The "PHI" ( ผี ) พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย phya Anuman Rajathon   

ANUMAN RAJATHON, PHYA. THE "PHI". JSS. VOL.41 (pt.2) 1954. p.153-178.


                                              THE "PHI" ( ผี )

                                               phya Anuman Rajathon
                                           edited by Margaret Coughlin



The belief in supernatural beings is  innate  in  man. The Thai
people as a race call such supernatural beings by the generic word
"phi", which  includes  both  gods  and  devils. The  phi, like  man  in
a general sense, are of two classes, the good Phi and  the  bad  phi.
When the Thai  came  in  contact  with  the  highly  hinduized  Khmer
or  Cambodians  in  Central  Thailand  in  the  12th  century A.D. and
had become a ruling race in that region,  they  adopted  most  of  the
Khmer hinduized cultures,  especially  the  ruling  class.Throughout
subsequent centuries the Thai  and  the  Khmer  mixed  racially and
culturally   to   an   appreciable degree. By  this  time  the  Thai  were
gradually becoming known as the Siamese and the  old  Thai  word
"phi" like its owners had also undergone  a  change  in  meaning. In
the famous stone inscription of the great Siamese King Ramkamhang
dated 1283 A.D. reference was made to the  King  of  Khmer  of  that
time  as  "phi  fa"  which   literally   meant  the  heavenly  phi. Actually
"phi   fa"  meant   a  divine  king,  which  cult  had  been  adopted   by
Siamese kings of the later periods. Instead of  referring  to  a  divine
king  as  phi  fa  as  hitherto,  it  has  now  changed  into  a  "thep" or
"thevada"   from  the  Sanskrit  "deva"  and  "devata"  which  mean  a
god or, literally, a shining one. It  followed  that  all  the  good  phi  of
the Thai had by now become thevada or gods in  their  popular  use
of the language. The generic word "phi" therefore, degenerated into
a restricted meaning of bad phi. It now  means  a  ghost, a  devil  or
an evil spirit. Nevertheless the old meaning of phi in  certain  cases
is not yet dead and still lingers in some expressions in the language.
For instance,of any evil deed done in secret, we sometimes say as
a warning, "men never see the  evil  deed  done  but  the  phi  does.''
In  order  not  to  divulge  the  source  of  any  formula,  especially  a






154                                      Phya Anuman Rajathon


medicinal prescription which is  effective,  the  owner  will  say  that
the  formula  is  "phi bok"  (ผีบอก), or  told by a phi, so as to give it a
sacred and mystical effect. The phi here is a good phi or a thevada

The dividing line between gods and devils like men, is a thin
one which is a matter of varying degrees. Some gods are bad and
some devils are good. There are, in fact, almost as many kinds  of
good and bad phi as there are of men. It follows therefore, that out
of these phi there emerges a class whose position is on a border line
between the gods and the devils. They are called "chao phi" which
means a lord or prince phi but is sometimes also  called  thevada.
Such   supernatural  beings, half  phi  and  half  thevada,  form  the
Subject of my paper.



The Chao Phi (เจ้าผี)

To the imagination of folk people, an uninhabited and desolate
place such as a forest or a wilderness is full of unseen beings or phi,
mostly malevolent ones. Over these numerous ph i there  is  in  each
such place  a  lord  or  chao  phi  who  rules  in  his  or  her  particular
domain or sphere of influence. There is always a shrine  built  by  the
people in a prominent place as a residence fo r the  chao  phi  where
personally the people can make offerings and ask for the  chao  phi's
goodwill   and   protection.  The  chao  phi  is,  therefore,  a  tutelar  or
guardian    spirit     who    is    called    in    Thai   "arak"   or   "theparak".
"Arak"   is  in  Sanskrit   "araksha" , to  protect, and  "thep" is "deva" or
deity, but the people reverently  call  such  chao  phi  "chao  phaw"  or
"chao mé" which means either the lord father or  the lord  mother  as
the case may be. When addressing the chao phaw or  chao  mé  the
worshipper  will  refer  to  himself  as  "luk chang"  which  means  an
elephant calf. This  is  interesting. I  venture  to  think  that  in  the  old
days herds of elephants roamed far and  wide. A  herd  of  elephants
might at any time come up  suddenly  and  destroy  the  crops  of  the
people. In such a circumstance the folk were helpless and unable to
cope with the situation. To  a  primitive  mind  anything  extraordinary






