People familiar with Thai Buddhism and culture will have already noticed that there are many Goddesses within the belief system. The most commonly seen Goddess in Thailand is perhaps the Goddess of Fortune Mae Nangkwak whose statues are seen in most shops and stalls across the country. However, in this article, we are going to talk about the Earth Goddess who has existed prior to Buddhism and who has been widely worshipped since the period known as Sasana Phi and hitherto.
The belief in Earth Goddess as a primordial anthropomorphic celestial deity was almost common throughout ancient civilizations from East to West. To the Greeks, she was known as Gaia; to the Aztecs, she was Goddess Toci; to Indo-Europeans, she was known either as Demeter or Semele; to the native Americans, she was known as Atira; to the Chinapeople, she was known as Dimu; to the Indonesians, she was known as Ibu Pertiwi; in India, she was known either as Prithvi or Dharti Mata, and et cetera. To the modern people today, she is simply called Mother Earth. Therefore, it can be said that the Earth Goddess has been with human beings since time immemorial and prior to the creation of religions.
Calling Earth to Witness
The Earth Goddess is Phra Sri Suwanthara or popularly known as Mae Tollani to the Thais. The most popular reference to Mae Tollani in Buddhism is the chapter known as “Calling Earth to Witness.” The chapter depicts Lord Buddha’s final stage towards enlightenment under the bodhi tree when Mara, accompanied by his warriors and daughters, attempted to drive Lord Buddha from His throne. The dark forces were so aggressive that they managed to terrify all Gods and sent them scurrying away, leaving Lord Buddha to face the devils all by Himself.
Lord Buddha stretched down his right hand and touched the earth (known as the Māravijaya or mara vichai posture), summoning the Goddess of Earth to be His witness. Mae Tollani appeared in the form of a beautiful young woman and avowed Lord Buddha’s right. When the devil forces remained adamant, Mae Tollani twisted her long cascading hair and torrents of water collected from the innumerable donatives libations over the ages created a flood which washed Mara and his army away.
The Māravijaya or mara vichai posture where the seated Buddha puts His right hand casually on His knee cap with fingers pointing towards to the ground, and His other hand on His lap with His eyes either closed or looking down to the ground became known as “subduing Mara.” Buddha images in that posture are associated with the power of invincibility, warding away evil, success, victory, and great wealth. The most popular sacred object of this category originating from a temple is the Somdej Channa Manbandal Sapo made and consecrated by Luang Phor Thongdaam, Wat Tham Thapian Thong in Buddhist year 2552. The amulet depicts Lord Buddha in the mara vichai posture under the bodhi tree with Mae Tollani under the throne and Mae Bosok on the rear of the amulet.
At the same time, the name Mae Tollani appears in many Thai literature, such as the book of the First Mahachat sermon (the Vessantara, Jataka), Lilit Taleng Phai and etc. with different names, such as the Mae Tollani and Phra Mae Vasuntharapsutha which all possess the same meaning – owner of wealth. The chapter “Calling Earth to Witness” has also influenced the outlook of Mae Tollani whereby her image is created with her twisting her long cascading hair. According to various Thai reviews, the most expensive and effective image of Mae Tollani ever made and consecrated in modern days is that of Luang Phor Pae of Wat Pikulthong whereas, in terms of beauty and exquisiteness, the unanimous vote went to the image from Luang Phor Kuay’s temple, Wat Kositaram.
Rituals and Traditions in Construction
Paying homage to Mae Tollani plays an important role in Thai Buddhism and Thai culture. Before the commencement of anything, homage has to be paid to Mae Tollani first because she is the guardian who sustains the land from which everything in this world is born. This is particularly so pertaining to works requiring pounding, digging, drilling, and hitting the ground. It is believed that these activities not only disturb Mae Tollani but also other spirits, especially the Nagas. Therefore, in some temples there are also four Nagas statues enshrined together with Mae Tollani.
There is no universal ritual in this regards. It varies according to the various schools of thoughts. People from different provinces may also have their own traditions as well. Therefore, whatever procedures elaborated in this article is by no means authoritative and/or exhaustive but a mere window into the belief system.
Relocation of Mae Tollani
Generally, prior to any building construction, homage has to be made to Mae Tollani whereby a “petition” for the intended activities is “submitted” to Mae Tollani seeking her approval, forgiveness and blessing. This is followed by the ritual of “Relocation of Mae Tollani” known commonly as the relocation ceremony. This ceremony can either be very grand or merely symbolic depending on individuals. In the least, the property owner will bring a pair of joss sticks, a yellow candle, a pair of jasmine garland on a pedestal or a silver bowl into the middle of the courtyard where the house would be built and recite a spell (usually under the guidance of a guru). After the recitation is completed, the joss sticks and candle will be placed on the west side of the area where the house is to be built.
Offerings to Mae Tollani
Immediately following the relocation ceremony is the ritual of offerings. The property owner will presentofferings to Mae Tollani in 5 containers (trays), namely, (a) 5 pairs of white flowers except Champa flowers; (b) 1 bowl of rain water; (c) 1 comb; (d) 1 ripe banana; (e) 1 hard-boiled egg; and (f) five bowls consisting of white flowers and 5 pairs of white candles each with matches. The person who performs the ceremony will hold the 5 bowls while those who attend the ceremony will walk behind the person who performs the ritual to the ceremonial area. The property owner will then light two candles and place them on the five bowls and raise the five bowls up to about his chest level. He will make another recitation after which all offerings will be moved to a place where no one will step on them. This completes the relocation ceremony.
Most people will proceed to initiate the ritual of “Perd Tollani” or ground opening immediately after offerings to Mae Tollani. “Perd Tollani” means a ritual pertaining to working the ground that serves as a prelude to the commencement of construction work. However, according to Luang Phor Somjit’s linage, we will conduct a “Wai Kru” ritual to pay homage to our ancestral teachers, Rheesis, and Gods in-between these two ceremonies.
There will also be other rituals pertaining to the selection of direction, the raising of the main pillar or setting of the foundation stone, and et cetera but which are all-in-all beyond the purview of this article.
Similarly, in the process of buying and selling properties, renovation, and moving into a new home, homage and offerings are also made to Mae Tollani to ensure all transactions and works go on smoothly and people moving into a new house will enjoy peace, good health and prosperity.
Phitti Boon Nang Din
In Northern Thailand, there are also various rituals relating to Mae Tollani that are regarded as traditions and the most important being “Phitti Boon Nang Din.” This is a very complicated ceremony involving various homage and rituals to different Gods including Mae Tollani, Mae Khongkha, Mae Bosok and other Gods involved in the process of planting rice.
As we now know, Mae Tollani is the guardian Goddess of Earth and rice planting involves working on the earth so it is inevitable that homage to Mae Tollani has to be conducted. But what about Mae Khongkha? Well, the history of Mae Khongkha is beyond the scope of this article but suffice to state herein that she is the sister of Phra Mae Uma (Lord Shiva’s wife and Lord Ganesha’s mother). Mae Khongkha is responsible for the water element that can either be a creative or destructive source for which rice planting is intrinsically dependent upon. Hence, it is necessary to pay homage to Mae Khongkha as well. Whereas Mae Bosok is the guardian of rice and, hence, the primary Goddess involved in “Phitti Boon Nang Din”. Homage will be made to Mae Bosok before and during planting as well as during harvesting.
Mae Tollani as a Witness of Merits
Pursuant to the chapter “Calling Earth to Witness” the Goddess of Earth Mae Tollani has been revered as an impartial witness of merits in all rituals and ceremonies. Practitioners of the inner path, especially “Wethmon Khao,” often pay homage to and invite Mae Tollani as a witness, a protector, or a facilitator in their chants and rituals. Many rituals cannot succeed without her approval and help. Even in the creation of “nammoon Mae Tollani” or holy water to drive away negative energies and evil, practitioners will have to dedicate 21 days of prayers to Mae Tollani.
Mae Tollani is also the principal Goddess overseeing the “Kruad Nam” or water libation ritual that forms an essential part of almost all ceremonies in Thailand, for examples, merit making, “sedok krok” or extracting bad luck, wedding, funeral, and et cetera where water is deposited into the earth through Mae Tollani as an impartial witness. For those who have participated in the water libation ritual, you will remember hearing the monks begin the chant with “Yatha Wariwaha Pura Paripurenti Sakarang …” and you will start pouring water without interruption, dedicating merits to the intended benefactor(s) both seen and/or unseen. It is believed that water and earth are the mediators between the human world and the other worlds, especially afterlife. The water libation ritual is said to have a long tradition going back to the time when Lord Buddha taught King Bimbisarn to pour water (Thaksinotok) onto the ground to dedicate merits to deceased relatives. In this regard, it has become something that has been adhered to for generations.
Worshipping Mae Tollani
It is believed that worshipping a genuinely consecrated image of Mae Tollani at home or in an office will bring about harmony, happiness, good fortune and wealth. At the same time, she will protect the territory from negative energies and dispel all evil. For the general believers the process is simply as follows:
Prepare the followings:
1. Five kinds of fruit (preferably including young coconut and banana)
Thailand is one of the few countries that produce the best horror movies, however, the belief in ghosts is not uniquely Thai but, on the contrary, it is a cornerstone of most cultures. If you think believing in ghosts and spirits in this scientifically and technologically advanced age is weird or not align with mainstream belief then you may have to rethink critically.
A poll conducted by YouGov in October 2019 found that at least 45% of Americans believe in ghosts and demons whereas a similar poll conducted in October 2014 found 34% of British people share similar belief and these figures are rising steadily among those aged 35 and below. Other surveys conducted in the last 10 years have shown 68% of Singaporeans aged 45 and below and just about everyone in Thailand and Taiwan believe in ghosts.
Belief in Paranormal Existences in the 21st Century
Where does the belief in ghosts and spirits stands in a technologically and scientifically advanced 21st century? There are many Buddhist scholars who reject spirit related issues based on a claim that the death-birth cycle is instantaneous, that is to say, the moment an individual dies, his/her “mind” immediately finds a body conditioned by thoughts of that individual when breathing his/her last breath. There are equally other Buddhist scholars who claim that rebirth in the various planes of existence is all up in the mind, that is, from birth right up to enlightenment are all played out in a single life time and there is no real rebirth or reincarnation of beings.
We are not sure about the premises of their propositions. We have not found them in any sutta leave alone in the words of Lord Buddha. However, what we do observed is that both propositions share a common denomination which, in psychology, is called “thought flow.” The first proposition may be defined as fantasizing and, the second as daydreaming. If such propositions are to hold any legitimacy in Buddhism then, sadly, understanding the Four Noble Truth, the theory of dependent origination, the law of kamma, and practising the Noble Eightfold Path amongst other things taught by Lord Buddha will inevitably all-in-all become a mockery and a waste of time, are they not?
