Asian cultures are known for
their superstitions and spirit worship. In Thailand, especially in the more
remote regions such as island communities, a belief in the supernatural
permeates almost every aspect of daily life. The Thai language is full of
idioms and sayings that recognise a wider cosmic order, words such as: chok
(luck), duang (astrological power), pee (spirits) kam (karma), sawan (heaven),
and phromlikit (fate) are part of many popular phrases that often spill from
the Thai tongue. According to Thai spirituality, what happens to us in this
life is determined not only by our actions in previous lives, but also by
external powers and supernatural forces which are largely beyond human
control. As a consequence of these forces, every place is powerful, and has
the potential to be dangerous, and it is therefore necessary to continually
protect oneself, and others, from harm, sickness, and misfortune. There are
spirits that dwell in every corner, and they are thought to control our luck,
danger, and calamity, and so it is that even though many Thai people reject
the existence of such entities, they do not dismiss them. There is a popular
Thai saying which roughly translates: "Even if you don't believe in
something, no one is sure. Surely it is better not to ridicule those things
that are uncertain". Many Thai superstitions stem from ancient Animist
beliefs that pre-date even Buddhism. Such religions were once prolific
throughout Asia, and in modern day China, for example, the worship of
spirits, dragons, and an immense array of gods easily matches similar
practices here in Thailand.
Spirit houses are actually the
most prominent indication of the importance that belief in the spirits plays
in everyday Thai life. Outside every Thai home, hotel, hospital, or office
building there is always a modest but brightly painted house, carefully
positioned at a level that is slightly higher than the eye line of a
standing person. This is the home of Phra Phum, the Lord of the land, and
when a new home is to be built, the first thing Thai people do is to find a
suitable place in the garden for the spirit house. Selection of the exact
spot for this dwelling can only properly be done by someone well versed in
spirit lore, and these special souls are believed to able to communicate
directly with the other side. The house must face either north or south, but
preferably north, and must not be located where the owner larger house
overshadows it otherwise the spirits will not come to live in it. Once
divined, a post is set up at the chosen site, and the little house is
perched on top. It generally contains a single room with an outer terrace,
where daily offerings to the guardian spirit are placed. A symbolic picture
of the spirit is also carved on a small piece of wood inside the little
house, with its back to the wall, and at the time of installation, food,
fruit, candles, incense, and flowers are placed on a table before the shrine,
while the spirit is invited to come and make his home there and to protect
the property and the residents of the new house. From that day onwards,
fresh flowers, incense, and candles are regularly placed on the small
gallery outside, and specially prepared food is offered to the spirits on
important occasions such as the anniversary of the building, birthdays,
deaths, and the lunar New Year.
Images of the Lord Buddha are
also often placed inside a separate spirit house, which is erected on a
nearby spot. In fact, the orange robed monks who follow the path of the
Buddha are thought themselves to be invested with power to protect people,
and monks can be called upon to offer a blessing, or to say prayers for
individuals and families that find themselves facing a crisis or a change in
circumstances. At some temples around the country, even the trees inside the
grounds are believed to house special spirits. It is not uncommon to find
trees that contain Buddha images, with saffron-coloured cloth wrapped around
the trunk as it would be wrapped around a monk. This is symbolic of the
respect for the spirits that have influence in the area, and the ritual
clearly demonstrates that Buddhism and spirit worship exist side by side.
Teak trees were once particularly revered as the sacred residence of
guardian spirits, and to cut them down was to destroy the home of sentient
beings with the power to provide protection and grant wishes. Teak wood was
only used in the construction of temples and palaces, as it was believed the
material would provide a link with the unseen natural world. Permission was
therefore required from the King himself, if a private individual wished to
build their house from such an important product. Even today, many local
people believe that those who cut down trees only for material gain will be
punished by the spirits that dwell within. Such beliefs clearly demonstrate
that over the centuries, Buddhism and spirit worship have come to exist in
side by side, with base consumerism considered to blindly ignore both at its
Thai Buddhism relies heavily on
story and legend, and there are a number of ghost stories that have been
handed down through generations, some of them from even older religions.
Ghosts are often linked to nature and its elements: air, earth, fire and
water, and Thai people are genuinely afraid of these ‚ÄòPhi‚Äô, rarely
talking about them in case they are summoned. "Phi Pop" is one such evil
spirit, and came from an old legend in which a Prince who was fond of magic,
found the way to enter people‚Äôs bodies and take control over them. He was
also able to enter the bodies of animals, and one day while he was inside a
bird, his servant repeated the incantation he had heard his master use, and
entered the body of the Prince himself, thus becoming the Prince. The
bird-prince flew to tell his wife what had happened, and she destroyed the
servant's original body, and then challenged her false Prince to enter the
body on an animal. Unable to resist the chance to show off his power, the
servant entered an animal, allowing the real Prince to re-enter in his own
body, and leaving the servant without one of his own to return to. Since
then, the spirit of the servant goes from one body to the next, eating the
insides of the victims as revenge for the trickery.
Other bad spirits include Phi Am‚
who sleeps on the chest and causes victims to experience difficulty
breathing, and Phi Kraseu‚ who is often represented as a woman whose body is
cut open with her intestines spilling out, and likes to frequent unclean
areas. Then there is Phi Tai Hong, a spirit that died a violent death,
usually either murdered or involved in a crash. It is thought that the
swiftness of the death surprised the victim, and left their spirit sad and
angry. Finally the most powerful of all ghosts "Phi Tai Hong Tong Klom" is
the spirit of a pregnant woman, and she is more potent and fearsome than the
others because she has the anger of two people to bear. This ghost also
comes from a famous legend that tells of a woman called "Mae Nak" who was
married to a soldier posted to a remote place. She was already pregnant when
he left home, and unbeknown to her husband, she died with the baby still
inside her body. The woman quickly returned as a spirit, however, and
started to frighten all her neighbours, even killing some people and
drinking their blood. Everybody was afraid of her, but she still loved her
husband deeply and when he finally came back home she was waiting for him.
