‘Gods of the ocean’: Why Vietnamese fishermen worship the whale

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Under a sweltering sun, 84-year-old Nguyen Co looks out from the stone steps of a temple on Ly Son Island off the coast of central Vietnam. A broad grin spreads across his leathery face, even as he turns his gaze to a huge mound where a six-metre-long whale lies buried – the sea creature he has come to worship. Co is the leader of a group of worshippers on the island who pray to whale spirits, asking for a good catch and protection at sea. Dressed in a striking red-and-gold traditional áo dài, a long tunic worn over trousers, Co explains whales have been known to rescue fishermen caught in sto…

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