The essence of Buddhism in facing death is to conquer fear for the unknown. Rebirth after death, how long does it take to be reincarnated and what afterlife is like; and in which plane of existence will one be reborn are all unknown to an individual. Therefore, unavoidably, there will always be fear and anxiety. In order to overcome these negative psychological and emotional effects is through the understanding of the law of kamma, to cultivate and accumlate good kamma so as to be reborn in a pleasant state within the 31 planes of existence. Unfortunately, the afore-mentioned scholarly propositions approach fear and anxiety over the unknown outside one’s comfort zone through the formation of an escape route made easy and pleasant by way of fantasy and daydream which, in our opinion, is simply not Buddhism!
Does Science Explain Everything?
Scientists have attempted to debunk and explain paranormal experiences based on faulty activity in the brain. They usually attribute such experiences to some form of neurotrauma, for examples, objects moving by itself may be associated with certain malfunctioning to specific regions of the visual processing centre of the brain called the occipital lobe; certain forms of epilepsy, a central nervous system disorder, may cause spooky feelings such as the presence of the unseen; and any combination of fatigue, drugs, alcohol, and lighting effects may also contribute to a single and isolated experience of paranormal encounter. There may be some truth in these scientific dogmas but they may not always be true in every context.
What happens if there is no brain damage detected? Then it must be some form of cognitive or emotional dysfunction, otherwise, the answer must be that of insanity. These are somewhat the scientific protocols that are guarded zealously by the institutions at the expense and well-being of people who experience paranormal activities. Many but not all paranormal experiences may be linked to neuropsychiatric problems and to force-fit each and every content into a set of predetermined context do more harm than good. The fear of being stigmatised and committed to some mental institutions apparently discouraged people to be frank about their experiences or to seek help and solutions if their experiences are bad ones.
The Protective Shield
Psychologists studying religion have utilised and expanded the concept of “protective shield” formulated by Freud to explain the belief in Gods and spirits. The protective shield functions as a dynamic barrier between outside and inside worlds of an individual as well as an aversive state of mind in attributing those things that is beyond one’s control to some illusory forces which may collectively be termed superstition. For examples, asking for God’s help to secure a job; prayers for a love one to recover speedily from a sickness; or wearing a sacred object to enhance charisma and et cetera.
We must not forget that science is a process of learning and discovery, and it has been proven times and again that what was initially thought to be scientifically right and conclusive turned out wrong decades later. Take eugenics, for example. In the past and, to a certain extent, even now, it is believed that intelligence is hereditary which by the very own scientific standards have proven it to be scientifically flawed and meaningless. Inasmuch as criminality, intelligence is greatly influenced by environment and not genes. Are sophisticated crimes not usually committed by intelligent, influential, and well-connected people? Why then do some people still hold ardently on to and propagate such a flawed belief? The answer is quite obvious, is it not? It all voices down to politics and discrimination serving the interests of a dominant group, like Nazis. Therefore, who is actually holding the protective shield?
Believing science knows everything is as superstitious as what it sets out to disprove. The very belief that science is the ultimate revelation and omniscience that ends all revelations as both Hawking and Weinberg envisioned has hitherto turned out to be nothing more than an apparition of scientific delusion. Thinking science as true and permanent is itself self-defeating right from the outset. We are making this statement not because we are Thai Buddhist subscribing to the theorem of impermanence but the very fact that aspects of life are none permanent. Our environment, laws, marriage instituion, and even apparatus are not even the same compared just to 20-30 years back. Try comparing each sexagenary cycle as far back as you could and you will see how vastly different things are. And they are continuously changing.
We have to bear in mind that science is not a conclusion but merely an approximation derived from the limited knowledge of mankind. Even the current knowledge of the cosmos together with the law and logic formulated there-in-under are merely inconclusive scientific guesses just as Newton’s theory on gravity does not explain the precession of Mercury’s orbit. In response, a hypothetical planet name Vulcan is said to have caused the scientific hiccups. Hitherto, to these scientists, planet Vulcan remains the omnipotent “Spirit” orbiting in our known solar system. Vulcan’s existence is just like spirits and ghosts that are scientifically incapable of being proved or disproved, at least with the current technology and knowledge of mankind.
In our opinion, whether the existence and validity of ghosts and spirits are real or mere superstition is for you to form your own judgment because it is after-all your own personal belief and experiences which none other besides yourself has the privy to make any pronouncement.
Nature-Spirits in Modern Thailand
Nonetheless, in this article we are not going to talk about ghosts, rather, we are going to explore the theme of nature-spirits or “winyan thamachat” in the Thai context. In our earlier article “Understanding Thai Buddhism” we briefly touched on this topic by way of reference to “yakkhas,” There are a myriad of those who have and would continue to argue that yakkhas are Hindu and not Buddhist epithet and, thus, non-Buddhist. However, despite the overlap in the belief of yakkhas between Buddhism and Hinduism, the said proposition is actually flawed and untrue per se because nature-spirits predated any religious tradition we know of today. They were found in almost all primitive civilization and society from East to West. We may attribute the apparent incongruity to differences in cosmological, ontological, and epistemological approaches to the subject matter in contrast to Buddhism.
There is no official name to that belief but which the Thais describe as “Satsana Phi” or “ghost religion.” Nevertheless, we are also not going to delve into the origin of the belief but suffice to state herein that the very concept of nature-spirits or yakkhas forms part of Buddhism per the Maha Niddesa in Pitaka Sutta, Ratana Sutta and Āṭānāṭiya Sutta. When we talk about yakkhas in Thai Buddhism, almost naturally, most people misperceive it to refer to the 12 guardian Yahks commonly seen in Thai temples. The most famous of these 12 Yahks is Phaya Yahk Tosakan. However, the fact is that in Buddhism, yakkhas refer not to a specific class of spirits but a very broad category of nature-spirits that are found in water, earth, trees, stones, mountains, caves, and et cetera. They can be good and benevolent like some tutelary deities or naughty, whimsical, or even outright demonic and devilish. Owing to their diverse characteristics and personalities, they are sometimes generally referred to as “amanussa” who could either be a deity, a spirit, a ghost, a demon or a devil.
In this article, we are not going to explore the wide spectrum of nature-spirits but only to concentrate on tree spirits. We will borrow the epithet “nymph” from Greek mythology as a collective reference to tree spirits known as “nang mai” in Thailand. Nymphs can either be a deity, a spirit, a ghost, a demon or a devil that reside in large trees, especially old trees. In other words, the trees in which nymphs reside are considered their homes, thus, they will protect their homes from being destroyed by human beings. When human beings tampered with or have the intention of cutting down trees occupied by nymphs, the nymphs had to show their powers and make their presence known to warn and deter people from destroying their homes. There are numerous stories in various countries where people fell sick, became insane, or even died after cutting down certain trees believed to be “possessed” by spirits.
A nymph can either be male or female but in Thailand it is usually depicted as a beautiful young woman, with shoulder length hair, dressed in traditional costumes with a sabai. The reason for not illustrating a male nymph is perhaps related to inhibited stances in sexual desire between genders. Stories and movies of nymphs are usually centred on some sexual relationship and, hence, in a patriarchal society like Thailand, it is a taboo to stimulate female sexual fantasy. We will also leave the topic of sexuality and gender discrimination as it is and continue this article under the general assumption that nymphs are all females.
Mae Takhien: A Powerful Tree Spirit
A takhien can grow up to 45m in height with the base of its trunk reaching a diameter of 4.5m. Some of these takhien trees have been around for hundreds of years. The sprawling tall trunk gives a spooky and terrifying feeling that either something sacred or evil is in it. It is believed that the takhien trees are usually possessed by nymphs. If the more sap oozes out from it, the more it is possible that a nymph has taken abode in it. The Thais call nymphs residing in the takhien trees Mae Takhien or Nang Takhien.
Mae Takhien is a very powerful nature-spirit who can either bring blessing or cause severe disaster. It is said that Mae Takhien is usually a beautiful woman with long hair, wearing traditional Thai costumes with a sabai like an ancient Thai woman but sometimes she may also appear as typical forest girl, innocent, sweet and attractive. It is believed that in a very old takhian tree there will most likely be a Mae Takhian residing in it. Therefore, Mae Takhien is not a single entity but multiple individual spirits which, by virtue thereof, makes their characteristics diverse and unpredictable.
Is there a nymph residing in every takhian tree? No one can tell for sure. But to cut down a takhien tree, especially that which is many decades old, the cutter often has to perform a ritual requesting Mae Takhien to relocate to a new place. People who cut a takhian tree without performing that ritual are often punished. They are either struck with illness, insanity, or death whereas for people who show respect and honour Mae Takhien, they are, on the contrary, usually rewarded with good fortune and luck. Owing to the capricious nature of Mae Takhien it is difficult to describe her as a deva or a ghost, thus, the term “amanussa” is used in lieu.
Despite the belief, the fear, and the costs, both psychological and spiritual, associated with takhien trees, they are insufficient to prevent human beings from their desire to cut and use the hardwood that is resistant to sunlight and rain for various purposes, especially in canoe building. For the canoe builders, they usually perform grand offering ceremony when cutting and turning a takhien tree into a canoe. Each time a canoe is completed, another special ritual will be performed so that Mae Takhien will change her status to Mae Yanang, the guardian and protector of that canoe.
Some people also use takhien trees to make house pillars. However, there have been many reported cases in the Thai newspapers that oil kept oozing out from those pillars made from takhien trees. Those pillars are coined as “Oil Tak Pillar” and it is believed that it is a sign that Mae Takhien cries in dissatisfaction. The oil stopped oozing once homeowners hurry to pay homage to each pillar with grandiosity. Whereas for those house owners who ignored the omen, members living in the house will become sick and eventually die. The question is, why would one wants to have Mae Takhien as the pillars to his house?
In Wat Kaeo Krachang, Si Bua Thong Subdistrict, Sawan District, Ang Thong Province, there is a 5 meters tall and radius 1.5 meters wide wooden sculpture of a woman dressed in traditional Lanna Thai costumes with Pikul flowered patterns and beautiful jewellery enshrined in the pavillion. According to the abbot of the temple, Phrakru Wiboon Worawat, the statue enshrined in the temple is called “Mae Kaew Prakaithong” or “Chao Mae Takhien.” It is carved from a takhien wood dating back to Dvaravati period recovered from the Si Bua Thong pond by the Subdistrict Administrative Organization. This is one of the few Mae Takhien statues in Thailand. Note that once consecrated by monks and enshrined in a temple, the status of Mae Takhien is elevated from “amanussa” to “Chao” meaning deva.
Sacred Objects made from Takhien Wood
Takhien wood is believed to possess natural divine energy and many sacred objects carved from takhien wood are believed to be very powerful and highly sought after. In Buddhist year 2550, Wat Suthiwat Wararam (Wat Chong Lom), Tha Chalom, Mueang Samut Sakhon District, Samut Sakhon made and consecrated a batch of amulets carved from ancient takhien wood excavated in its temple compound.
There are also other temples that made and consecrated amulets out of takhien wood. For example, in Buddhist year 2551, Wat Nongpho also made and consecrated a batch of Luang Phor Derm amulets from Takhien wood.
In our earlier article “Luang Phor Poot: Master of Snake Spirit” we have also introduced the the Phaya Tor amulets made from takhien wood and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot of Wat Klang Bangplad.