The villagers warned him that his wife was dead, and that he was living with
a ghost, but he did not believe them until one day while "Mae Nak" was
preparing the dinner, a lemon fell from her hand and she reached a full two
meters lower than the house's floor to retrieve it. Her husband saw this,
and realising that his wife was a ghost managed to flee from the house. A
monk then went to the house and managed to imprison the spirit in a bottle,
which he threw into the river, but two fishermen trying to catch some fish
retrieved the bottle and accidentally freed "Mae Nak" who returned to her
husband, and killed the woman he was living with. Today the grave of this
feisty female ghost can be found at a shrine in Bangkok, inside which there
a statue of Mae Nak‚ covered with gold leaves. Toys, flowers, dresses,
children‚ clothes, and food for the baby are offered at the shrine, and Thai
mothers always warn their daughters to come home after school. If not "Mae
Nak" might catch them.
The monk in the above story was
a Mor Phi‚ or spirit doctor, and in Thailand these people are often employed
to help get rid of ghosts and curses, as well as to reveal the future, find
people a mate and bestow luck upon a household or enterprise. Spirit doctors
can be ordinary people with special powers known as Palang Chit, or they may
also be monks. However, the monastic orders no longer tolerate such
practices, and if monks are found to be delving into magic and spirit
worship, they are expelled from the temple. The biggest concentration of
spirit doctors takes place every September on Phuket at the annual
Vegetarian festival. During this event, practitioners pierce their bodies
with sharp objects, or walk on fire to prove their powers. They show no pain,
and in this way demonstrate the power of the spirit that inhabits them. The
festival has strong links with Chinese religion and beliefs, but there are
also many other Thai rituals and events designed to appease or seek favour
with the spirits, and these are still practiced in many parts of the
Kaan Tham Phum‚ is a ritual held
on auspicious occasions such as a wedding, an ordination, or a house-warming.
Some households hold this ritual annually, and it is commonly organized on a
Saturday or a Tuesday. During the ritual, special offerings are made to all
kinds of gods and angels, after which participants pay homage to the Lord
Buddha and their ancestors. Holy water is prepared, which is believed to
give blessings to participants and protect them from evil, and at the end of
the ritual, people offer tickets made from large leaves found in the woods,
strategically placing them in eight different directions. The ceremony is
believed to bring good luck to the house owners, and is therefore usually
done when strange incidents have taken place in the house such as when
lightening strikes a tree, a large snake enters, or when family members fall
The ritual of Karn Bucha Thian‚
can be held any time of the year. The purpose of this ceremony is
essentially to tell a person fortune, and it is usually conducted by a monk,
or an elder who has been in the monkhood. The monk first makes two special
candles, then recites incantations that directly refer to the person who
asked for the ritual, and lights each flame. One candle removes bad luck,
while the other is to promote longevity. The monk is able to read the flames,
and a bright, long-lasting blaze signifies good fortune, while flickering
flames and crackling candles are a bad omen. If the flames are only
twinkling, or go out altogether, this means the person is facing very bad
luck indeed, even death. This ritual is generally held when somebody feels
there may be possible misfortune ahead, for example when he or she has been
in an accident, had a bad dream, is involved in a dispute, or is ill. In
addition, ‚ÄòKarn Bucha Thian is also held when predictions of bad fortune
have been made by others, as well as on a birthday and during the Thai New
Fortunately, not all Thai
spirits are bad, and Phi Fa for example, is one that can treat ailing
patients. The Lam Phi Fa is a ritual performed to help those people
suffering from mental disorders, or those suffering from psychosomatic
illnesses. This ritual unites all the family members, and a medium arranges
offerings for spirits, and also studies the illness, including its causes
and severity. If the illness is the result of a minor mistreatment by a
particular spirit, that spirit is asked to accept an apology, which is
usually accompanied by an offer to follow the spirit wishes. This part of
the ritual is called Lam Song. However, if the illness is serious, Phi Fa
will be invited to treat the patient himself, and a musician will play a
wind instrument called a kaen‚while the medium dances to invite Phi Fa to
the scene, walking around the offerings that have been laid out. When the
spirit arrives, it is said that everyone shakes uncontrollably, before
eventually losing consciousness. Phi Fa then explains the best way to treat
the patient, and promptly returns to the other side. There is no doubt that
the rituals such as those mentioned above are an important link with the
spirit world for Thai people.
The Tourism Authority of
Thailand, in one of its publications on Thai culture, says that even the
nation‚Äôs major festival, the Ploughing Ceremony, is strongly linked with
esoteric beliefs of Brahmin origin. In fact, the auspicious day and hour of
the ceremony are still set by royal astrologers today. But sadly, the
reasons local people have for turning to the spirits are not the same as
they once were. In the past, spirits were worshiped in the sense of showing
gratitude and respect to an unknown higher power. Today, however, people
often fall foul to the whims of fraudulent monks, mediums, and shamans in a
desperate attempt to win the lottery, cure a debilitating illness, or to
protect their children when they leave home to work in big cities or foreign
countries. In modern Thailand, the range of paraphernalia available to guard
against evil is so vast that it would take a book to describe them in full.
Thai men believe in the power of tattoos, nearly everyone wears some form of
holy amulet that protects them against everything from bullets to accidents,
special symbols or Yan are drawn on cars, taxis, temples, and the doors of
houses to protect the occupants, and garlands of flowers hang from the rear
view mirrors of cars to prevent the driver crashing the vehicle. Even the
temple is considered a dangerous place at night, with ghosts and spirits
wandering around the grounds while the monks sleep. Statues of giants called
"Yak" often stand in front of temples to frighten these spirits away, while
at the same time protecting the precious Buddha statues inside.