                                                      THE PHI                                           155


r abnormal which inspired awe was accredited to  the supernatural
Here the chief elephant of the herd  must have been no  other  than
a chao phi in disguise who came  to punish  the  folk  for  their  neg-
ligence  towards   the  chao  phi  who  was  their  unseen  father. By
calling themselves luk chang or elephant calves and entreating the
elephants to leave the place, the  chao  phi  in  elephant's  disguise
would be appeased. This  is  probably  the  origin  of  the  term  "luk


At the clearing  or  opening  into  a  forest  or  at  any  prominent
place there usually stands a shrine to the chao phi who is supposed
to look after the  forest  as his domain. Anyone going  into  the  forest
must stop at the shrine to  pay  respect to the chao phaw or chao mé
as the case may be. If someone desires to cut trees for his own domestic
use or to kill game, he must pay respect to the chao phi and  ask  for
permission. The usual way to do this is to make one  end  of  a stick
into a hook and stick  the  other  end  in  the  ground  or  hang  it at  a
certain place on a level with the eyes  of  a  person  standing. This is
an act of respect among the Siamese. The head of a superior  must
always be in a high position and when he is sitting,  it  is disrespect-
ful for an inferior to  stand  above  a  superior.  That  is why  we  have
to crawl or  sit  down  when  a  superior  is  squatting on  the  floor. If
the superior is sitting on a chair, the inferior  must  not  walk  in  with
his head erect and above that of  the  former. He  has  to  go  in  with
a bowed head as a sign of respect.

The question arises as to why a  hook  is  made  on  the  stick
when asking permission from a chao  phi, The  word  hook  in  Thai
is "khaw" and so also the word to  ask  permission. It  is  a  play  on
a word with identity  in  sound  but  difference  in  meaning. When  a
stick with the hook  has  been  placed, it  is  usually  to  be  left  over-
night. If the stick remains  intact  in  the  morning, then  it  is  a  sign
that the chao phi has given his or her  consent. Such  a  convention
is not confined only to the supernatural  beings, but  may  be  used
also  for  inaccessible  humans. If  you  are  tired  and  thirsty  while






156                                   Phya Anuman Rajathon


travelling   in  an  uninhabited  place, and  you  come  suddenly on  a
plantation where there are many  ripe  melons  to quench your  thirst,
but are unable to locate the  owner  of  the  plantation, then  the  best
thing for you to do is to make a hook and place it somewhere nearby
as a sign asking permission to take away a  few  melons. Then   you
can take them without incurring  the  ill-will  of  the  owner  or  appear-
ing to be a thief.

When there is a sure sign from the chao phi that permission is
given , the   folk   can  go   into  the  forest   to  fell  trees  or  kill  game,
enough  for  their  own  domestic  needs  only. When  they   leave  the
forest with their felled   trees  or  game,  they  will  stop  at  the  shrine
again to give their thanks to  the  chao  phi. If  they  have  killed  game,
they   will   cut   a   certain  portion  of  the  animals  killed, usually  the
ears and the tips of the nose, as an oblation to the  chao  phi. It  is  a
paradox that most of the uneatable parts of the animals  are  usually
given to the chao phi as a suitable offering. Such  a  practice  is  gen-
eral among many races of people in their primitive animistic belief.

It is indirectly known by the folk people that in certain  seasons,
especially the rainy one, the chao phi  even  if  he  is  asked, will  not
give his or her consent for anyone to go and cut  wood  or  kill  game.
If anyone dares to do it,  something  unwonted  may  happen  to  him
or he may become sick with fever. This  is  du e to  the  anger  of  the
chao phi. Such a belief has  indirectly  a  utilitarian  and  preservative
value for  the  people  whose  outlook  is  still  primitive. Young  trees
and animals can grow and  thrive  unmolested  during  certain  parts
of the year. Nowadays some progressive people  from  towns, going
out to fell  trees  or  shoot  game  with  the  help  of  local  folk, ignore
the  practice   and  tradition. The  folk  begin  to  sense  impotency  in
their chao  phi  and  imitate  their  modern-minded  brothers  without
the knowledge that there is harm in it; hence  harm  has  been  done
to the forests and game.