Besides the huge statue of Chao Mae Takien statue in Wat Kaew Krachang that is carved from takhien wood, if you travel approximately 548 kilometres (about 7-8 hours journey from Bangkok) in the northeast direction to Phu Sing District, Si Saket Province to Wat Ban Thai Tavorn, you will find 3 huge statues carved personally by the abbot Luang Phor Boonsong Paphakro from takhien trees excavated within the temple’s compound.
The first takhien tree excavated in year 2554 was carved into a statue of Chao Mae Takhien also known as Niang Kaew Pathum. A second takhien tree trunk was found immersed in a pond in year 2562 by villagers. However, for 7 days the villagers tried to hoist up the tree trunk but failed. A ritual was then initiated where prayers and offerings were made to Mae Takhien. After asking Mae Takhien for permission, the trunk was successfully hoisted.
The trunk was found to be burned, possibly being struck by lightning before it fell into water, therefore, the surface of the trunk was very rough. Luang Phor Boonsong then came up with the idea of carving the trunk into a 14 metres long and 1 metre wide Phaya Jolakhe, turning the rough surface into hard scales of Phaya Jolakhe. The Phaya Jolakhe is named “Arak Khadang” and is believed that walking into its mouth and coming out from its tail will help ward away all bad elements and bring about good fortune.
The statue of Thao Wessuwan is about 9 meters high and the base is about 5 meters wide. His right hand holds a wand with a dog’s head and his left hand holds a glowing orb. Thao Wessuwan is also called “Thao Phaisop” and is the General of all demons. He is one of the four Jatulokban protectors of the human world and resides in the north heavens, with Thao Thot or “Phra In” in the east heavens, Thao Wirunhak or”Phra Yom”in the south heavens, and Thao Wirupak or “Phra Varun” in the west heavens. The Mahayanists call them the “Four Great Heavenly Kings.”
Nang Tani: The Banan Tree Ghost
When we talk about banana tree ghost, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia share a similar belief. In Thailand, a banana tree ghost is known as “Phi Tani” or “Nang Tani” whilst in Malaysia and Singapore, and Indonesia it is called “pontianak” and “kuntilanak” respectively which refers to the ghost of a pregnant woman who died a tragic death and somehow resides in a banana tree. Whether primordial or impending, banana tree ghost is nothing but a ghost.
According to the Thai Encyclopedia for Youth, Volume 13, Nang Tani is defined as follows:
“The banana tree is the hangout of Prai Nang Tani, well known among the older generation. She is said to have a beautiful face, a fragrant body, long hair, and pale red palms and soles like pigeon feet. Lips are the color of ripe gourds. If bananas have plump stems Prai Nang Tani has a chubby figure; if there is a transparent trunk Prai Nang Tani has a slender figure.”
Because Nang Tani is a ghost, therefore, Thais do not plant Tani banana trees near their houses. There are also certain rules to adhere to when cutting the tani banana leaves for use. It is forbidden to cut off the whole leaf which includes the pseudo stem. Either only trim off the banana leaves or cut off the mid rib leaving the pseudo stem and apparent trunk intact. Cutting off the pseudo stem and/or apparent trunk is like cutting into the house of Nang Tani. It is a bad omen and someone at home will soon die. This appears to be due to the old aphorism of using three banana leaves to support the bottom of a coffin. Now, usually only banana leaf crafts or “thaeng yuak” are used on-top of coffin cover.
Banana Ghost Witchcraft: A Low-Art Shunned by Mainstream
In certain places, ceremonies are initiated to placate Nang Tani for various reasons. Items used include baisi, pork head, sweet and savoury dishes, rice, flowers, incense sticks and candles, perfumes and fragrances such as sandalwood and etc. A ring and a gold necklace are attached to the trunk of a banana flower as an ornament and a piece of red cloth is wrapped around the banana tree trunk. Usually, the ritual is to ask Nang Tani not to harm but to protect the people in the house and to have good fortune. Sometimes monks are invited to pray and make merit for Nang Tani as well.
However, there are also witchcraft masters who performed rituals by taking the banana flowers from a tree in which it is believed a Nang Tani resides, dry them under the sun and, subsequently, grind them into powder and mixed it with chanted powder for use to charm people. Sometimes they put the banana flower-powder in honey and/or lipsticks to be use to attract the opposite sex.
There are also many low-crafts used in summoning Nang Tani. The most deplorable one is a distortion of a traditional Songkhla ritual of wedding a spirit tree. It has been said that a bachelor who knows about the existence of Nang Tani in a specific tree will go to that banana tree every night and rubbed his genital against the base of that banana tree as he says flirtatious words to Nang Tani until she becomes aroused. At that point, he then takes a knife and cut the root of the banana tree that looks like a rhizome to be carved into a figurine of a woman and put it in a wooden container. Offerings and chanting will be made every morning and evening for several days until the ghost of Nang Tani appears in his dream. The man will take Nang Tani as his wife and she will in turn help him to prosper. However, according to the Treasury of Thai Wisdom, it is stated that “The ghost Nang Tani likes to seduce men and is terribly jealous. If a man who has sex with her went with another woman, Nang Tani would immediately follow and break that man’s neck in a rage of jealousy.”
We have seen various amulets of Nang Tani circulating on the Internet for quite sometimes now but which are not found within the Thai community. To the numerous Thais we inquired, they are as equally perplexed and amused as we are. No Thai in his right mind would wear a ghost amulet, on the contrary, if a close one is suspected to be “playing with ghosts” monks or “mor phi” will usually be invited to terminate that relationship and dedicate the merit to Nang Tani to rest in peace. Moreover, ghosts are restrained within specific territories in which they are found and cannot travel freely from one place to another. For example, even if your neighbour’s house is haunted, the ghost cannot come to your house.
According to the various guru monks we have spoken to about the subject matter, they all said such “khorng dam” or low objects are specially made by profiteers for foreigners who do not understand Thai Buddhism because there is no Thai market for this type of things. To the Thais, Buddhism is not only a religion but also a way of life. Most Thais understand the law of kamma and they understand that actions driven by “cetanā” (intention) will lead to future consequences. In other words, there is a cost to every action which is a determining factor in both this life and the kind of rebirth in “saṃsāra.” The playing with low objects will only lead to bad, if not tragic, experiences in this lifetime and a rebirth in the lower planes.
So how real is the “banana ghost” some people are wearing? Honestly, we are sure but they will definitely have their own stories to tell.
Marrying a Nymph
As afore-mentioned, marrying a nymph or tree spirit is an ancient Songkhla custom with its root stretching 300-400 years back. The custom is centred in an ancient temple, Wat Mamuang. The temple was built around 2299 B.E. It is located at Ban Muang Mu, Sathing Mo Sub-district, Singhanakhon District, Songkhla Province, under the Maha Nikaya Sangha. It is also the place of origin pertaining to the legend of Chao Mae Muang Thong. There are two versions to the legend and they are as follows.
According to the first story, the nymph Chao Mae Muang Thong was the daughter of Ya Chan and Ta Jerm, who donated the land on which her house was built to be built into a temple. After she died, she repeatedly appeared to the villagers and let them know that she resided in the huge mango tree in the temple’s compound. She was dressed in traditional costumes and was full of gold including bracelets, anklets, necklaces, and hairpins, hence, the villagers addressed her as Mae Muang Thong, literally meaning “mother gold mango.” When the villagers began to make offerings to the mango tree, she in turn cured them of their diseases and sufferings from various causes.
The second version is recorded in the Book of Songkhla and Culture. It states that “the daughter of the Governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat was captured by thieves and she was robbed and killed. The corpse was hidden in the hollow of a large mango which later performed miracles to appear repeatedly until the villagers respected and made sacrifices to her.”
Chao Mae Muang Thong or such a nymph repeatedly appeared to the villagers to see and dream of, letting them know that she resided in the large mango tree inside Wat Mamuang. Indeed, the villagers began making offerings and sacrifices to Chao Mae Muang Thong at the large mango tree. The most unique thanksgiving culture practiced by the villagers is that of marrying the nymph after wishes are fulfilled.
The origin of marriage with a nymph is, however, unclear. It has been said that it could possibly be attributed to practices of the Chinese migrants from China. Chinapeople believe that if a child in the family falls seriously ill it is better to “sacrifice” the child and make it a descendant of the spirit, i.e. making the child a “godson” or “goddaughter” of a spirit. Thus, for the family to be bonded with the spirit, a marriage has to take place.
Somehow, that practice transformed into a custom that a man who has reached maturity but before the ordination as a monk must be wedded to Mae Muang Thong. However, unlike the low art practiced with regards to Nang Tani, there is no sexual fantasy in this instance and even after being married to Mae Muang Thong, the man can still marry a real woman as usual. Therefore, marriage with Mae Muang Thong is a matter that must be passed on through the family line. The wedding ceremony with Mae Muang Thong is carried out in the same way as a normal marriage between people but it can be performed only on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Another unique phenomenon is that the groom must dress in traditional costumes and carry a dagger. A traditional “khan mak” procession is held. At the end of the ceremony, everyone in the village will be fed with a bowl of vermicelli soup. Incidentally, if a woman received help from Mae Muang Thong, she will also initiate a wedding ceremony by dressing as a man.
Outsiders tend to view this custom as pure superstition. However, according to sociologists, the seemingly “weird” custom is actually an embodiment of social cohesion and integration of the various races and religions that settled in Singhanakhon District. In an article published by Thai Journalist Association, sociologists exhort critics to see beyond the surface and look deeper into the history and demographics of Songkhla, especially Ban Muang before passing any value judgment. Observation and analysis will show that the wedding ceremony is an amalgamation of various traditions of different races, for examples, the costume of the groom represents Buddhism and Thai, the dagger carried by the groom, a Kris, is a symbol of Islam, and the vermicelli soup is the food of the Chinese people. Therefore, the custom per se has rich socio-cultural undertones in lieu of superstition.
Somdej Phra Buddhakosachan Sunthonwutthikhun, popularly known as Luang Phor Poot Suntharo, former abbot of Wat Klang Bangplad, , and Phra Udom Prachanat Thitkunno, popularly known as Luang Phor Pern, the former abbot of Wat Khok Kham and Wat Bangplad, were two prominent guru monks of Nakhon Chai Si, Nakhon Pathom Province. They were both disciples of Great Grandmaster of Animism Luang Pu Im Inthachoto.
Most Thai Buddhists are familiar with Luang Phor Pern’s tiger spell that earned His Venerable the title “Tiger Spirit Master” but in this article we will introduce you to Luang Phor Poot and His Venerable’s snake spell.
Luang Phor Poot’s birth name was Poot, surname, Hansamai. He was born on November 9, 2453 in Bangplad Subdistrict, Nakhon Chai Si District, Nakhon Pathom Province. His father’s name was Kham and his mother’s name was Pan. He was the second child in a family of five siblings. From young, he was educated in Wat Bangplad.