"Wen kam", is the phrase used by
local people to describe the results of bad actions in the past. Their
obvious fear of retribution and evil in this life, suggests that many feel
they have done wrong in a previous one. Buddhist belief, however, offers
rewards as well as punishments, and it should not be forgotten that most
rituals are performed to promote good, as well as to guard against evil.
Balance is the key, and even with a profound knowledge of spirit and
superstition, there is no real substitute for good behaviour in a life based
on the laws of Karma.
Making Good Luck for all vehicles
When people buy cars in
Thailand, it is almost compulsory to have it blessed by a brahmin
priest or a monk. Some people also makes sure that they pick a lucky
colour and also consult the stars to find the most auspicious time
to bring the car to the house. On the ceiling of my car, just above
where the driver sits, a monk has painted a number of dots in a
pyramid shape. He also tied colour ribbons around the rearview
mirror. For me, I thought that was the end of the story. Enough had
been done to bring good luck. However, I should have done more.
If you have been in a
taxi in Bangkok, you might have noticed a jasmine garland hanging
from the mirror. You can buy these at most intersections for about
20 baht. You are supposed to hang these garlands as an offering to
the shrine - for the guardian spirit who looks after your car.
Before you hang the garland you should recite a short prayer asking
for protection. Many people also wai the shrine in respect every day
before they start up the car. They also wai any roadside shrines
that they might pass. I remember the first time I saw a taxi driver
do this. I was shocked as he was driving so fast and then he took
his hands off the wheel to make a wai gesture!
It is hard for me to
believe in this kind of thing. Even though I am interested in
Buddhism, it should be made clear that this has nothing to do with
Buddhism. What I don't like about it is how much some people believe
in the protection of their shrine in the car. Remember how I told
you the other week how the taxi driver changed so much once he had
bought a jasmine garland. Before he was a careful driver and then
after he had made a short prayer he was tailgating everyone and
changing lanes often. To me, he was putting too much faith into the
power of the shrine.
Having said all of that,
I don't think it would hurt if I paid respect to the shrine once in
a while. I suppose it is possible that the monk had invited a spirit
to reside inside the car to protect it and its occupants. If the
spirit thought that I had been ignoring it, then I suppose it is
possible it could have got up to some mischief. So, the next time I
stop at an intersection, I will buy a jasmine garland for my car.
Though, I will have to think first what I should say in the short
Making Good Luck for a
ceremony of moving into a new house in Thai is called
keun ban mai, literally "going up into a
new house"; in former times most Thai houses were built on stills to avoid
flooding in the rainy season.
auspicious time for moving in must first be found. Saturdays are very
unlucky, but Sundays are good. Before the auspicious day, all the heavy
furniture, such as beds, tables and chairs, are moved in.
auspicious hour the owner and his family enter the new house carrying their
personal Buddha images, some food and some money. The Buddha images are set
up in their new permanent positions - they must always face either East or
North. The housewife immediately prepares a meal, even though it is perhaps
three o'clockin the morning. This formalises the act of "moving in". The
money is brought in order to ensure future prosperity.
days later the religious keun ban mai
ceremony is held. This is purely Buddhist, and is a blessing of the new home
and a house-warming party all in one
again, five, seven, or preferably nine monks are invited. Before they arrive,
the white thread known as sai sin will
have been draped completely round the compound to keep out evil spirits and
consecrate everything inside it.
take their places on cushions placed round the wall, the senior monk on the
right. Candles are lit. The ball of white thread is passed from one monk to
the next, each holding the thread between the palms of the hands in the
perhaps an hour the monks chant. Afterwards the house-owner offers them
food. Later everyone kneels in turn before the senior monk, who sprinkles
holy water on their heads. One final important rite remains. As the monks
prepare to leave, the senior monkanoints every door in the house, and
especially the front door, with seven or nine spots of white paste. With
that, the ceremony is at an end. After the house has been inuse for some
time, the owner may choose to put up a miniature spirit house in a corner of
the compound, where the chao tee or
spirit of the land may live.
Superstitions in thai
Muay Thai fighters have for
centuries used special tattoos, wards, amulets, and ceremonies to increase
their good fortune and ward off bad luck and evil spirits that might follow
them into the ring. Fighters will often wear pieces of bones from their
ancestors wrapped within their headdress or in a armlet tied about the
bicep. The bone is supposed to represent the good spirits of their ancestors
and provide them protection from injury in the ring and evil spirits. Some
fighters, and regular Thai people, will often go the temple or a [Maa Doo],
a witchdoctor/medicine man, or high-ranking priest to have tattoo
inscriptions in Thai language etched into their skin. The powerful
inscriptions are supposed to provide special protection from certain
influences like good fortune, bad luck, ghosts, spirits, etc. Other tattoos
were told to grant strength, courage, long-life, or sexual prowess. Often
before fights, fighters would rub special oils and mixtures or potions on
their skin to make them oblivious to pain and invulnerable. Special amulets
worn around the neck were also told to carry special magical powers. Amulets
could contain written inscriptions with wards and protections rolled up in a
small cylinder. Other amulets came from important temples and bore the image
of Buddah or highly-reverred monks. Every fighter must also wear the Mongkon,
or rope head band, prior to the beginning of the fight during the Wai Kru
Ram Muay and the Prajied which must be worn throughout the fight contest. An
interesting thing about the Mongkon is one legend has it that you made it
out of a live and poisonous snake as this would would give it special,
magical powers. A Muay Thai boxer will
almost always have a small Amulet or Buddha image called a
Phra Krueng tucked away in his Mongkon
before the fight and also may wear one stuffed in his gloves, shorts or
other accouterments. Of course his opponent will have done the same and to
some folks it’s not a matter of who has the greater skill but the more
potent magic in his amulet mojo. Other Amulents of different types are worn
to produce certain results. The Prajeid
is a red and white band of cloth worn around the upper arm to induce
toughness. The Pirod, made of rattan can
be a ring or arm band worn around the biceps but it is not normal to wear
both a Prajeid and
Pirod together. The
Dhagrut is a small sheet of beaten
bronze inscribed with mystical symbols and is worn about the waist. This is
used with incantations but I'm not sure what it is meant to protect since
the book doesn't say! There is also the
Pitsamorn which is similar to a Dhagrut
and is worn around the waist. Another is the
Waahn or special herb which a fighter will carry in his Mongkon or chew
before the fight. The Suea-yan and
Paa-yan have a more Chinese influence.