The chao phi whose domain is the forest is sometimes called
chao pa or lord of  the  forest. In  fact  there  are  chao  phi  of  various






                                                THE PHI                                                 157


locations, There may be a "chao  khao" or  lord  of  the  mountain, a
"chao thung" or lord of  the  open  land, a "chao  tha''  or  lord  of  the
ferry or landing, a "chao thi" or lord of the place. The people believe
that these spirits travel  during  the  day  between  midday  and  two
o'clock  in the afternoon.  On  a  day's  march  the  people  will  stop
travelling   for   a   while  during  such  times,  fearing  that  they  will
unintentionally tread upon the toe of the unseen, and become sud-
denly   ill   through  their  anger. This  is  practical. To  travel  during
the heat of the day through open land is unbearable when the sun
is hot overhead. You may have sunstroke  which  means  that  you
have trod on the toe of one chao phi or another.


The chao phi as already mentioned were developed probably
from natural objects which inspired awe in  the  people, hence  they
are nature spirits. But there is a particular class of  chao  phi  which
developed from the spirits of the dead and grew  about the memory
of outstanding dead persons. They are worshipped with love or fear
because of the reputation of their virtues or  their  vices. No  special
name is given to such chao phi. To the people there are no differen-
ces in kinds of chao phi, for all  have  similar  attributes  and  habits.
But in the Northeast of Thailand, these chao phi have  been  known
as a particular class named "phi mahesak", a corrupted word from
the  Sanskrit " mahesakha"  which  means  great  power. They  are
much feared by  the  people,  especially  the  phi  mahesak  whose
reputation when alive as a human being was savage and cruel in the
extreme. A slight neglect or omission of worship to these spirits on
the part of the people will result in great harm.


The Phi (Evil Spirits)

The phi  here, as  already  mentioned, means  in  its  restricted
sense  a  ghost, a devil, or an evil spirit. It  also  means  the  spirit  of
the dead and the corpse of a person. There are many kinds of  such
actively malignant phi, some of them are traditional ones, but others
by their peculiar names betray foreign  origins. Out  of  these  numer-
ous phi the following names are well known.







158                                   Phya Anuman Rajathon


Phi Krasü ( ผีกระสือ ). This spirit appears as a  hag  or  an  old
ugly woman like the European witches. Though living  in  the  midst
of the people like an ordinary human being, it avoids all contact with
them if possible. Its eyes have a  lowering  look ( ตาขวาง ), which  is
characteristic of phi in human form, not only  of  phi  krasü  but  also
other   kinds  of   phi. The   phi  krasü  has  a  liking  for  rawish  and
fishy   things  ( ของสดคาว )  as   its   food.  It   devours   also   human
excrements. In the dead of night it  will  go  on  a  prowl  to  seek  its
food. It never goes out with its  whole  body, but  with  its  head  and
entrails only. Do not ask how this can be  done  for  the  way  of  the
phi is always mysterious and  irrational. If  one  sees  in  pitch  dark-
ness during the dead of night a glimmer of light, it is the  phi  krasü
itself;  for   while   prowling   at  night  with  its  head  and  entrails, it.
emits  such  a  glow  of  light. By  analogy  we  call  a  glow-worm  in
Thai, a "nawn krasü" ( หนอนกระสือ ) or the krasü worm. A  bull's  eye
lantern is called "khoam krasü ( โคมกระสือ ) or the krasü lantern.


