Family Deities – Ong Tao

Thanks for joining us for another Families’ Deity! We’re exploring deities that tie into families and family values, or who are important to the family unit or children in some way. This month, we are exploring the Observer God, Ong Tao.

Who is Ong Tao?
In Vietnamese culture, the deity Ong Tao holds a special place of reverence and significance. Also known as the Kitchen God, Ong Tao is believed to be the celestial messenger who watches over the household and reports on the family’s actions and deeds to the Jade Emperor, an important celestial being.

Why is Ong Tao one of our Family Deities?
One legend of Ong Tao traces back to ancient mythology. According to the story, a poor fisherman named Tran-Ba, and his wife, Tran-Anh, lived a humble life. One day, a golden carp got caught in Tran-Ba’s fishing net. The carp pleaded for its life, promising to grant the couple wealth and prosperity in return. The couple released the carp, and true to its word, their fortune changed overnight. The carp transformed into a celestial being known as Ong Tao, who became the guardian of their household.

Ong Tao is believed to observe the daily activities families and report them to the Jade Emperor annually at the end of the twelfth lunar month. It is said that the Jade Emperor takes the report into account when determining the family’s fortune for the coming year. Ong Tao is seen as a messenger between the human world and the divine realm, ensuring that the household is protected and blessed.

This beloved family deity in Vietnamese tradition, represents the spiritual connection between the human world and the divine realm. Through rituals and traditions, families still honour and show gratitude to Ong Tao, seeking his blessings and protection for the household.

Honouring Ong Tao
To honour Ong Tao and ensure a favourable report to the Jade Emperor, Vietnamese families perform various rituals and traditions.

At the end of the twelfth lunar month, families clean their homes and prepare a farewell ceremony for Ong Tao. This ceremony involves offering food, fruits, and other items to Ong Tao, symbolising appreciation and gratitude. Sometimes releasing of carp forms part of rituals.

As part of the farewell ceremony, families burn a paper effigy of Ong Tao. This act is believed to send Ong Tao back to the Jade Emperor, allowing him to deliver the annual report.

On the first day of the lunar new year, families welcome Ong Tao back to their homes by setting up a new altar and offering food and incense. This ritual symbolizes the renewal of the divine connection between the household and Ong Tao.

At the time of writing we are approaching the Lunar New Year 2024, Year of the Dragon, so perhaps light some incense for Ong Tao and leave out some flowers on the altar.

Ong Tao Correspondences:
Carp Fish

Offerings to Ong Tao:
Flowers Paper effigies for burning