Traditionally, women were banned from entering the Muay Thai boxing ring and
there was no women’s boxing in Thailand. This fact originates from long-held
superstitions that a female presence may destroy a Muay Thai boxer’s skill,
making him vulnerable to injuries. The belief is that female boxers (Nak
Muay Ying) will jinx any Muay Thai ring they fight in.
Trees and plants
The Thai people are known for
being superstitious and their belief in evil spirits and ghosts.
Thai people believe that it is not advisable to
plant certain kinds of trees and plants near the house or in the compound.
They are unlucky.
Soak (Saraka indica).
Soak in Thai means anguish or sorrow, a bad name for a tree to have
growing near the house. Perhaps the tree is the Indian asoka which bears
red clusters of flowers with a mild fragrant odor. In India the tree is
supposed to flower when struck by the foot of a beautiful damsel. Asoka
in Sanskrit means sorrowless, but this word in Thai has lost its first
unaccented syllable and becomes soak or sok which means quite the
opposite of sorrowless.
This is the
frangipani or the temple or pagoda flower tree. The word lanthom has a
sound resembling the word rathom which means apony. Hence the taboo. It
is usually to be found in a wat or monastery where, according to a
superstitious belief, any unlucky or ill thing will lose its bad effects.The
tree is called Lunthom in Thai and sounds very
similar to the Thai word Rathom which means sorrow. That is the reason
why the conventional Thais would not care to have Frangipani in their
compound. Many of the Thais associate the tree with death and believe
the tree is the abode of departed spirits particularly those who did not
have a good life while alive here on earth.
Kradanga (Canagium odoratum).
A tall tree bearing sweet-smelling flowers. It is usually not found near
a house due to the fact that the tree has soft wood, and its vrancesare
easily cracked and broken.
Champi and Champa (Michelia champaka).
These are two
varieties of a tree which bear in the former a scented creamy white
flower, and in the latter yellowish ones which are in great demand for
floral decorations. Bothkinds of trees have soft wood and are liable to
be broken easily, hence, they are not grown near a house.
Chaba (Hibicus rosa sinensis nalvaceae). This is a shrub
plant which is raised by the Chinese and bears scarletred flower. There
are many varieties of this shrub with various beautiful colors. In the
old days an adulteress was punished by being exposed to the public on a
kind of stilt with red chaba flowers tucked aboved her ears. A convict
to be executed for heinous crimes was also decorated with such a flower
behind the ear on his way to the place of execution. In southern India,
a garland of such flowers is hung around the neck of a criminal to be
Malakaw (Carica papaya cururabitaccae).
The papaya tree with edible fruit, has no bark and is liable to uproot
easily, hence, it is not advisable to grow in the house compound or near
the house. Unripe fruit of the papaya is used as food, but ripe fruit in
the old days was not usually eaten because of its strong butter-like
smell which Thai of older generations disliked. Recently a number of
varieties of this tree have been introduced into the country with
improved fruit which suit the taste of the younger generation. The
papaya tree is to be found in the compound of houses, but older people
cling to superstitious beliefs, and give well-meaning advice that it is
not good to have such trees in the garden.
Po (Ficus religiosa).
The religious fig tree under which the Lord Buddha was sitting when he
received his enlightenment. It is to be found in most of the wats. Hence,
when a person sees from afar a po tree, he knows that a wat is there.
Such a sacred tree is not grown in the compound of the house. The po
tree in the wat is usually a tall shady tree around which the people
sometimes wrap a yellow robe in the same manner as robing a Buddha image
with the yellow robe. Some people place bamboo poles, trimmed and
whitewashed, as supports to the holy tree. In the old days cowrie shells
used as token money, were inserted inside the bamboo poles. Poor people
will bury the bones and ashes of their dear ones near the root of the po
tree so that they may be near the holy symbol of the Lord Buddha.
Mayom (Phyllanthus distichus euphobiaceaea).
The star gooseberry which bears acid fruit. Its branches are used by
monks who dip it in the consecrated water and sprinkle it on persons or
places as a sort of ritual purification. Some people do not grow this
tree near the house. The Lord of "phi" is called in Thai, "Phya Yom"
from Yama the Indian God of Death. Perhaps because the name of the tree
"mayom" sounds like Phya Yom in its last syllable, it is not grown near
the house of some people. The branch of mayom tree which is used for the
purification ritual is no doubt used in immitation of Yama, the Indian
God of Death who holds a staff (Yama Dandha) with which he beasts the
evil spirits. On seeing such a staff the evil spirits will flee.
Rak (Calotropis gigantea).
This tree is the araka of India. Its floers are strung into garlands to
be worn around the necks of criminals on their way to the place of
execution. In Thailand the rak tree grows wild in deserted dry palces.
Its trunk and branches have a milky sap and its flowers are used for
floral pieces which are to be seen usually at creamations. Now it is the
fashion for a bride and bridegroom to wear a garland of these flowers,
for the name rak means love in Thai.