During childbirth the phi krasü  being  attracted  by  a  smell  of
of blood or other  offensive  smell,  will  come  to  enjoy  its  preferred
food. If  precaution  is  not  taken  to  prevent  its  coming  by  keeping
the place clean and  clear  from  such  evil  smells  and  keeping  the
opening  to  the  lower  part  of  the house  blocked with thorns, or the
room where the childbirth has taken  place, unguarded  by  a  sacred
cord ( สายสิญจน์ ) and mystic characters and drawings ( ยันต์ ), the phi
krasü  will  readily get  into  the  room  when everybody is fast asleep.
It will stealthily  enter  into  the  body  of  the  newborn  babe  and  eat
the entrails until the baby dies.Unsatisfied with such a small morsel
of  food,  for   the  phi  krasü  is  very  voracious, it  will get  inside  the
mother's body and feast gradually on  her  entrails also. The  mother
will then become ill. She will grow thinner and thinner  and  lose  her
appetite  for  ordinary  food  but  will  be  habitually  greedy  to  devour
anything which is rawish and fishy. The phi krasü will  not  come  out
of the body until the victim wastes away and dies. This characteristic







                                                  THE PHI                                                 159


of   the   phi   krasü   gives   a  few  similes  to  the  Thai  language.  A
person who is voracious  is  said  to  be  "voracious  as  a  phi  krasü"
(ตะกละเหมือนผีกระสือ), or   "to  eat  like  a  phi  krasü   (กินเหมือนผีกระสือ).
If  a person  becomes  thinner and thinner through illness of a certain
disease of the stomach or intestines, he is said to be lean like  a  per-
son sucked by a phi krasü (ผอมเหมือนผีกระสือ). A cluster of abnormally
thin bananas is said to have been sucked by a krasü  (กล้วยกระสือ-ดูด).
A  root  stock  of   a   certain  kind  of  plant   called   in  Thai "plai" (ไพล
zingiber casumnar ) which has a yellow colour  is  called  wan  krasü
(ว่านกระสือ) or  krasü  plant. It  owes  its  name  to  the  fact  that  some
rootstalks of this plant emit a glow of  phosphorescent  light  at  night


Failing   to  get  its  rawish  and  fishy  things  inside  a  human
body,  the  phi  krasü  will  confine  itself  to  devouring  human  excre-
ments. It   will   wipe   its   mouth   with  any  cloth  which  it  finds  left
hanging. Hence people  are  careful,  when  drying  any  cloth  in  the
sun,  not   to   leave   it   overnight. A  practical  thing  to  do. If   in   the
morning  any  cloth  left  hanging  is  found  to  have  ocher  coloured
stains, it is a  sign  that  the  phi  krasü  has  polluted  the  cloth. The
appearance of such stains on the cloth usually occurred during  the
rainy season. It  is  due  no  doubt  to  mildew. If  you  want  to  know
who is a phi krasü, boil the  cloth.  By  boiling  it,  the  phi  krasü  will
feel a smart burning pain  around  its  mouth. The  longer  the  cloth
is  boiled,  the more  pain  it  will suffer. It forces the phi to appear in
its human  form  before  the  person  boiling  the  cloth  and   to offer
to buy the cloth. Then the person can be identified as phi krasthe phi krasü .
When  any  person  is known to be a phi krasü , the people, instead
of burning the person like a European  witch, will  avoid  all  contact
for fear the phi  krasü  will  harm  them  during  sleep. If  an  old  wo-
man who is supposed to be a phi krasü bargains for anything which
she wants to buy in a shop, and the shop  keeper  knows  that  she
is  a  phi  krasü , he  will  accept  her  price  readily. He fears  that  a
refusal   will   make   the  old  woman  angry  and  she  will  harbour





160                                  Phya Anuman Rajathon


There is s popular belief  that  an  old  woman  who  is  a   phi
krasü when dying  of  old  age, will  not  be  able  to  die  easily.  She
will suffer a long drawn-out illness unless she succeeds in spitting
her saliva into the mouth of anyone who is to be  her  direct  descen-
dent. She will then die in peace and her  descendent  will  succeed
her as a phi krasü . If the  woman  has  no  descendent, or  no  one
consents to receive the legacy, the  way  out  is  to transfer some of
her saliva to a cat, and the woman will then  die  in  peace. Nothing
is said as to whether the cat becomes a phi krasü or not.