Poot, as His Venerable was then known, was conscripted into the army at the age of twenty. He served as a Royal Guard for two years before returning to help in the family’s farm. He brought his years of Buddhist learning into socialization with villagers and helping them cultivate the ethics of a Buddhist community which gained their respect and trust. He was subsequently appointed “phuyai baan” or village head of Wat Lamu Subdistrict. He diligently served the villagers for five years before asking for his parents’ permission to enter monkhood.
On April 1, 2489, Poot cut himself off mundane life and entered the monastic life in Wat Bangplad. He was accepted by Luang Pu Im Inthachoto as disciple and was given the name Suntaro. Under the guidance and teaching of Luang Pu Im , Phra Suntharo excelled in Dhamma and in year 2491, His Venerable earned a double Masters in Dhamma. At the same time, His Venerable also mastered the art of magic, especially in animism, imparted by Luang Pu Im. Phra Suntharo felt an insufficiency in mere learning and mastering both Dhamma and magic. He saw the importance of exposure and practicing. Therefore, he took leave from Wat Bangplad and went on “tudong”. During that period of time, he also inherited the secrets to making and consecrating Kumanthong from Luang Pu Cham of Wat Takong and Luang Pu Noi of Wat Srisathong.
In the year 2495, the 5th abbot of Wat Klang Bangplad, a historical Ratanakosin temple built around 1783 during the reign of Rama I, passed over and the resident monks and villagers jointly invited Phra Poot Suntharo to assume the abbotship. Hence, on June 7, 2495 Phra Poot Suntharo was officially appointed the abbot of Wat Klang Bangplad and became known as Phra Ajahn Poot Suntharo, subsequently Somdej Phra Buddhakosachan Sunthonwutthikhun.
According to records from the Department of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Education, Wat Klang Bangplad was built around 1819 in lieu of 1783 on the site of the “drowning Buddha”. It was said that during the Burmese invasion around year 2300, a boat carrying a Buddha image, a bodhi tree, both courtiers and villagers from Chao Phraya River to Bangplad Canal capsized. The Buddha image “drowned” and the bodhi tree floated along the water from Bangplad Canal to Si Maha Pho Sub-district and grew there. The location was between Wat Bangplad and Wat Si Maha Pho which served as the origin of the name Wat Klang Bangplad. Therefore, the ancient sites and relics that appeared in the temple are valuable historical artefacts which Luang Phor Poot paid special attention to their preservation and/or restoration.
Inside Wat Klang Bangplad is a large Buddha statue decorated with mosaic tiles created and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot in year 2524. The Buddha is known to “startle the devil” which is analogous to subduing Mara. This large Buddha is called Luang Phor Yai. Inside Luang Phor Yai’s image sits 99 Buddha statues, size 9 inches lap-width.
Since 2524, Luang Phor Yai has attracted hundreds and thousands of devotees annually. As their prayers are fulfilled they began calling Luang Phor Yai the fulfilling Buddha, that is, Luang Phor Somwang. Each time when a prayer is fulfilled, devotees will make offerings with eggs and pig’s head. Just look at the number of pig’s heads in the photograph will give you an indication of Luang Phor Somwang’s effectiveness.
Preservation, restoration, building and construction works as well as philanthropic endeavors are costly, hence, Luang Phor Poot had made and consecrated various sacred objects to raise fund.
There were ten batches of coins and medallions of Luang Phor Poot himself made and consecrated between years 2505 to 2533 for various purposes.
There are various conventional sacred objects including images Phra Putta Gaona, Hanuman, Mae Nam Kua, Mae Bosok and et cetera made and consecrated by His Venerable beginning year 2505.
However, the more expensive sacred objects created and consecrated by His Venerable are those of the exotic range. As mentioned earlier, both Luang Phor Poot and Luang Phor Pern shared the same lineage directly from Luang Pu Im, the Great Grandmaster of Animism; however, they each excelled quite differently in specialty. Luang Phor Pern of Wat Bangplad specialized in the Tiger Spirit spell whilst the expertise of Luang Phor Poot was in the Snake Spirit charm.
The belief in snake and Naga spell goes back to time immemorial and Thais believe worshippers will be bestowed with a better life destiny. In this article we will not be delving into Phaya Nagas specifically but for those who have visited Thailand, you may have already been aware of the many large serpent and Naga statues built across the country especially in temples and shrines. For examples, the large cobra statue in Khao Ngu Stone Park in Ratchaburi Province; the Chao Mae Cong Ang Shrine along Rama II Road in Bangkok; the Great Serpent Shrine in Saraburi Province and the numerous Nagas on temple roofs and stairways. In fact, this belief in Naga has been part of original Buddhism and now constitutes an important part of the Theravada ordination process. You may wish to refer to our earlier article on “Thai Theravada Ordination Ceremony” published on August 23, 2018.
There are not many guru masters who know the secrets of the Snake Spirit spell least using snake spurs to make and consecrate into amulets called Ngu Leum. Luang Phor Poot is among one of the few who specialized in this art. Snake spurs are rare because only certain species of snakes of age have them. Moreover, to turn them into sacred items those snakes must not be killed intentionally or otherwise. Furthermore, their spurs must be intact with the vestigial femur and come in a pair. Over decades, the number of snake spurs collected by Luang Phor Poot was limited which explained why the number of Ngu Leum made were scarce and, hence, expensive.
According to Luang Phor Poot, the Ngu Leum made and consecrated by him are serpent spirits under the leadership of Rheesi Phuchong (Snakehead Rheesi) who also happens to be Lord Shiva’s serpent companion. This association is evidenced by the Palakit or lingam tied to the top of the femurs. It is believed that spirits, ghouls, and ghosts generally come under the command of Lord Shiva and Rheesi Phuchong. According to ancient text, snakes with spurs usually draw a territorial circle with them and anything that comes within that circle will be struck by a magical spell and becomes totally at the disposal of the snakes. Therefore, Ngu Leum has all the characteristics of snakes including great charm and attraction, mysticism and hypnotism. It brings about good luck, wealth, business and interpersonal relationship somewhat automatically. It is said that anyone possessing and worshipping Ngu Leum does not have to worry about food and basic necessities for survival and will prosperous progressively.
The chant for enhancing the effects of Ngu Leum is as follows:
Namo Tassa Pakawatoh Arahatoh Samma Samput Tassa X3
Om Mahanaka Najangu Majakang Pularuay Talalay Mani Mama X9
There are many snake-skin talismans available in the market, however, these talismans cannot be equated to the Takrut Phayangu created and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot in various ways. According to His Venerable, snake skin derived from snakes deliberately killed is useless. Therefore, talismans made from snake skin derived through the commercial chain serve no purpose other than decoration. In order to make effective talisman out of snake skin and summon snake spirits of all classes, the snake must die in a kundalini mediative posture (coiled) in a cave or in a temple. It is a sign of return to the Naga world and, hence, divine power. Yes, such occurrence is rare and difficult to come across. In its 200 over year’s history, it only occurred once in Wat Klang Bangplad. The other we witnessed was in Wat Tham Tapian Thong, Lopburi Province.
The snake skin needs to go through 9 years of chanting representing a complete purifying cycle before the power of the four Naga families may be invoked. Luang Phor Poot then wrote the “Yant Phayana” on a copper plate that is subsequently rolled up together with a piece of the snake skin into what is called Takrut Phayangu.
It is a consolidation of immortal powers across three realms and, thus, possessing Takrut Phayangu means abundance, wealth, fortune, attraction, and most importantly, it guards and protects your horoscope. The scales on the snake skin changes from dull brown to yellow or sparkling gold which is an indicator of your ongoing luck.
The chants to enhance the effects of Takrut Phayangu are as follow:
Namo Tassa Pakawatoh Arahatoh Samma Samput Tassa X3
Namo Tassa Pakawatoh Arahatoh Samma Samput Tassa X3
Kaya Wacha Cittang Ahangwantha Nakathibodi SrisutthoWisuttheva Puchemi X3
The belief of Phaya Tor or Wasp spirit is common and it forms part of the belief in nature spirits. There are many Thai temples making and consecrating Phaya Tor. They usually come in a pair. The popularity of Phaya Tor may be attributed to the legend of the Undefeated Warrior Khunpaen who turned tamarind leaves into wasps in Wat Khae, Supanburi Province.
The common purposes of Phaya Tor made and consecrated are for wealth and prosperity as suggested by the terms “ngen thong” which literally refers to money and wealth in Thai language.
However, the Phaya Tor amulet made and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot carries no such purposes. The Phaya Tor made and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot serves only one single objective, that is eliminating villains especially backstabbers. These amulets are made from “mai takien”, a kind of wood believed to possess magical power per se, therefore, the number of Phaya Tor amulets made and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot were also limited. However, due to high demand for the Phaya Tor amulet, the current abbot Phrakhru Sritulakorn, more commonly known as Luang Phor Sri, has remade and consecrated a new batch made from red wood which are far more economical compared to those made and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot.
Both Luang Phor Pern and Luang Phor Poot are equally known for their “khong krapan” or “invincible” spell. Besides the wooden Phra Pidta made and consecrated in 2528, there is a batch of amulets, takruts, and talismans made and consecrated by Luang Phor Poot known as “loon pun kham” or the “cross guns print” that has underwent a very special “khong krapan” ritual almost unheard of in modern history.
Real guns, ammunitions, and grenades were piled up in the Ubosoth where amulets, takruts, and talismans were then placed over those weapons during consecration ceremony. This batch of sacred objects was well received by the Thai people and many paranormal experiences were reported in major Thai newspapers.
After serving the Sangha for 52 years, Luang Phor Poot entered nibbana in the morning of January 17, 2542 at the age of 88. The holy body of His Venerable remains in the temple and is opened for public worship. Many followers and believers also invited the image of His Venerable home for worship. It is believed that the image of His Venerable acts as a communication channel between Luang Phor Poot and his believers that is also, at the same time, capable of enhancing the effectiveness of sacred objects consecrated by His Venerable.
The following fulfilling chant is used for praying to Luang Phor Somwang and Luang Phor Poot:
Namo Tassa Pakawatoh Arahatoh Samma Samput Tassa X3
Asceticism has been practiced since time immemorial. It is not a practice unique to Hinduism. In fact, it was also and, perchance, is also practiced by many religions including Christianity and Islam. In Hinduism, laypeople who practiced asceticism and who have achieved high level of inner tapas (supernatural powers) were collectively called “Rishi” (rheesi).
In our previous article “Understanding Thai Buddhism” we have highlighted the entwinement between Buddhism and Hinduism as well as religious complexity in Thai Buddhism and the topic of this article again reinforced that unique relationship. We will not be going into the controversies pertaining to the various schools of asceticism but suffice to establish the nexus between original Buddhism and asceticism.
Lord Buddha too led an extreme ascetic life but realised extreme asceticism does not lead to enlightenment. Only moderation does. The five ascetics who practiced asceticism with Lord Buddha became His first five disciples and they are, Kondañña,Assaji, Bhaddiya, Vappa, and Mahānāma. It has to be noted that Lord Buddha did not condemn the practice of asceticism or the supernatural abilities deriving therefrom but only extreme indulgence therein. In fact, many of Lord Buddha’s disciples who subsequently attained arahantship were ascetics and the most prominent being Mahākāśyapa (Kassapa). Mahākāśyapa is one of the nine main Rheesi honored by the inner path.