Nang Yaem (Cleredendron fragans).
A shrub having fragrant flowers. It is easily propagated as its roots
run far and wide underground and shoot up as new plants until they
become a nuisance. The people believe that Nang Yaem will turn into a "phi"
when it grows old, and disturb the peace of the house by pelting stones
at it. Nang Yaem in Thai means to open slightly in bloom or the peeping
of a damsel, hence its poetic name is found quoted in Thai erotic
Phutsa (Zizyphus jujuba).
The Indian Jujube
bears edible cherrylike fruit. It grows wild and its thorny branches are
used to block the passage of evil spirits when there is a birth. The
flowers have a strange nauseous smell. This tree is not grown near the
house, perhaps, apart from the smell of its flowers when in bloom, the
last syllable "sa" of "Phutsa" also means in Thai to diminish or to grow
less. It is unlucky to have it in the compound of the house for one's
fortune in trade will grow less and less.
Phutaraksa (Canna Sp.).
Phutaraksa in Thai, this means
the lovely canna lily is not grown in the compound but planted outside
the boundary as the fencing. Because the lovely plants with their
flowers keep away the evil spirits. These plants and flowers are largely
used in religious ceremonies. Some people object to the growing of this
plant near the house. It is believed the name Buddha has a great deal to
do with the superstition, for anything sacred or in connection with "phi"
is not allowed to be in the same compound as an inhabited house A very
large tree is often taken by the spirits, either benevolent or malicious,
as their abode. Offering have to be made if such trees are cut. The
large trees with thick branches and large leaves are the abode of male
spirits. Large to medium size trees give shelter to female spirits.
A variety of banana. The fruits contain a lot of seeds and are
usually not eaten. It is said that if you find a lovely young girl near
this banana tree, she is an evil female spirit. She will make love to a
man and he will feel tempted to visit her again. A few visits and his
fresh blood will be sapped by the evil female spirit resulting in a
painful death. Should a young man start becoming a weak and emaciated,
he is carefully watched and prevented from going to such banana trees.
The lovemaking is usually carried on in an unseen manner. Such evil
female spirits are called Naang Tanee. They usually come out on lovely
moonlit nights when young men are in romantic moods.
Marum (Moringa, oleiferaMaringaceae).
The Indian drum stick tree which bears pods like drum sticks. Some
people object to having such a tree grown in the house compound. No
doubt the objection is due to the name of tree "marum" which coincides
with the Thai word ma-rum which means "to come in a crowd". This may be
taken to mean to come in a crowd in order to consume food or to come in
a crowd to attack.
Takian (Hopea odorata) and Yang (Dipterocarpus alatus).
tall forest trees. They are of course not fit to be grown in a limited
house ground. Beside, such big trees are believed by the people to be
abodes of tree spirits. There are two kinds of spirits that reside in
the trees. One kind is a male spirit half "phi" half thevada or
god, and the other is a female spirit like the wood nymph. The former,
as surmised from the tree cult usually resides in a big tall tree, the
wood of which has no economic value, while the latter resides in a tree
which supplies economic wood or fruits. Even today people in outlying
districts will not dare to cut down any big tree for fear of the tree
spirit residing in it. Even in felling a tree of smaller size, the
people will first make an offering to the spirit to atone for the
offence made. A very big and very tall tree of the kind which the people
believe to be the abode of the spirit will not be felled at any cost. In
the old days when certain big trees were required for the making of the
traditional royal barge or posts for the tall roof of a royal pyre, an
offering was made and a royal proclamation was read to the spirit under
the tree before it could be cut down. This was a wise practice to
preserve big trees of the forest from wanton felling by the simple folk.
Takian (Hopea odorata).
tree in the particular is a very well-known one where a female spirit
has her habitation. She is known as "Nang Takian" or Lady Takian. In the
imagination of the people, Lady Takian usually takes the form of a
beauty maiden who sometimes makes a wailing and piercing sound when the
tree, her abode, is felled. Unforseen and mysterious calamities will
befall the person or persons who destroy her abode. A Takian tree
growing near the bank of a river with its root protruding above ground
is to be avoided, for the Lady Takian of that tree is a fierce one.
Whoever relieves himself near the base of her tree will suffer from
ulcers. To add to the belief, both kinds of trees, Takian and Yang are
usually found in a wat where all sorts of ghost stories emanate.
Ngiew (Bombax malabaricumMalvanccae).
Ngiew tree with its soft wood
is very much prized for making coffins. That is why a Ngiew tree is not
looked on with favour in the compound. Also, in the Buddhist parables of
hell we find the soft wood of Ngiew tree is often mentioned. The tree
trunk has large thorns. The spirits of unfaithful wives have to climb
this tree and be tortured in hell. Usually a large and ferocious tiger
growls at the foot of the tree waiting for the spirit to slip and be
devoured. No wonder if a Ngiew tree is suddenly found growing in the
compound the householder shudders.
Nun (Ceibo pentendra)
or kapok tree
is not grown near a house.
two types of trees have soft wood of no economic value. In former days
big ngiew trees were utilized as coffins for the soft wood could be dug
out easily for the purpose.
Saraphi (Ochrocarpus siamensis).
which bears sweet-scented flowers.
A tall tree which bears small star-shaped flowers which
retain their sweet scent for a comparatively long time. On certain
important occasions such as a coronation, Phikun flowers of gold and
silver are distributed by the King to officials
tall tree which bears yellow fruit. When ripe the shape of the fruit
resembles the moon. Hence its name.
Chan are not usually grown in
the house compound, but curiously are to be found in wats (temples) and
the royal palace compounds. If a person dares to plant such trees in his
residential compound, misfortune will occur sooner or later to the owner.