The phi krasü is perhaps not an indigenous phi  of   the  Thai.
The  word  krasü  appears  to  me  probably  not of Thai origin, for it
makes no sense. The Mon people here also believe in phi krasü, and
I in my younger days knew one old woman  of  Mon  extraction  who
was supposed to be a phi krasü. She was much  feared  by  the neigh-
bours. Naturally I as a  young   boy   feared  she  would  get  into  my
body  and   eat   up  my  entrails;  every  time  I  saw  her  from  afar, I
always got out of her way  as  fast  as my legs could carry  me.  After
a lapse of more than half a century I can still recall the old  woman's
face. I   have   asked  a  Burmese  friend  about  the  phi  krasü,  and
after describing  its  characteristics  to  him, he  replied  that  the  phi
krasü is identical with the Burmese nat or  phi  called "soang". What
it means he does not know. Perhaps phi krasü and soang are primi-
tive spirits whose names have now lost  their  meaning. In  Vietnam
such a being is called "ma-lai" and it  may  be  compared  also  with
witches believed by in the Indonesians and the Malays.

Phi Krahang. (ผีกระหัง) This is said to  be  a  male  phi  krasü.
Judged  by  its  characteristics  which  are  scanty, it  must  be  of  a
different species altogether. Unlike the phi krasü, little is  known  of
this phi except its name. It is a popular belief that  a  man  who  has
become an adept in the art of magic will grow wings and be able to
fly. He will then turn into a phi krahang  and  use  two  long  pestles
(สากตำข้าว), used for pounding rice, as his legs and a small pestle
(สากกระเบือ), used  for  pulverizing  rice, as  his  tail, I  wonder  what




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happened to his original legs. Nothing has been said about its ways
and  habits  save  that  it  likes  to devour dirty things like a phi  krasü.
It is said that a person who becomes a phi krahang  will not  expose
or let any one touch his posterior  part. He fears  that  his real nature
will   be   detected  for  he  has  a  stump  of  a  tail. Whether  the  phi
krahang  harms people  is  a matter of conjecture. I think it does, as
all phi are, by nature, hostile to  man,  but  in  what  manner  it  does
harm  to  people  is  not  definitely  known. Both  phi  krasü  and  phi
krahang are not  generally  known  outside  central  Thailand. Allied
to  them  are  the  "phi  phoang" (ผีโพง)  of  the  people  of  the  North
and North-east Thailand.

Phi Phoang (ผีโพง). The phi phoang is in some respects similar
to   the  phi  krasü. It likes rawish and fishy food, and it also emits  glim-
mering  same  lights  while  prowling  in  the  night. The  word  phoang
is,  I   think   the  same  as  Phloang   in   Thai  which  means  bright  or
glow. Hence  a  phi  phoang  is  by   its  very  name  a  kind  of  glowing
phi.  In   other   respects   the   phi   phoang   is   unlike   the  phi  krasü.
Nothing   is   hinted   of  its  sex, nor does  it  go  out  at  night  with only
its  head  and  entrails. The  above  description  of  the  phi  phoang  is
what has been gathered from  the  people  in  Chiengmai, but  the  phi
phoang   of   the   Northeast,   though   agreeing  in  certain  particulars
with   the   phi   krasü,  has  a   variant   peculiarity.  It   is   said   that   a
person   who   has   with  him  a  "wan"  plant  of  a  powerful  kind  will
become   a  phi  phoang. Wan  is  an  undefined  class  of  herbs  and
plants, usually with rootstalks. They are used as medicine or as  food
and some of them are poisonous. According to popular belief, certain
kinds  of   "wan"   have   magical   properties.  If  such  "wan"  is  taken
by   or   kept  with   a  person, he  will  be  invulnerable  or  invisible  or
whatever peculiar quality it may confer. When a  person  has  become
a phi phoang through the effect  of  the  potent  "wan"  he  becomes  a
contagious being. If he spits  on  anyone, that  person  will  become a
phi phoang too. If  he  dislikes  someone  he  will  throw a  "mai  khan''
(ไม้คาน), a stick for  carrying  loads  on  the  shoulder,  belonging  to  a
widow over the roof of the person's  house,  and  that  person  will  be
ruined   in  various  ways.  The  Thai   as   well   as  the  Chinese  and