Rheesi and Thai Buddhism
Rheesi is an important part of Thai Buddhism and Thais are generally familiar with Rheesi because ancient chronicles and old archives often make references to Rheesi. Furthermore, Rheesi also appears in various literatures as the sole governor of ceremonies whom rulers need to learn from in order to lead the people. Other than that, Rheesi also dominate many academic disciplines such as music, theatrics, medicine and et cetera. For examples, in music, dance, and theatrics, you see people worshipping Phra Rheesi Narathanmuni whilst people in the medical profession worship Rheesi Chiwokkomaraphat. In other words, Rheesi are regarded as ancestors and teachers of various disciplines with regards to humanity which is why “wan wai khru” is such a solemn and important occasion to the Thais. The general attire of the Rheesi is either white robe or tiger skin with tall headgear.
Classification of Rheesi: Disparities within Inner Paths
Things are more complicated when it comes to the inner path where Phra Weyth or supernatural elements form the core of practices. There are too many Rheesi, some of them pious, some iniquitous, and some in-between. Nonetheless, the various schools of thoughts generally agree on the 108 categories of Rheesi but they differ in classification and numbers of the main Rheesi which thus underscore their disparities in cultivation and practices. However, in Regalia, as disciples of Luang Phor Somjit, we inherit and adhere to a classification of nine main Rheesi as follows:
(1) Rheesi Narod (Monday) – Protection and charisma (Bhrama)
(2) Rheesi Narai (Tuesday) – Strengthening positive energy (Vishnu)
(4) Rheesi Tafire (Sunday) – Destroy bad energy (Shiva)
(5) Rheesi Kalaikot (Thursday) – Defeat enemies
(6) Rheesi Kassapa (Friday) – Add charm
(7) Rheesi Glaipok (Saturday) – also known as Rheesi Prabman or Rheesi Akasatya the Demon Slayer
(8) Rheesi Nalaek (Wednesday night) – Increase wealth and fortune
(9) Rheesi Petcherukan (Everyday) – Attract positive energy and return all bad things to their places of origin.
Theoretically, these main Rheesi may be traced back to Vedic religions and, again, different schools of thoughts have their own versions. These disparities hitherto remain contentious issues within the inner paths. However, we will not be delving into the specificities and origins of each Rheesi in this article but suffice to state herein that, in general, anyone who worships Rheesi must first worship and honour Rheesi Narod because Rheesi Narod is believed to evolve from the fifth head of Phra Promthada and is considered to be the first Rheesi of Triphumi, alternatively known as the three worlds. He is thus also the leader of all Rheesi and, therefore, regardless of lineage, Rheesi Narod must first be invited and honoured in whatever ceremony and ritual or else that ceremony or ritual will be incomplete. Only after honouring Rheesi Narod then will you worship other Rheesi. This pronouncement is seconded by the various different schools.
For a practitioner of the inner path, there is a specific guardian Rheesi from and through which all magical powers are derived, cultivated, and practiced. This guardian Rheesi is known as the ancestral Rheesi of a particular lineage (Kru Yai). The ancestral Rheesi of our lineage is Rheesi Petcherukan. Those who have followed our wan wai kru rituals in person would have noticed we begin our ritual by honoring the Triple Gem (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha) before inviting and asking the 9 main Rheesi to descend. We then proceed to invite Phra Prom, Phra Narai, Mae Kongkha, Mae Phra Pai, Phra Phayana, and Phra Angkarn to take specific positions. We will then make offerings to Mae Tollani and invite all gods around the compound to come and rejoice together with our ancestral Rheesi. Once all these Pali chants and recitals are completed, we then do the Kham Athithan or prayers before engaging in a short 5 to 10 minutes of meditation. These rituals usually take about an hour or more to complete.
Phra Rheesi Petcherukan: The Two Forms
Phor Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapaktheap
Many people may have heard about Rheesi Petcherukan who is the headmaster of supernatural powers and magic in the rank of Rheesi but little do they know that Rheesi Petcherukan actually has two forms. The form which people are more familiar with, including most Thais, is known as Phor Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapaktheap who they usually only refer to as Phor Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan. In this form, Rhessi Petcherukan looks not much different from any other Rheesi who are clothed in white robes and tall headgears. As Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapaktheap, he is also known as the weapon maker for all class of gods. It is through his incantation and spell that the weapons derive magical powers.
Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petchrukan Pang Phrapak Asura
Traditional Thai shadow puppeting, dance, and music artists worship Phor Gae Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapaktheap and they will always conduct a small ritual to worship Phor Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapaktheap before their shows begin. Astrologists and soothsayers too have to worship Phor Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapaktheap in order to see through hidden things in the three realms of past, present, and future although Rheesi Mordo is their ancestral Rheesi.
The other form lesser known to people in general is Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petchrukan Pang Phrapak Asura. “Asura” refers to the same class of power-seeking deities as used in Hinduism and not any evil forces assumed by movie scriptwriters. According to Hindu mythology, Asuras are not essentially evil just as Gods are not necessarily good. The term “Asura” does not denote good or evil but just as opposition to “Sura”. In other words, the term is merely a categorization of clans within the cosmos. However, in the form of Pang Phrapak Asura, Phra Rheesi Petchrukan is so powerful that he leads a large army of warring gods, spirits, demons, and ghosts across the three realms. Consequential of his power and influence in art of supernatural abilities, Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petchrukan is officiated as the headmaster of supernatural powers and magic in the rank of Rheesi.
As high ranking deities, all nine main Rheesi inevitably show compassion and benevolence to a certain degree. Even for the two more aggressive ones, namely, Rheesi Tafire and Rheesi Glypok, they merely either repel or destroy harmful elements to protect believers whereas Rheesi Petcherukan in the form of Pang Phrapak Asura goes as far as returning harmful elements to their original sources to destroy their root causes. It is more of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Owing to the fact that our ancestral Rheesi belongs to the Asura clan, we are instructed to conduct one of our three annual “wan wai kru” on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, that is Ghost Day. Good, bad, and in-between spirits are summoned whereby both white and black magic are being amalgamated and consolidated through recitals.
Other than Luang Phor Somjit hitherto there have been no other guru monks or masters able to perform the special rituals in making and consecrating Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapak Asura. This has resulted in the prices of His Venerable’s creation skyrocketing from ten-twenty thousand baht to several hundred thousand baht.
His Venerable has also made and consecrated a batch of Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapak Asura for believers. This include the miniature skeleton-like figurines shown above which has become most popular and sought after by believers; that in a shape of a sea shell known as Bia Kair Petcherukan; and the more subtle form in a talisman container called takut Petcherukan. Nonetheless, because all sacred items were personally handmade by His Venerable hence the numbers were inevitably small and limited.
Rheesi Petcherukan is Not Hoon Phayom
Since the past decade or so, a new and trendy object has found its way into the Thai Buddhism amulet market and it is called Hoon Phayom. Many people mistook it as Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapak Asura or that the Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapak Asura made and consecrated by Luang Phor Somjit were actually Hoon Phayom. The irony is that Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapak Asura has a long history rooted in Vedic religions whilst Hoon Phayom per se is neither a deity nor ghost according to their makers but a “bodyguard” character developed from an untraceable story. Again, we will not be exploring the details of Hoon Phayom but suffice to pronounce herein that it is not Por Gae Phra Rheesi Petcherukan Pang Phrapak Asura or vice versa.
Simplicity in Worshipping Rheesi for Laypeople
For practitioners, you will have to follow the methods imparted by your teacher (ajahn) and the chants associated with your lineage. Whereas for general believers and followers, worshipping and honouring Rheesi on wan wai kru is actually quite simple. All you need are fruits, flowers, tea, coffee, some sweet or savoury desserts, beetle nuts, cigarettes, and liquor. If you do not find it cumbersome and are affordable, you may offer a variety of food of your choices as well. Kham Athithan or prayers, which are totally different from charms or incantations used by practitioners, need not be recited in Pali or Thai languages. You may use your own choice of language, Rheesi can understand you.
Make 3 bows and you may begin as follow:
On this auspicious day, in the grace of the Triple Gems, the Lord Buddha, the Holy Dharma, and the Sangha, I humbly ask for your blessings as I recite my prayers under the prestige of the Triple Gems in honour of Phra Rheesi Narod (followed by the names of other Rheesi you worship). I humbly invite and ask you to descend upon this house and bestow upon me (and whoever else) all positive energy. I humbly beseech….. (request what you want)…..May my wishes be granted as my faith weighs.
Phra Pikaniat or Lord Ganesh, the elder son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, is a popular Hindu God. Lord Shiva is part of Supreme Being Trimurti and Goddess Parvati is also part of Supreme Goddess Shakti. The origin of Lord Ganesh is contained in Shiva Purana, part of the Shivaism corpus of literature. He has an elephant head and a human body. He is the most popular Hindu God and is also regarded as the Chieftain of Gods. All religious ceremony must first go through Him because he clears all obstacles and ensures success. Consequently, it becomes believed those who seek success in business must first pay respect to Lord Ganesh.
The birth of Ganesha
It is recorded in Shiva Purana that one day, Goddess Parvati told Nandi, one of Lord Shiva’s able followers who was assigned as her bodyguard that she did not want to be disturbed as she takes her bath and he was not to let anyone pass, including her husband, Lord Shiva. Nandi faithfully took his post but when Lord Shiva came home, Nandi tried to stop him but when His Lordship was insistent, Nandi let him passed through. Parvati was infuriated by what happened.
In another day, when Goddess Parvati wished to take a bath and did not want to be disturbed but in lieu of asking Nandi to stand guard, she took the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and breathed life into it, she created Lord Ganesh out of it and declared him to be her own loyal son. She asked Lord Ganesh to stand guard for her.
When Lord Shiva returned home, he was deprived entry by the young boy. Lord Shiva was greatly offended and ordered His men to destroy Lord Ganesh. However, they failed. They were easily defeated by the young boy, thus, compelling Lord Shiva to take on the young boy himself.
Being one of the Supreme Gods, Lord Shiva was able to defeat Lord Ganesh easily and, out of blind anger, he severed Lord Ganesh’s head. When Goddess Parvati saw that, she was so enraged and she transformed into her multi-arms devilish form of Goddess of Death, Kali. Goddess Kali threatened to destroy all creation. That alarmed the Creator, Lord Brahma who tried to salvage the precarious situation. The Goddess of Death laid down two conditions, firstly, Lord Ganesh be resurrected and, secondly, thereafter be accorded the status of Ganapati and be honoured before all Gods in all religious ceremonies.
Knowing his wife well and realising the consequence of His rashness, Lord Shiva asked Lord Brahma to fetch Him the head of the first living creature He found facing in the North direction. Lord Brahma, upon reaching the North spotted an elephant and hence returned with an elephant’s severed head which Lord Shiva joined it to Lord Ganesh’s lifeless body. With His own breath, Lord Shiva brought Lord Ganesh back to life and declared Him His own son.