Sala and Rakam (Zallaca wallichianapalmae).
These two kinds of trees are very similar. They are rattan-like palms
with sharp spines in whorls around the stem. Sala in Thai means forsaken
and Rakam means affliction. Hence they are not grown in a house compound.
Owing to their edible sour fruits which in some varieties have a sweet
flavor, they are of high marketable value. Gardeners grow them as hedges,
for their sharp spines will prevent trespassers.
Tau Rang (Caryota mitispalmae).
This is a type of palm tree which bears fruit-like berries in beautiful
clusters but with poisonous fruits walls. The tree may be found in the
compound of a European houses as as ornamental tree. The Thai people do
not grow it for the reason that the second syllable or word of "tau rang"
is similar in sound to another word which means deserted or abandoned, (perhaps
the poison of its fruit and also its non-economical nature has something
to do with its taboo).
best for gardeners to follow the well founded belief to plant only trees
that have the name of "Mah"
such as mah muang (mango), mah la gor (papaya), mah prao (coconut), not
only will you have good luck but your family will always have something
to eat as well.
tree is none other than the big banyan
tree with long thick roots hanging down which are often mistaken for
branches. The tree is believe to have a tutelary god who looks kindly on
lovers. In the story of Unarat
, written by both Si Praj in the Ayuttaya period and King Rama I in the
Bangkok period, the hero Phra Unarat took shelter under the Sai tree.
Before he went to sleep, he paid homage to the tree god. Being satisfied
with the show of respect, the god of the Sai tree, transported him to
the most beautiful woman, Naang Usha. Ever since, Every Thaiman has had
a wishful thought of being carried to a lovely woman in his sleep.
Every country has
their own Old Wive's Tales. A list of things you shouldn't do.
Thailand is no exception. Some of these seem crazy on the
surface but most have hidden good reasons. You will still hear
some of these being said today in some Thai families.
Did you know that
in Thailand that each day of the week is assigned a different
colour for clothes you wear? I didn't really know about this at
first but after a few years I was starting to get curious as to
why people were giving me a different coloured shirt for my
birthday. They were also telling me which day I should wear them!
I started to get suspicious when they bought me a bright orange
shirt and said I should wear it on Thursdays. That is when I
discovered that each day of the week has its own colour.
Sunday - red
Monday - cream/yellow
Tuesday - pink
Wednesday - green
Thursday - orange/brown
Friday - blue
Saturday - black/purple
These days I have
to wear a white shirt and tie at school. So, I don't pay
attention to it so much any more. Anyway, you don't see many
Thai people wearing the correct colour clothes for each day. But,
some might wear a small piece of clothing, like a tie or
handkerchief, which is the correct colour.
I think many
people pay more attention to the colour of their day of birth.
This then becomes their lucky colour. Some households might tie
two colours around the pole of a spirit house - one for the
husband and one for the wife. Even royal flags show the day the
person was born. For example, Princess Sirindhorn was born on a
Saturday so her flag is purple. The King was born on a Monday so
his flag is yellow. The Queen was born on a Friday so her flag
about day of the week
If you were born
Sunday, don't do
anything auspicious on a Friday.
Monday, don't do anything auspicious on a Sunday.
Tuesday, don't do anything auspicious on a Monday.
Wednesday, don't do anything auspicious on a Tuesday.
Thursday, don't do anything auspicious on a Saturday.
Friday, don't do anything auspicious on a Wednesday.
Saturday, don't do anything auspicious on a Wednesday in the
middle of the night!
Start Building a
Like anything else in Thai society, there are auspicious days
for starting to build a house.
Good days: Mondays,
Wednesdays and Thursdays
Bad days: Sundays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Ceremony for a New
When Thai people have built a new house, they usually invite
some monks to bless the house. However, there are certain days
when you can do this:
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays
Bad Days: Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays
Don't do anything special or auspicious on Tuesdays (like
wedding, new house ceremony etc.). If you do it there will be
On Wednesdays, don't make merit in your house or have a new hair
Don't have a
funeral on Fridays because the word for Friday in Thai, "sook",
sounds like the same word for "happy"
Thai Superstitions about marriage
is a Thai superstition that if you and your lover are born on the
correct days then you will have a long and happy marriage.
These combinations will succeed:
born on Sunday and a woman born on Monday (and vice versa)
A man born on Friday and a woman born on Tuesday (and vice versa)
A man born on Thursday and a woman born on Sunday (and vice versa)
A man born on Wednesday and a woman born on Saturday (and vice versa)
A man born on Monday and a woman born on Saturday (and vice versa)
A man born on Wednesday and a woman born on Monday (and vice versa)
A man born on Friday and a woman born on Sunday (and vice versa)
These combinations will not succeed at
born on Monday and Thursday
People born on Sunday and Tuesday
People born on Friday and Saturday
People born on Wednesday and Wednesday
Thai Superstitions about
your hair on Sunday - you will live long
Wash your hair on Monday - you will be lucky and have a lot of money
Wash your hair on Tuesday - you will defeat your enemy
Wash your hair on Wednesday - bad luck, some people will say bad things
Wash your hair on Thursday - very good: the angels will look after you
Wash your hair on Friday - good: you will live happily
Wash your hair on Saturday - very good: the things you plan and carry
out will be successful
Thai Superstitions about
Gemstones sorted by Month of Birth
- garnet and malachite
February - amethyst and opal
March - tourmaline and bloodstone
April - diamond
May - emerald
June - pearl and moonstone
July - ruby
August - amber
September - black sapphire and blue sapphire
October - opal and tourmaline
November - topaz
December - turquoise
Gemstones sorted by Day of Birth
Monday - diamond
Tuesday - black sapphire and garnet
Wednesday - emerald
Wednesday evening - lapis lazuli
Thursday - topaz
Friday - blue sapphire
Saturday - zircon and black sapphire
Gemstones sorted by Thai Year Horoscope
the Rat - garnet
Year of the Ox - moonstone
Year of the Tiger - zircon
Year of the Rabbit - lapis lazuli or emerald
Year of the Dragon - lapis lazuli
Year of the Snake - diamond
Year of the Horse - black sapphire
Year of the Sheep - moonstone
Year of the Monkey - topaz
Year of the Rooster - garnet
Year of the Dog - emerald
Year of the Pig - lapis lazuli
Thai Superstitions about Food and
Don't eat a double banana because if you are a woman
you will give birth to twins.