162                                 Phya Anuman Rajathon


other races in the Indo-Chinese Peninsula carry their loads on their
shoulders with "mai khan" unlike the Indian and other races  in  the

Why a widow's "mai  khan" is used, it  is  hard  to  understand.
When a child is always ill, if an anklet-like  bracelet  (กำไลตีน)  made
from silver belonging to a widow (เงินแม่ม่าย) is presented and  worn
by the child, he will become well. This is  also  hard  to  understand.
A cove r of  a  pot  for  boiling  rice  is  called "fa  lami" (ฝาละมี).  If  the
pot  is  broken, its  cover  is called a "widow's fa lami", for it has lost
its pot. In grinding or mixing household medicine, only such a cover
is used in  the operation. Here  its  reason  can  be  surmised. If  an
ordinary  " fa  lami " is  utilized,  it  cannot  be  further  used  to  cover
the pot for the odor of medicine would leave its  trace  on  the  cover
and spoil the rice.

The phi phoang likes to go  on  the  prowl  during   nights  when
there has  been  a  continuous  drizzling  rain. It  likes   to  devour  dirty
things similar  to  the  phi  krasü.  It  emits  a  glimmer  of  light  where-
ver  it  goes, but  others  say that it shoots long rays of  light  out  of  its
nostrils.  It   usually   lurks   in   human  form  underneath  the  floor  of
the house where there is an opening, during a woman's confinement
for  childbirth.  Here  its  character  is  the  same  as  the  phi  krasü.  If
someone sees and recognizes it to be in the shape of such and such
a person, he casts a spear  at  it. If  the  spear  sticks  fast  to  its  back
it   will   flee   away.  In  the  morning  when  he  goes  to  this  person's
house, he will  be  surprised  to  find  the  person  unharmed;  but  will
see   the   spear   stuck   fast  to  a  rootstalk  of  a  certain  "wan"  plant
which   grows   nearby. The  reason  is  now  clear. The  rootststalk  of
that "wan" plant by i ts  powerful  inherent  properties  becomes  a  phi
phoang,   taking   the   human   shape  of  its  owner. The  phi  phoang,
though   in   some   respects  similar  to  the  phi  krasü,  never  harms
people.  This  is  an  apparent  contradiction  of  what  has  been  said
above. Bu t it  is  usually  thus  when  one  deals  with  the  mysterious
and the unseen. Each person will have his  own  beliefs  and  a  story
to tell which always varies in its details.




                                                          THE PHI                                          163


In old Thai Laws (กฎหมายลักษณะเบ็ดเสร็จ) reference wasmade
to   four   kinds   of   phi,  namely:  "chamop"  (ชมบ), "chakla" (จะกละ)
"krasü" and "krahang". Nothing is said  of  the  nature  of  these  phi
for they were well-known in  those  days.  The  law  only  referred  to
procedures in dealing with these phi. It said that if  in  any  province
a person was found to be any of these  phi, he  must  not  be  killed
but reported and sent to the capital. A  person was guilty  of  perjury
who claimed that anyone was one  of  the  above  four  phi  or   who
insulted an individual by accusing him of being a phi  falsely.  If  his
claim was found to be untrue he was punished. If   anyone  was  ill
as a result of a krasü "eating him" or was obsessed by a phi krasü,
a phi doctor was called  to  find  out  the  person  who  was  the  phi
krasü  He  did  this  by  boiling  the  cloth in a steamer. Anyone who
tried to take it out of the steamer  or  put  out  the  fire  was  guilty  of
being a phi krasü. Now of the  four  kinds  of  phi  as  mentioned  in
the Old Laws,the phi krasü and the phi krahang have already been
described. The other two, chamop and phi chakla are  unknown  to
the   present  generation.  Any  knowledge  of  them  must  have  dis-
appeared long ago. There is a Cambodian phi called "thamop"and
a phi in Chiengmai region called "phi ka'' (ผีกะ) which  can  perhaps