With the agreement of the three Supreme Gods, Lord Ganesh was accorded the status of leader of all ganas (all classes of beings) and will be worshipped before all other Gods in all religious ceremonies. It was from then that Lord Ganesh received His alternative name Ganapati – leader of all classes of beings.
Lord Ganesh is known as Phra Pikaniat in Thailand and is widely worshipped by Thais. There are many temples and shrines dedicated to Phra Pikaniat. The most accessible would be the shrine at Central World, Rajmari Road which is frequented by both Thais and foreigners.
Another Phra Pikaniat temple that has attracted tourists from around the world is Wat Saman Rattanaram in Chachoengsao with a large reclining statue of Lord Ganesha measuring 16 meters high and 22 meters long.
Besides the removing of obstacles, it is almost customary for Thais to pray to Phra Pikaniat when starting a business, embark on long travelling, starting a new construction or during engagement or wedding. Praying to Phra Pikaniat is also popular with university students not because Phra Pikaniat will do the exams for them but He will instead remove all obstacles to learning. Phra Pikaniat is also well-known for His passion for fine arts and is, thus, believed to encourage creativeness. This is evident in the logos of Thailand’s Department of Fine Arts and Silapakorn University.
The Phra Pikaniat in our logo, sitting at the centre of our company’s name in Thai “Regalia Soon Wathanathamputh” or Regalia Buddhist Cultural Centre contains our mission to “encourage people to come and pray (Conch Shell) by pulling them to the highest goal (Rope) in the right path (Tusk) through love, wisdom, and action (Trident)”.
In Chapter 1 of this article we provided a brief discussion about the origin and importance of mythology and legends and also issues pertaining historicity arising from some of these myths. Many writers tend to pit myths and history at two antithetically extreme ends. Many historians also, for whatever reasons, assumed an innate obligation to remove all traces of myths from history when, ironically, there are as many historical falsities as there are historical values in myths.
Let us take the Xia Dynasty (2200 – 1760 BC) for example. Prior to the discovery of radiocarbon dating, the Xia Dynasty was dismissed as a Chinese fairy tale which now turned out to be a historical fact. On the contrary, it is not difficult to find many agenda-laden godly investitures that gradually turned a historical figure into some supernatural beings which, in their book “Myths: A New Symposium”, Schrempp and Hansen described it as borrowing the tropes of myths to elevate the authority and verisimilitude of the subject matter. It is also not difficult to understand the latter proposition given the fact that even history per se does not contain absolute truth but, at most, probable truth. Absolute truth must result in absolute certainty that is free from subjective interpretation and must unswervingly endure the test of time, for example, death. It makes no difference whether you are rich or poor, pretty or ugly, educated or illiterate, your ultimate destiny is death, an end-result that is absolutely certain and unchangeable.
Therefore, even with regards to critical history, other than death, no one will ever know the truth but for personal experiences. In an article published in the Journal of History and Theory, Heehs concluded that it may not be possible to categorically separate history and myths “because the two interpenetrate”. As Theravada Buddhists, we neither propagate superstition nor atheism but the middle-path reflected in Lord Buddha’s teaching. We adhere to the fundamental tenets of Theravada Buddhism, especially that of intelligence which underlies our dialectical approach that we invoked to allow our readers to draw their own conclusion based on competing information.
The Story Continues
Phlai Kaeo returned to Suphanburi as a novice of Wat Pa Lelai. His handsome appearance has won the hearts of many young girls who were seen waiting to see him during his morning ritual of “tak but” or alms round. They will fill his alms bowl with so much food. Similarly, Nang Phim Philalai also did the same.
One day, at the Wat Pa Lelai Temple, there was a sermon sponsored by Nang Phim Philalai which Phlai Kaeo was instructed by the abbot to deliver. That was when the three childhood friends met together again. Strongly attracted to the young handsome novice and unable to restrain her affection, Nang Phim Philalai removed her shoulder cloth (sabai) and offered it to the novice. Khun Chang who was all along attracted to Nang Phim Philalai quickly removed his headdress (Pkama) and placed it on top of her shoulder cloth and openly asked the novice to give them the blessing that the two will come together as a couple. Nang Phim Philalai was deeply offended by Khun Chang’s unsolicited advancement.
Khun Chang felt the threat of Phlai Kaeo’s presence and he also sensed Nang Phim Philalai’s affection towards the latter. Therefore, Khun Chang pestered his mother Nang Thepthong to go forth and ask Nang Sri Prachan for him to marry Nang Phim Philalai. Khun Chang even brought along with him the “sin sot” or dowry which was usually negotiated after a woman’s parents had agreed to the marriage proposal. However, Nang Phim Philalai vehemently objected that proposal.
Subsequently, Phlai Kaeo disrobed as a novice and married Nang Phim Philalai. The couple were drown in love and could not bear to be separated from each another. Despite Nang Phim Philalai’s marriage to Phlai Kaeo, Khun Chang has not given up on her and has been thinking about how to win her over. Coincidentally, at this time, Somdej Phra Panwasa received news that Mueang Chiang Thong, a small tributary of Ayutthaya Kingdom, generally believed to be in current north-eastern part of Chiang Rai province or the current Chiang Khong town, has defected and switched allegiance to Chiang Mai instead. Infuriated, Somdej Phra Panwasa contemplated sending an army to punish Mueang Chiang Thong.
Where exactly was Muaeng Chiang Thong?
A number of Thai scholars and historians have disputed the location of Mueang Chiang Thong as being in Chiang Rai and argued that it should instead be in present day’s Doi Chom Thong district in southern Chiang Mai. In fact, this argument sounded more logical when we were to look into the number of wars Khun Phaen has fought with Chiang Mai. If Mueang Chiang Thong was located in Chiang Rai then Khun Phaen could have avoided the main forces of the Chiang Mai army by marching his troop from Suphanburi through Nakhon Sawan, Mueang Kamphaengphet, Mueang Rahaeng, Mueang Thoen to Phayao and entering Chiang Rai.
However, it was said that Khuan Phaen fought numerous wars with Chiang Mai but without directly attacking Chiang Mai. This again aligns with historical records because albeit in constant war with Chiang Mai, the Ayutthaya Kingdom has never conquered Chiang Mai (1259 – 1892). Chiang Mai only became part of Siam (now the Kingdom of Thailand) in 1893. Therefore, if Muaeng Chiang Thong was indeed in current Doi Chom Thong district in Chiang Mai, then Khun Phaen’s army constant encounter with the Chiang Mai army on his way to Mueang Chiang Thong will be justified because from Mueang Thoen he had to cut through Lamphun and march his troop down the Ping River to reach Doi Chom Thong district in the southern part of Chiang Mai.
However, it is not the endeavour of this article to delve into the historical location of Muaeng Chiang Thong but suffice to provide a skeletal background for our readers’ imagination.
Khun Chang Hatched His First Plot
When Somdej Phra Panwasa was briefed about Mueang Chiang Thong’s defection and the strength of Chiang Mai’s army, he deeply regretted having executed Khun Kraipon and procrastinated as to who he should send to lead his army against the enemy. Immediately, Khun Chang seized the opportunity and told Somdej Phra Panwasa about Khun Kraipon’s son, Phlai Kaeo. Khun Chang depicted exaggerated stories about Phlai Kaew’s invulnerability in the hope that Phlai Kaeo will be summoned to service which will then separate him from Nang Phim Philalai and preferably get killed in war. Indeed, Somdej Phra Panwasa summoned Phlai Kaeo to the service and appointed him as Commander of the Royal Army to punish Mueang Chiang Thong.
A Dream Fulfilled
It was Phlai Kaeo’s dream to be an army commander like his father Khun Kraipon. Therefore, despite being newly-wed, he took his mother Nang Thongprasri and his wife Nang Phim Philalai and set out to Ayutthaya where Somdej Phra Panwasa officially appointed him the Commander of the Royal Army, presented him with a sword and armour. He was also raised to the title Khun Phaen.
A Vow and the Bodhi Tree Ritual
As Khun Phaen began raising his army and preparing to set out for war, Nang Phim Philalai became depressed and worried. One morning, Khun Phaen prepared offerings to a Bodhi tree outside their house and summoned the angels of forest and asked that if he should die in war, let that Bodhi tree die too but otherwise the Bodhi tree shall grow strong. He then turned and told his wife Nang Phim Philalai that the Bodhi tree will let her know about his life and death and, thus, she has nothing more to worry about.
A Long Journey of War
Khun Phaen marched his army through Nakhon Sawan, Mueang Kamphaengphet, Mueang Rahaeng (presently the Tak district in western Thailand) and Mueang Thoen (currently Lampang province) to Mueang Chiang Thong. Many battles were fought between Khun Phaen’s army and the Chiang Mai’s troops as he pushed his way towards Muaeng Chiang Thong.
It was said that Khun Phaen has not lost a single battle which won him the title of Undefeatable Warlord. Many stories have infused the battles with alchemy and wizardry but we are not going to repeat them here but suffice to mentioned herein that, amongst other things, it was said that Khun Phaen was able to win every battle because of an ancient Thai “Khong Kraphan” sorcery and his ability to summon warrior spirits to help boost fearlessness among his soldiers. That was also why mountains of enemy’s bodies paved his path to Muaeng Chiang Thong.
Khun Chang’s Second Plot
There are at least two different versions of story as to what happened whilst Khun Phaen was away from home. Since we had introduced the Bodhi tree ritual above, we shall continue with the Bodhi tree version here. However, to satisfy our readers’ curiosity, we will also provide a brief account of the other version later on.
Ever since Khun Phaen went to war, Nang Phim Philaiai missed her husband so much that she gradually became seriously ill with high fever. Medicine and herbs did not do her any good. On the verge of death, her family brought her to consult the abbot of Wat Pa Lelai. The old abbot performed an ancient Thai ritual known as “sedeokhrok” signifying a cycle from sickness to death and then rebirth whereby she was given a new name Nang Wanthong by the abbot. In other words, Nang Phim Philalai has died and Nang Wanthong was born.
Note: This traditional Thai ritual is not an exorcism ritual as it is frequently misunderstood. It is a complicated ritual that cheats death and changes an individual’s destiny which may be for the better or worse depending on the individual’s subsequent behaviour and acts after the ritual as well as the expertise of the master who performed the ritual. It could have dire consequences as depicted (albeit erroneously) in the horror movie “The Coffin”, starring Hong Kong movie star cum singer Karen Mok, if it is not performed properly by versed monks.
Her fever began to subside after the ritual and Nang Wanthong gradually recovered. During that period, Khun Chang has visited her frequently and asked to take care of her. His offer was rejected by Nang Wanthong. However, Khun Chang somehow came to know about the Bodhi tree ritual and he instructed one of his loyal servant to scatter poisonous herbs around the tree daily until the tree dies.
It did not take too long for Khun Chang to kill the Bodhi tree and Nang Wanthong was overwhelmed by the sudden death of the Bodhi tree which she related it to the death of Khun Phaen. Khun Chang then went to see Nang Wanthong’s mother, Nang Sri Prachan, and asked her to make her daughter available to him or risk her being declared a widow under the law.