Don't eat before your elders because in your next
life you will be born as a dog.
Don't eat food without rice because you will get
Don't eat salt under a tree because it will make the
Don't eat the leftovers from your child because it
will make the kid naughty.
Don't eat corn when you have the flu because it will
give you a higher fever.
Don't eat cold rice with hot rice because you will
lose your way easily the next time you go out.
Don't eat chicken feet because it will give you bad
Don't eat turtles because it will make you walk
Don't eat other people's food without permission
because it will make your throat swollen.
Don't eat before a monk because you will become a bad
Don't eat all of the rice during your evening meal
because you should leave some for the elves.
Don't eat egg when you have cut yourself because it
will make it worse.
Don't eat chili sauce in the mortar bowl because if
you are a woman you will give birth to a child with big lips.
Don't eat dog because the dog's spirit will possess
kill big animals such as elephant, horse, cow, buffalo, etc. because it
is a big sin
Do not touch a buffalo horn because it won't grow any more
Do not turn over a puppy because it will go and eat your chicken
Do not touch a horse's tail because it will get sick
Do not hit a dog with a bamboo pole meant for carrying things because it
will become rabid
Do not hit a cat because it is as much sinful as hitting a novice monk
Do not hit a cat on the head because when you grow old your head will
shake like the cat did when you hit it
Do not rest a cow or a buffalo in the temple grounds because it is a sin
Do not let a black cat jump across a corpse because the dead spirit will
then become an angry ghost
Do not raise five cats and six dogs because it will be bad luck for you
Do not chain a monkey because your children will have small wrists like
it has been chained
Do not pat a cat’s back because you will make it thin
Do not catch a firefly because your plates and bowls will break often
Do not allow a husband and wife to go and see a snake together because
the wife will have a miscarriage
Superstitions about Washing
wash you clothes on the same day a relation is cremated, because the
ghost will come and take you away
Do not wash your clothes during the night-time because you will become
sick whenever you wear these clothes
Do not wash the mosquito net in the canal because a crocodile will
Do not wash the plates of food that a neighbour gave you because you
will hate each other
Do not wash your plates at night-time because you will wash away your
Do not wash your hands together with other people because you will die
Do not wash your rice cooker at night-time because you should save some
for the house ghost
Regarding Pregnant Women
walk over lemon grass because the baby will come out with a withered leg.
Do not enter the chapel when an ordination is in process because you
will then have a difficult delivery.
Do not watch an eclipse of the sun and the moon because the baby will be
Do not walk and eat because it will hurt a lot when you give birth.
Do not step across the reins of a horse because the baby will stay
longer in the womb.
Do not fish because the baby will be difficult to come out.
Do not sit on the steps because the baby will be difficult to come out.
Do not go to a funeral because a ghost will come and take the baby away.
Do not look after sick people because they won't get well.
look down while you are walking because it will make your life shorter
and no-one will love you.
Do not stomp your feet while in the house because you will scare the
house spirits away and there will be no-one to look after the house.
Do not walk heavily because this kind of person won't be able to save
Do not step over sharp objects like scissors or knives because you will
make it lose its sharpness.
Do not step over a book because it will make you stupid.
Do not step over the piece of wood propping up a banana tree because the
bananas will be small.
Do not walk over a charcoal brazier because you will get in trouble.
Do not step over a gun or other hunting weapon because you will make the
magic go away.
Do not step over a pole that is used to carry loads on your shoulders
because you will get a gallstone
about Lying Down and Sleeping
sleep with your legs crossed because you will have a suffocating feeling
in your dreams
Do not put your hand across your forehead because nobody will love you.
Do not eat while lying down because you will become a snake in your next
Do not sleep naked because the angel won't protect you.
Do not lie down with one knee up because a very violent class of demon
will suck your blood.
Do not sleep under the beam of the house because the ghost will possess
Do not sleep near the threshold of the house because you will have a
suffocating feeling in your dreams
Do not sleep on the gaps between the floorboards because a ghost will
drag you down the hole.
Do not count the stars while lying down because it will make your life
Do not sleep in the kitchen because you will marry an old maid/man.
Do not sleep in the early evening because the ghost will come and take
Do not sleep while the sun is setting because you will never get up.
Do not sleep with your head pointing west because that is where ghosts
Do not lie down and read a book because it will make you stupid.
sneeze two or three times in a row, it means that someone is complaining
or gossiping about you.
If you sneeze in the morning between 6 a.m. - 9 a.m., you will be lucky
that day, you might get a promotion, if you have to travel you will have
a safe trip
If you sneeze in the late morning between 9.01 a.m. - 12 p.m. you will
receive good news from someone far away. You will be successful in your
If you sneeze in the early afternoon between 12.01 p.m. - 3 p.m. you
will receive some good news from someone of the opposite sex. Or you
will have a romantic meeting with someone you love.
If you sneeze in the late afternoon between 3.01 p.m. and 6 p.m. you
will receive some good news regarding business. If you have lost
anything you will get it back. Your investments will be successful. You
shouldn't have anything to do with the opposite sex.