supply clues to these two obsolete Thai phi,


Phi khamot (ผีโขมด). This phi is probably called "thamop" in
Cambodian. The  phi  khamot   is  a  will-o-the-wisp   which   is   a
phi appearing at night in marshy  places. It  does  no  direct  harm
to people  but  lures  them  by  its  luminous  lights  from  place  to
place until they lose their  way.  The  Cambodian  word  for  phi  is
khamot.  The Thai   have  taken  this  word  to  mean  in  particular
the will-o-the-wisp phi, while the Cambodians name any phi  that
emits a light "thamop".Compare the word "thamop" with "chamop"
in old Thai Laws: plainly they are phonetically the  same.  But  the
Thai phi chamop must  be  of  a  different  nature  from  the  will-o-
the-wisp phi which is harmless; for phi chamop as inferred  from
the old Thai Laws was a malignant spirit.





164                                       Phya Anuman Rajathon


Phi ka (ผีกะ). The Chiengmai people say that the phi ka is a phi
in human form. A person who is a phi ka has a queer  habit  different
from that of ordinary people and  his  eyes  are  always  restless  with
furtive  glances. This  phi  is  voracious  like  the  phi  krasü, hence its
name   phi   ka.  I  am  told  that  the  word  "ka''  and  "chakla"  (จะกละ)
which means voracious or greedy are one and the  same  word.  The
former   is  a   shortened  form  of  the  latter. A  phi   ka   will  get   into
any  person,  no  doubt  to  eat  the  entrails  like  the  phi   krasü.  The
obsessed person will suffer acute pains. In such a case  a  sorcerer
or medicine man called in Thai, "maw phi"  (หมอผี)  or  p hi  doctor  is
called   in   for  help.  In  the  Northeast  a "maw phi"  is  called  "maw
devada" or devada doctor, no doubt to  avoid  ambiguity  of  meaning
in  the  word  "phi"  which  means  either  a  god  or  an  evil  spirit.  A
maw   phi   is   also   a  man  who  keeps  phi  for  his  evil  purposes.

The   doctor   will   drive   out   the   phi   ka   by  beating  hard  on   the
patient with  his  magic  rod, or  he  may  use  a  magic   knife  called
"mit   maw "  (มีดหมอ)  or   doctor's   knife. Or   he  may  use  a  magic
elephant's tooth, pricking in  various  places  on  the   person's  body. 
Every time  he  beats  on  the  patient  with  his  magic  rod  or  pricks
with his knife or other instrument, the  person  will  cry  in  the  name
of  the  phi  ka  for  quarter. He  will  say, for  instance,  "Ouch!   Ouch! 
I  fear   you   and  will  go  out  now. Don't  whip  me  further."  And   in
answer to the doctor's question, the phi  ka  will  reply  that  he  is   a
person named so and so and lives in such and such a village. If the
phi ka leaves the body, the obsessed person will regain his normal
state and suffer no  physical  pains  from  the  whipping  or   pricking
by the doctor. Now the  person  who  is  the  guilty  phi  ka,  if   traced
be made to his house, will be found to  suffer  from  such   whipping
or pricking as was administered by the doctor to the obsessed person. 
As to what punishment is due  to  the  man  who  is  found  to  be  a
phi ka, my informant knows  nothing  as  this  story  comes  from  a
tradition which does not explain the punishment.  But  the  "phi  pop"
of the Northeast can  supply  a  clue; for  the  phi  pop  and   the  phi
ka are clearly the same kind of phi with different names only.