The version of the Legend of Khun Phaen that does not contain the Bodhi tree ritual instead stated that Khun Chang brought an urn of bones and tricked Nang Wanthong and Nang Sri Prachan into believing that Khun Phaen was dead.
It has to be noted that, unlike depicted in many contemporary made movies, in ancient societies, whether in Asia or Europe, women were considered chattels under the law. They are owned by their parents and husbands before and after marriage respectively. During the Ayutthaya era, a woman’s parents have full right to decide what they wanted to do with their daughter. Therefore, upon the “death” of Khun Phaen, Nang Wanthong was reverted as chattel of her mother whereby, seeing Khun Chang was rich and serving the King, Nang Sri Prachan forced Nang Wanthong to marry Khun Chang.
Khun Phaen Married Princess of Chiang Thaong
Khun Phaen and his troops stepped over piles of enemy’s bodies on their way to Muaeng Chiang Thong. However, when they reached Muaeng Chiang Thong they somehow refrained from all killing. The army of Muaeng Chiang Thong did not put up a fight instead prince Saen Khamman ordered the opening of city gate and ushered in Khun Phaen and his troops.
Khun Phaen was received with honour by the prince of Muaeng Chiang Thong and he also came to know that it was not the intention of Muaeng Chiang Thong to switch allegiance to Chiang Mai but for Chiang Mai’s army threatening to invade Mueang Chiang Thong. The prince and his wife Nang Sri Ngenmuang were grateful that Khun Phaen had shown understanding for their predicament and had not used force against them or the villagers. They presented to him their beautiful daughter Nang Lao Thong as an assurance of their allegiance to the Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Khun Phaen and Nang Lao Thong got married in Mueang Chiang Thong. He stayed there for a short period to allow his soldiers to recuperate before he reorganised his troops and marched his way jubilantly back to Ayutthaya. On his return journey , Khun Phaen and his troops did not meet any resistance or ambush from the Chiang Mai forces.
What drama will unfold with Khun Phaen bringing his beautiful new wife Nang Lao Thong back to Suphanburi and what will be Khun Phaen’s reaction to find his wife Nang Phim Philalai married to Khun Chang?
To read more, please keep a look out for our upcoming article “Thai Myth: The Legend of Undefeatable Warlord Chapter 3”.
Every year thousands and thousands of tourists from all over the world visit the ancient city of Suphanburi, Thailand, which is approximately slightly more than a hundred kilometres away from Bangkok. The province has a rich history dating as far as 3,500-3,800 years back but its prominence was actually established during the Ayutthaya kingdom (1650-1767) as an important border town engaged in many historically significant battles. Therefore a Thailand tour to the ancient city of Suphanburi will usually include visits to the U-Thong National Museum named after the founding king of the Ayutthaya kingdom, Don Chedi Monument dedicated to King Naresuan who defeated the Burmese, and iconic temples such as Wat Pa Lelai and Wat Kae that were both built some 500-600 years ago and played vital roles in the history of Suphanburi. Many Thai mythology and legends are also directly associated with these two temples and among the many is the Legend of the Undefeatable Warlord.
The Undefeatable Warlord is also one of Thailand’s most prominent God of Charm, Luck, Wealth, and invulnerability whose root is also traced to this ancient city. He was said to have studied and mastered the art of inner-path in both Wat Pa Lelai and Wat Kae. Furthermore, legends and poems pertaining to the Undefeatable Warlord Khun Phaen are among the most celebrated Thai literature which are hitherto widely taught in schools. Sacred objects, including statues and amulets of Khun Phaen are also highly sought after. Almost every amulet producing temple would inevitable produce Khun Phaen amulets and the most popular ones happened to originate from Wat Ban Krang which is also located in Suphanburi province.
Purpose of this Article
In this article, we seek to explore the story of Thailand’s most prominent legendary and controversial character – Khun Phaen the Undefeated Warlord – who is hitherto most revered as the God of Charm, Luck, Wealth, and Invulnerability. We endeavour to assess and evaluate all materials including historical artefacts and traces pertinent to Khun Phaen and allow our readers to draw their own conclusion. Therefore, we will breakdown this article into several chapters whereby we will briefly explore the essence between myths and historicity and provide a narration of the story of Khun Phaen; we will attempt to analyse the facts derived from information collected and determine the position of Khun Phaen between mythology and history; and we will discuss what role Khun Phaen plays in contemporary Thailand and within Thai Buddhists community around the world.
Mythology and Legends
Mythology and legends are the most intriguing things that had accompanied mankind since time immemorial. These two subjects mirror the characteristics, values, and history of specific cultures. Myths and legends are often said to be created to reflect what a particular culture deems to be moral and ethical and thereby shaping its outlook and its way of life. Despite being a Theravada Buddhist society within the Suvarnabhumi region since 250 BC, the Ramakien which is deeply rooted in Hindu Ramayana myths underlies Thai mythology and legends saved those attires, weapons, topography, and constituents of settings are transposed and given a Thai flavour. The most often cited examples include those classic Ramakien and Khon dances also known as the “Masked Pantomime” created under the supervision of Rama I and Rama II respectively.
Although the Ramakien and Khon dances are said to provide Thai legends with foundational myth whereby numerous Thai Gods and Deities derived their origin, they are nevertheless not all comprising. There is simultaneously many other mythology and legends found in Thai literature that have no connection to the above two sources especially those that are inextricably intertwined with local history. Archaeology is an important source for human outlook because any profound findings will change mankind’s entire chronicle and, therefore, it is not surprising there are many archaeologists and historians out there set to prove or disprove a particular myth such as the existence of Jesus Christ so on and so forth.
Importance of Mythology and Legends
Nonetheless, mythology and legends are taught in many schools throughout the world as they preceded philosophy, science, and even religions, thus, they are primary sources reflecting cultures and are used to impart the values, virtues, morality, and temperance amongst many other things which in turn collectively forms the foundation for studying literature of a particular culture. For example, in order to study and understand Shakespeare, one may need a certain level of understanding of Greek mythology. Similarly, without a firm understanding of Ramakien, it is difficult for one to understand the religiopolitical ideology and culture of the Thais.
Whilst most myths are products of imagination and creativity developed by numerous authors throughout the ages and which contents may hence be incoherent, however, there are some that may contain historicity. Historicity is sometimes used as a nexus to connect past and present or simply describing the actuality of characters and events of historical existence. It is also this value of historicity within myths that oftentimes add controversies to certain myths and history just as in the case with the Bible, the Christ myth theory, and of course, the main character of this article – the Undefeatable Warlord Khun Phaen.
The Story Begins
The story was set out during the reign of King Ramathibodi II also known as Somdej Phra Panwasa (1473-1529) in the province of Suphan (now Suphanburi) where all the three main characters, Phlai Kaeo (later Khun Phaen), Sri (later Khun Chang), and Phim Philalai (later Nang Wanthong) were born. Phlai Kaeo was the son of Commander Khun Kraipon and Nang Thongprasri. He was handsome and clever. Sri’s father was Khun Srivichai and his mother Nang Thepthong. He was born bald and albeit coming from a rich family, Sri was crass. Nang Phim Philalai was the beautiful daughter of wealthy merchant Pansorn Yotha and Nang Sri Prachan. The trio were childhood friends.
It was a period where the Ayutthaya Kingdom was in intense war with Chiang Mai and Lan Chang. The province of Lan Chang was ceded to French Indochina in 1946 under the Washington Accord in exchange for Thailand’s admission to the United Nations and today it forms part of Laos. The story also provided a rich insight into traditions, customs, culture, beliefs, and the way of life of Thais in general and the people of Suphanburi and Kanchanaburi (then Kanburi).
Khun Kraipon Executed
One day, Somdej Phra Panwasa suddenly wanted a herd of wild buffaloes and ordered Khun Kraipon to set up a ranch. Khun Kraipon was a warrior who was versed in the art of inner-path and war but, however, lacked the skill in herding wild buffaloes. Therefore, when he tried to herd those wild buffaloes into the ranch, they became frightened and ran amok. Khun Kraipon became frustrated and angered whereby he then used spears to thrust and killed many of those buffaloes whilst the remaining surviving buffaloes fled into the forest. Somdej Phra Panwasa became very angry and ordered Khun Kraipon and family to be executed. Upon receiving the news of her husband’s execution, Nang Thongprasri quickly took Phlai Kaeo and went into hiding in Kanburi.
There is a temple called Wat Khun Krai at Tambon Bang Pla Ma, Amphoe Bang Pla Ma, Changwat Suphanburi, built to honour Khun Phaen’s father.
Phlai Kaeo Ordained in Wat Som Yai
In Kanburi, Nang Thongprasri single-handedly brought up Phlai Kaeo who could not forget his father. He practised the skills his father taught him with the ambition of becoming a great army commander like his father. Phlai Kaeo was ordained in Wat Som Yai in Kanburi province. The temple was renamed Wat Yai Dong Rang in Buddhist Year 2525. The abbot of Wat Som Yai, Luang Pu Boon, imparted to him the secrets of the inner-path and moulded in him a strong foundation in the arts of sorcery. An ancient monument indicating Phlai Kaeo’s progress is still being preserved in the temple today.
After graduating from Wat Som Yai at the age of 15, Phlai Kaew was sent to further his learning and practice at Wat Pa Lelai Woravihan in Supanburi province and later to Wat Khae, also in Supanburi province.
Tens of thousands people have visited Wat Khae and most are amused by a large tamarind tree, measuring approximately 10 meters around the base inside the temple. A huge hornet sculpture sits under the tamarind tree. Devotees can be seen doing prayers and making offerings but, ironically, not many people know the essence of the giant hornet and the tamarind tree.
Actually, Khun Phaen has used the leaves of that Tamarind tree and turned them into hornets capable of attacking enemies which inspired the temple to build the sculpture of a giant hornet under the tree. Therefore, making prayers and offerings to the hornet symbolise a plea for help to subdue and/or defeat one’s enemy.
Childhood Friends Reunited: Love, Jealousy, and Plots Unfolded
Tragedy did not just befall Phlai Kaeo’s family. Shortly after the execution of his father Khun Kraipon, Sri’s family was robbed by bandits and Sri’s father Khun Srivichai was also killed. Almost during the same time, Nang Phim Philalai’s father Pansorn Yotha too died from a deadly fever after returning from foreign cities. The three childhood friends all became fatherless at almost the same period of time.
By the time Phlai Kaeo returned to Suphanburi, the trio were already all young adults. Nang Phim Philalai has grown up to be a beautiful young lady whilst Sri was bald and fat but has entered the royal service and conferred with the title Khun Chang. Despite the fact that his family was robbed, Khun Chang was able to amass great wealth and became a rich and influential person. However, he has also become selfish and insensitive.
Khun Chang has since childhood always liked Nang Phim Philalai and that affection has turned into a crush for the grown up beauty. With the return of Phlai Kaeo who has also grown up to be handsome and attractive, could the three childhood friends maintain that innocence and sincere friendship or…
To read more, please keep a look out for our upcoming article “Thai Myth: The Legend of Undefeatable Warlord Chapter 2”.