If you sneeze in the early afternoon between 6.01 p.m. - midnight, do
not accept anything from anyone because bad things will happen.
If you sneeze between midnight until 6 a.m., be aware someone will come
to ask to stay with you. Do not allow them. If someone asks for help, do
not help. They will bring trouble.
During your travels, if you hear someone sneezing from high above, your
trip will be dangerous. You shouldn't continue.
During your travels, if you hear someone sneezing from below, this will
be a good trip, you might meet your soulmate.
During your travels, if you hear someone sneezing in front of you, you
will have a safe trip. Some good things are waiting for you.
During your travels, if you hear someone sneezing behind you, it will be
a bad trip. You should stop and go back staright away because bad things
will happen like you will have an accident or you will be robbed.
During your travels, if you hear someone sneezing on your right, you
will have a safe trip and no troubles.
During your travels, if you hear someone sneezing on your left, this
trip will be successful. You should hurry because something big is
waiting for you.
Superstitions about Geckos and Mice
Old people believe
that having a gecko inside the house is lucky. They believe that
geckos are relations that have died and been reborn to look
after their children.
If you hear a
gecko between 6 a.m. and noon it means that good news is on its
If you hear a gecko between 12.01 p.m. and 6 p.m. it is a sign
of something bad to come.
If you hear a gecko between 6.01 p.m. and midnight it could be
bad and good news coming your way.
If you hear a gecko between 12.01 a.m. and 6 a.m. then it doesn't
mean anything. It is its normal cry.
If you hear a gecko cry four times in a row it means that within
15 days there will be trouble in the family.
If you hear a
mouse in the house then you won't get ill. You wil get money and
wealth. The people in your family will be safe from accidents.
But, you should stay away from bad people because they will
bring bad luck. You will receive gifts from elder relations that
will bring you joy. The opposite sex will bring you wealth and
you might also get promotion.
involving small creatures with tails such as: house lizard,
mouse, bird, bat, centipede, bee and other flying insects.
If the creature
lands in front of you and its tail points to you: you will be
lucky, you will receive precious gifts and the angels will look
If the creature
lands in front of you and its tail points to your right: you
will get presents from your relations.
If the creature
lands in front of you and its tail points to your left: you and
your relations will be in danger or ill. You should go and make
merit straight away.
If the creature
lands on your left hand: you will have good luck and you will
either inherit something expensive, get a promotion or live a
If the creature
falls down and hits your right hand: bad things will happen to
the people in your family. There will be no happiness in your
If the creature
lands in the middle of a circle of people: everyone should be
careful as bad things could happen to each and every person.
If one of these
creatures falls down dead in the street while you are walking by:
bad things might happen which might cause you to bleed and
If one of these
creatures falls down in the street and manages to crawl away
unassisted: bad things might happen, you will get injured or get
involved in a fight.
Here are some more Thai
superstitions and old wives tales which have shaped Thai people
Do not wear your
amulet when you go to the toilet. If you do so it will no longer
Do not tap repeatedly with a spoon or chopsticks on a bowl of
rice. Because you are inviting a ghost to come and eat with you.
The same goes for the top of the rice cooker. You will upset the
Do not kill yourself. It is a very bad sin.
Do not taste food with a large serving spoon. It will make your
child look ugly.
Do not point your finger at a monk. You will lose your finger.
Do not point your finger at a rainbow. It will make your finger
Do not cut the wood for the stairs with a knife. Because the
ghost will make you fall down the stairs.
Do not place a plate on top of another while you are eating. It
will make you unable to pay off your debts.
Do not sell a needle in the middle of the night. Your shop will
not be profitable.
Do not smell the flowers that you are going to offer to the monk.
Something bad will happen to your nose.
Do not say bad things to your parents. It is a really bad sin.
Do not insult or say bad things to a monk. In the next life you
will be deaf and dumb.
Do not insult sunshine, wind or rain because mother nature will
make something bad happen to you.
Do not let toddlers who cannot talk yet eat fish. It will make
their gums bleed.
Do not let your
children play with shadows during the evening. The shadow guy will come
and take them away.
Do not pick flowers in the temple grounds. You will go to hell when you
Do not walk with your face down. It will make your life shorter.
Do not stomp as you walk around the house. You will scare the guardian
spirits of the house.
Do not walk heavily. You won't be able to save any money.
Do not walk across any sharp objects. It will make them unsharp.
Do not hit your parents. You will become a very bad ghost.
Do not boil an egg in a rice cooker. It will make your life worse.
Do not set up a spirit house in the shadow of a house. The owner of the
house won't be successful.
Do not cut your hair on Wednesday. It is bad luck for you.
Do not cut your nails during the night-time. It will be like breaking
the bones of your ancestors.
Do not insult a Buddha image. You will go to hell.
Do not get married on odd numbered months. It is a bad omen for your
Do not spit or complain about the smell at a funeral. Bad things will
happen to you.
Do not take off your clothes or sleep next to the closet. A ghost will
come to haunt you.
whistle at night because you will invite ghosts into your house.
Don’t let women eat chicken feet because they will have an affair
Do not let pregnant women whistle because her baby will have a crooked
Do not allow an adult pay respect to a child (wai) because that child
will have a shortened life
Do not joke while you are eating because the ghost will steal your rice
Do not cover your head when you go to a temple because this will make
Do not sharpen a knife at night time because you will offend the angels
Do not look at naked people because your eyes will become swollen
Do not have sexual intercours on holy days (wan phra) because bad things
Do not let the bride and the groom meet three days before the wedding
because their marriage will not last
Do not smile while sowing corn because it won’t grow
Do not stand in a doorway because a ghost will enter the house
Do not sew at night because the ghost will haunt you
Do not throw money away because you will lose your finger
Do not sing while you are eating because the ghost will curse you