The Supernatural World in Thai Culture

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If you’re familar with Thai culture, you know that belief in ghosts and the supernatural is very prominent. Thus, supernatural beings can be divided into two main groups which are the benevolent and the malevolent spirits.

The Supernatural in Thai Culture

The benevolent spirits are primarily guardian spirits, for instance the guardian spirit of the village proper and the numerous territorial spirits which are the spirit of the forrest (Chao Pa), the spirit of the hills and mountains (Chao Khao), the rice goddess (Mae Phosop), Kuman Thong (กุมารทอง), the spirit of young children and Mae Sue (แม่ซื้อ),the guardian goddess and female ghost of infants.

Guman Thong effigies (photo: kumarnthong.com

Guman Thong effigies (photo: kumarnthong.com)

A very well-known spirit in Thai culture is the ghost of the house compound which is called Phra Phum. Every Thai house and building has a guardian spirit that lives in the spirit house in front of the respective house.

Spirit houses, San Phra Phum (photo: W. Horsch, wikimedia.org)

Spirit houses, San Phra Phum, example of the supernatural in Thai culture (photo: W. Horsch, wikimedia.org)

The group of benevolent spirits also include the heaven spirits of Thewada which are usually referred to collectively. Malevolent spirits cause trouble to people and aim at harming them. Most often these evil spirits are supposed to be the spirits of people who died violently or accidentally. It is a common belief that if a person dies violently or suddenly, his spirit wanders around in this world since it still aims at fullilling its role in this world.

Phi Krasue drawing by Xavier Romero-Frias, (photo: wikimedia.org)

Phi Krasue drawing by Xavier Romero-Frias, (photo: wikimedia.org)

However, there are also other kinds of bad spirits like Phi Pop (ผีปอบ, a malevolent female spirit that devours human entrails, Phi Krasue (กระสือ, a woman’s head with her viscera hanging down from the neck) and Phi Krahang (กระหัง, a male ghost that flies in the night) for instance. These spirits have the ability to possess people and can even kill a person and devour his viscera. Hence, it does not come as a surprise that the majority of good spirits are referred to as individual ghosts whereas the evil ones are categorized in groups.

A humerous comic version of Phi Krahang (photo topicstock.pantip)

A humerous comic version of Phi Krahang (photo topicstock.pantip)

The benenvolent spirits are supposed to assist and protect the living. In return the good spirits receive offerings and sacrifices made by people. In this way, the spirit has to be pleased so that it will help people. Hence, we may speak of a reciprocal relationship between the spirit world and human beings. As far as the malevolent spirits are concerned, people often make an offering first in order to pacify the spirits. If that does not work, the assitance of the benevolent spirits is needed. Thus, it might also be the case that Buddhist rituals are necessary to pacify the malevolent spirits.

Taksin Memorial Spirit House (photo: wikimedia.org)

Taksin Memorial Spirit House (photo: wikimedia.org)

What is more, it is a general belief that if human beings behave badly and disrespectfully towards a good spirit, this ghost might turn malevolent. Hence, we may say that the distinction between good and evil spirits may not always be clear cut.

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo credit: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

Summing up, we might be justified in claiming that generally, in Thai culture, spirits and the supernatural are very important. Ghosts are classified by their nature of origin as benevolent or malevolent. Some of them also have their own shrines for worship like Mae Nak who is the famous female ghost who died at childbirth.

Yours, Sirinya

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  1. 24. April 2016

    […] The Supernatural World in Thai Culture 24. April 2016 […]

  2. 24. April 2016

    […] The Supernatural World in Thai Culture 24. April 2016 […]

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