whereas ahtet nats () or higher nat dewas inhabit the six heavens. Much like sainthood, nats can be designated for a variety of reasons, including those only known in certain regions in Burma. Nat worship is less common in urban areas than in rural areas, and is practised among ethnic minorities as well as in the mainstream Bamar society. It is however among the Buddhist Bamar that the most highly developed form of ceremony and ritual is seen. Every Burmese village has a nat sin () which essentially serves as a shrine to the village guardian nat called the ywa saung nat (). An offertory coconut () is often hung on the main southeast post () in the house, wearing a gaung baung (headdress) and surrounded by perfume, as an offering to the Min Mahagiri (Lord of the Great Mountain), also known as the ein dwin () or ein saung () (house guardian) nat. One may inherit a certain member or in some instances two of the 37 Nats as mi hsaing hpa hsaing (; lit. mother’s side, father’s side) from one or both parents’ side to worship depending on where their families originally come from. One also has a personal guardian spirit called ko saung nat ().