In the pantheistic system of Three (or Four) Palaces religion, Ten Princes rank below Five Great Mandarins and Four Ladies of Honor, above Twelve Royal Damsels and Ten Boy Attendants.
All ten princes were sons of Bát Hải King (Eight-Sea King) living in Động Đình Lake. Most of them descended on earth, incarnated into historic heroes who contributed their lives to country.
Ten Princes in Four Palaces - Source: Internet
The First Prince
The First Prince, who is known as Ông Hoàng Quận (Quận Prince), was responsible for papers and documents of Heaven Court. He used to travel everywhere, enjoy the beauty of nature, fly in the sky by a Red Dragon or surf waves with Three-Head-Nine-Tail. He protected and supported businessmen and students.
He is worshipped in Trung Temple, Suối Mỡ.
The First Prince seldom appears in a medium’s body (ngự đồng). Each time of his appearance, he usually wears red dragon-embroidered gown, Vietnamese turban (khăn xếp) with a red scarf tied behind (lét). In lên đồng (ritual of mediumship), he just offers incense and khai quang (self-purifies by consuming offerings like betel, cigarettes, tea...)
The Second Prince
He descended on earth, incarnated into General Nguyễn Hoàng, the ancestor of Nguyễn lords and kings and was honored for expanding the country.
His troops based in Triệu Tường, Thanh Hóa, so he was also called General Hoàng Triệu. His major temple was built there, was named Quan Triệu temple. There is another temple named Quan Triệu in Chèm, Hà Nội too.
Like the First Prince, he seldom ngự đồng, if any, in the similar-but-green-or-yellow gown. He offers incense, khai quang, then performs the battle flag dance.
The Third Prince
There are three temples worshipping him. One is in Hàn Sơn, Thanh Hóa. Another is in Thái Bình (Hưng Long temple) and the other is Vạn Ngang temple in Đồ Sơn. Each temple is related to a different legend of him. However, he is always seen as a prince serving The Third Goddess in Water Palace. So, he ngự đồng and is in a white gown.
The Seventh Prince
The seventh Prince in blue dress.- Source: Internet.
His main temple is Bảo Hà temple at Cấm mountain, Bản Yên district, Lào Cai province. It was built at the end of the Lê dynasty. Legends about him could cause confusion. It is said that he died in a battle while against Chinese invaders. In another legend, he was so enviable that he was killed by some people in the royal court. The common elements of these legends is that he descended on earth and incarnated into General Nguyễn Hoàng Bảy, who protected the mountains and forests along the Chinese border against invaders
Hence, when ngự đồng, he used to wear a green or indigo dragon-embroidered gown, a turban with indigo lét and a tilted jasper-color hairpin. He offers incense, khai quang then hold a couple of rods, pretends to ride a horse to go to chấm đồng – picks someone to be a medium in near future by throwing something like a betel-nut or a rod. During the ritual, he is often offered three cups of tea, then weed mixed cigarettes.
The Ninth Prince
It is easy to recognize the Ninth Prince in mediumship session because of his unique style and appearance. He wears black long dress (áo dài), wooden shoes, with a black umbrella in hand. He looks like a Confucious teacher. Legend has it that he did descend on earth. His incarnation was a high educated person who became a great mandarin. He protected the Cờn Môn waterfront, so he was also named Cờn Môn Ninth Prince.
The Tenth Prince
The tenth Prince in Tứ Phủ show.
Also called Nghệ An Tenth Prince. He was a mandarin descending from heaven on earth to support people. There are many variations of legends about him. He was said to incarnate into many generals, namely Nguyễn Xí, Lê Khôi, Nguyễn Duy Lặc, Nguyễn Duy Nhân, Uy Minh Vương Lý Nhật Quang.
His major temples are Chợ Củi temple in Hà Tĩnh and Hưng Nguyên temple in Nghệ An.
When ngự đồng, Tenth Prince used to wear yellow dragon-embroidered gown, a turban with yellow lét and a golden tilted hairpin. He offers incense and khai quang. Sometimes he performs battle flag dance and pretends to be in a battle field. Sometimes he walks around, writes then reads some poems. Sometimes he spreads the silk yellow scarf, pretends to fish with fishermen by the Lam river. He also holds rod to ride horse and chấm đồng.
The Fourth Prince, Fifth Prince, Six Prince and Eighth Prince
All of them didn’t descend on earth, but some people say that the incarnation of the Fourth Prince was General Nguyễn Hữu Cầu, the incarnation of the Fifth Prince was General Hoàng Công Chất, and the incarnation of the Eighth Prince was General Nùng Chí Cao.
In conclusion, we can see in The Mother Goddesses that there is not only deification of the natural forces and elements, but also deification of historic personages through the process of incarnation and reincarnation. They are immortalized through the medium of dances (giá đồng). It reflects the people’s respect to historical figures, as well as their wish of being protected by and related to nature.