Most people who frequently visited Thailand would have the chances to come across amulets of a man and a woman hugging together. These figurines are usually presented in the form of nudity and are made of metal but there are those rare ones carved from wood as well. These amulets are called “YinTong” or “YinKu,” phrases originating from the language of Lanna or northern Thais albeit some textbooks suggested that it originated from Ngew or Thai Yai.
A Misrepresentation: Deliberate or Otherwise
Owing to the nakedness of those figurines many people inevitably associated them with sexuality. Indeed many amulet dealers would either deliberately or ignorantly misrepresent them as so to arouse curiosity and interest that cater to market demand. For those who are familiar with Thai myths, legends, and folklores it is not difficult to detect the lewdness and sexuality presented as selling points by these agents are actually partial and mixed-up representations of “Yee Per” and “Mae Per” which are total different things from “Yin Tong.” Yee Per comprises a pair of male and female naked figurines with their sexual organs exposed and amplified and they are used by practitioners for various rituals whilst Mae Per is a sole female figurine usually used as a complimentary subject in charismatic sacred objects. We will not be delving into details of Yee Per and Mae Per in this article but suffice to state briefly the marked and intrinsic differences between the three.
The Simple Truth
Every religion has folklore about the origin of mankind and Yin Tong is the Thai version. Contrary to sexuality and lasciviousness, nudity, in this instance, represents truthfulness, openness, and nothing to hide. It also represents the relationship between mankind and the nature and, together with the embracing couple, it signifies love and harmony. Many temples and guru monks have made and consecrated amulets of Yin Tong but the most renowned hitherto is still Luang Phor Somjit Sukkho of Wat Noi Nanghong. To correct the misrepresentation of sexuality and lewdness, Yin Tong made and consecrated by Luang Phor Somjit is dressed up in traditional Thai costumes.
Luang Phor Somjit made and consecrated Yin Tong statues and amulets according to the ancient Lanna scriptures with incantations of the power of love, harmony, great popularity, fortune, wealth and prosperity. Whilst Yin Tong originating from other temples share the same power to bring about love and harmony to people within a household, those made and consecrated by Luang Phor Somjit, through a special incantation, extend to all areas of activities beyond home. By virtue of being the master of Thai Phaedthi (Bagua), His Venerable has added both the eight directional and Yin/Yang charms into his creations. Therefore, Yin Tong made and consecrated by Luang Phor Somjit has the power to balance the two contrasting energies and bring about reconciliation and harmony between the two sexes as well as between the same sexes.
His Venerable once said: “When there is harmony, there will be peace and happiness. It is with a balance of energies that people prosper.” When Yin Tong is worshiped in the house it brings about harmony and love between husband and wife as well as among other members of the household; if it is worshiped in places of trade and offices it brings about fortune and prosperity to businesses. On the other hand, wearing a Yin Tong amulet from Luang Phor Somjit brings Yin Tong to wherever one travels, bringing the positive energies aforementioned with you.
The Correct Mindset
Effectiveness of Thai sacred objects originates from the faith of the believer in the specific sacred object. A channel of connection must be established and this requires a correct mindset. If you are wearing Yin Tong with a mindset full of bawdiness sold to you by some amulet dealers then you will certainly not be able to experience and enjoy the positive energies of love, harmony, prosperity and et cetera associated with Yin Tong. The reason is simple and it is because you are in the wrong channel. You will not get to watch the Last Blood on Pornhub, switch to Netflix!
The legend of Phaya Kai Pa may be traced back to Lord Buddha who used the parable of Phaya Kai Pa in depicting “Whoever does not know the things that happened suddenly … That person will fall into the power of villains and will suffer later. … As for whomever who knows exactly what happened suddenly … That person will be free from the persecution of the villains. “
In Thailand, Phaya Kai Pa has been used by many monks as a complimentary figure in many amulets especially Somdej and Khunpaen amulets. The most prominent is, of course, Somdej Tan Song Kai from Luang Pu Parn Wat Bang Nom Kho located in Bang Nom Kho Subdistrict, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province; and Phra Khunpaen Ki Kai from Luang Pu Kuay Wat Khositaram located in Bang Khut, Sankhaburi District, Chai Nat. However, the making and consecrating of Phaya Kai Pa as the main character is attributed solely to Luang Pu Suang Worasuttho or Phrakru Suthiwaraporn, Abbot of Wat Tham Phrom Sawat, Chong Sarika Subdistrict, Pattananikom District, Lopburi Province.
Luang Pu Suang: A Brief History
Luang Pu Suang Worasutho was born on Wednesday, February 14, 2476 in Raka Ban Noi Na Wan, Village 10, Tambon Phon Mueang Noi. Hua Taphan District, Ubon Ratchathani Province (currently Amnat Charoen Province). He was ordained at the age of 20 in year 2496 at Wat Sriburi Rattanaram, Pak Piao Subdistrict, Muang District, Saraburi Province. His Venerable learned and mastered the charm and magic of Phaya Kai Pa according to ancient texts and scriptures from Luang Phor Khaem of Wat Samphao Lom, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. He has also undergone intense training under the instruction of Luang Pu Du Phrompanyo of Wat Sakae. Thereafter, his Venerable traveled extensively, visiting and learning Phra Weth and charms from various senior guru monks including Luang Pu Parn of Wat Bang Nom Kho, Sena district, Ayutthaya Province; Luang Phor Niam of Wat Noi Sahathamik, Supanburi; and Luang Pu Toh of Wat Pradu Chim Phli, Wat Tha Phra Subdistrict, Bangkok Yai District, Krungtheap.
Finally, in year 2525, His Venerable finally traveled to and settled down in a cave in Lopburi Province. In that cave were skeletons of ancient people, the remains of elephants, horses, cattle and other animals. No one even dare to pass by after dusk but Luang Pu Suang took abode in it. A giant boa constrictor visited and slept with his Venerable every night. At first, the villagers were shocked but subsequently they began to have faith and began to visit Luang Pu Suang to make merit. The cave now forms part of Wat Tham Phrom Sawat.
Luang Pu Suang used the magical knowledge mastered and started building Wat Tham Phrom Sawat from scrap to completion. The main source of construction came from sacred objects made and consecrated by Luang Pu Suang and they include Buddha statue Phra Somdej Jakkapak, Rama V and Rama IX, Phra Yod, Khunpaen, and Phra Zhao Sure. However, the most popular is Phaya Kai Pa medals and lockets which brought in most funds for the construction and completion of Wat Tham Phrom Sawat.His Venerable entered nirvana on the afternoon of January 25, 2561 at the age of 84 after serving 60 years of monkhood.
Phaya Kai Pai
The Phaya Kai Pa charm has a few common characteristics amongst different guru masters including wealth, prosperity, having work and a successful career. Therefore, when it is used with a Buddha image as in the case of Somdej Tan Song Kai it usually contains the charms for good fortune, progress, promotion, and profitability whereas when it is used together with Khunpaen, it adds a streak of gaming luck to the aforementioned characteristics.
However, the Phaya Kai Pa stand alone statues and amulets created and consecrated by Luang Pu Suang have more things to offer. Statues of Phaya Kai are meant for home, office, and stores to bring wealth, fortune, and prosperity. Wearing amulets of the Phaya Kai Pa have similar properties.
However, when these statues and amulets are put at the four corners of a premise, Phaya Kai become guardians within the perimeters. Roosters pick on worms, centipedes, scorpions, geckos, anoles and et cetera which are all symbols of black magic and evil spells. Owing to some lineage connection, Luang Pu Suang revealed this piece of secret. His Venerable said: “Fowls are territorial and will defend a specific area where all activities take place. They do not leave their nests. Placing Phaya Kai Pa in the four corners specified an area of activities that they will defend. Evil spirits and ghosts are then prohibited.” Placement must be done at 5 in the morning with a specific charm.
The common house lizards are a species of non-venomous nocturnal gecko native of Southeast Asia. They usually hide during the day and searches for insects at night. Scientifically, lizards make noises to announce their presence and/or to attract mates but ancient belief deciphers good and bad omens from those noises.
In Thailand, it is believed that a Jinchok Song Hang or a two-tailed lizard is an ancient animal that brings good luck. Therefore, if a two-tailed lizard is found in a house, it is believed that the owner of the house will inherit a stream of good fortune; when it is found in a commercial place, it is believed that business will boom and money will keep pouring in. Therefore, when a two-tailed lizard dies, it is often framed and carried as a good luck charm.
Lanna Thai Sorcery
Talismans and spells of the two-tailed lizard have appeared in both Lanna and northern Thai cities ancient texts. It is recorded that two-tailed lizards are rare and, therefore, guru masters often carved figurines of a two-tailed lizard out of a host of materials including ivory, animal bones, horns, shells, and other magical woods such as Takhian wood, black swamp wood, Rakson, and et cetera. The more modern method uses metals to cast figurines of two-tailed lizards.
Examples of two-tailed lizard amulets created using the modern method include those from Luang Pu Liu, Wat Rai Tang Thong, Nakhon Pathom Province; Luang Pho Choi, Wat Sri Uthumphon, Nakhon Sawan Province; Luang Pu Chen, Wat Ta E, Buriram Province and et cetera.
Jinchok Song Hang Luang Phor Ruay
Some twenty years ago, together with three Singaporeans and three Thais, we visited Luang Phor Ruay of Wat Kau Phrachuntheap up in a mountain in Chanwat Rayong. We were all seated on the floor in a wooden hut, the temporary Ubosot, as the temple was still under construction at that time. Incidentally, we talked about the subject of two-tailed lizards. My fellow Singaporeans who had never seen a two-tailed lizard in their lifetime were sceptical of its existence leave alone the supernatural powers inherent thereof.
“If I were to summon the lizards would you help build this temple?” Luang Phor Ruay asked.
Well, even if his venerable had not performed any magic we would still have made our donations for the temple construction. Luang Phor Ruay started chanting, sprinkling holy water exuberantly all over, and after about half-an-hour he entered into a state of meditation. We sat patiently as the clock ticked away. About another 10-15 minutes has passed and there was still no sight of a single lizard. My fellow Singaporeans became impatient and a little edgy. It was then that we heard chirps, squeaks, and clicking noises. Next, there were screams and commotion. The two ladies (a Singaporean and a Thai) were the first to run out from the hut as hundreds of lizards swarmed in from all directions.
From outside, we listened to Luang Phor Ruay’s chanting and saw him sprinkling holy water in all directions. Subsequently, he called the novices to collect and place those lizards on trays before we were called back into the hut. There were no more lizards in the hut besides those on the trays; about 50-70 of different sizes but what was amazing was they were all indeed two-tailed. Luang Phor Ruay had those two-tailed lizards dried, consecrated, and encased and used them to raise donations at SGD 313.00 per piece. We do not know why his venerable asked for SGD 313.00 and nothing more nothing less.
Some of you may have heard this reminiscence from the other three Singaporeans present on that eventful day and some of you may have made the donations through Regalia or directly to Luang Phor Ruay. Like most other animism objects, two-tailed lizards have been paired with Thai society for a long time and its popularity remains high to-date.