                                                      THE PHI                                             165


Phi pop (ผีปอบ). In character and habit the phi pop is similar
to the phi ka. When a person is obsessed by a phi pop, he is dealt with
in the same manner. If a person in a village  is  known to be  a  phi
pop, the  villagers  will  go  in  a  body  to  drive  him  away  from his
house and village. He is not driven  alone  but  also  his  family too.
The  person  who  is  supposed  to be a phi pop and his family will
suffer hardship for he can no longer live among the people. Some-
times many exiled families who are supposed to  be  phi  pop  will
form  a   village  and   live   exclusively   by   themselves.  If   any   of
them happens to emigrate to a distant village and if he is found  to
be a phi pop and obsesses anyone he will be driven out.There are
three   kinds  of  people  much  feared  by phi pop, namely a " maw
devada",a person who can use powerful incantations with effective
results and a monk versed in such lore. If on e of  these  is not  pre-
sent, the phi pop will be obstinate about coming out of  the person
whom it obsesses. How do the villagers know that anyone is a phi
pop? The obsessed person when ill will say something  like   this:
"I get inside this man as a revenge for a wrong  he  has  done  me.
My name is so and so, my wife and child or children are so and so,
and I live in such  and  such  a  village" When  it  is  found  out  that
he   is   a   phi  pop, the  villagers  will  go  to  the  headman  of  the
village asking him  to  drive  away  the  person  who  is  supposed
to   be  a  phi  pop.  After  he  is  gone monks  are  invited  to  chant
certain chapters from the Buddhist scriptures in the middle of  the
village  as  a   precaution   to  prevent  his  coming  back.  Persons
who are phi  pop  will  not  harm  their  own  kind  nor  will  they  do
harm to dignitaries or people from towns for fear that  their  power
as a phi pop will become impotent. These  practices  in  the  past
often led to difficulty in administration because th e people  would
not permit any tampering with their age-old beliefs.


The phi pop, though peculiar to the Northeast  area  is  unlike
the phi  ka, for  the  phi  pop  is  also  generally  known  in  Bangkok,
especially by the older generation. According to popular belief there
are three kinds of phi that  obsess  people, that  is, phi  pop, phi  tai






166                                     Phya Anuman Rajathon


hong (ผีตายโหง) and phi tai thang klom (ผีตายทั้งกลม).A person who
dies a violent death will become a phi tai hong, and a woman  who
dies with her child  during  childbirth  will  become  a phi  tai  thang
klom. These three phi are much feared by the people. Customarily
the corpse  of  any  person  who  dies  either a  violent  death  or  in
childbirth  is  not  cremated  like  an  ordinary  corpse  but has to be
buried  only. An  uncremated  corpse  is  called  a "phi dip" (ผีดิบ) or
raw phi. A person practicing magic as a phi doctor  will  keep  such
phi for his evil errand. The phi may obsess anyone by  its  own  ma-
lice   or  be  sent  by  the  phi  doctor. A  man  wishing  to  injure  his
enemy may engage a phi doctor for a certain fee to send one of his
phi to obsess the enemy. Women are easily attacked by  phi  while
it is rare  for  a  man  to  be.  The  victim  will  start  crying  bitterly  for
no apparent cause and may continue crying throughout the night or
day. Symptoms of raving  madness  follow. With g laring  eyes  and
restlessness the obsessed person will abuse everybody, and sometimes
say that she is a phi taking revenge on some  wrong   done  or  has
been sent by a phi doctor named so-and-so.If anyone goes near or
coaxes her she will kick and claw him  violently  and  will  not  allow
anyone to touch her. She develops more  than  human  strength. In
fact, every gesture and sign  she  makes  is  abnormal,  leaving  no
doubt in the people's mind that she is obsessed by a phi.

In such a  case a phi doctor  is  called  for. When  he  appears
before her,she becomes calm and sometimes shows signs of awe.
The  phi  doctor will ask  her  what  phi she is and why the phi  came
there. If  the phi  is  sent  by  someone, the  name  of  the  sender  is
asked.  If   when  asked   the  phi  does  not answer,a magic  rod  or
other magical instrument is administered severely until the obsessed
woman   yields  and   gives  the   required  answers. Then  the   final
question  of  the  phi  doctor will be, "Will you come out?"   The  phi's
answer will always be in the  negative  and  it  will  try  to  hide   itself
within  the  body.  The  phi  doctor  by  his  supposed magical  know-
ledge will know in what part of the obsessed woman's body the  phi
is   hiding.  He  will   apply  either  his  magical  rod  or   knife  to  that






                                                    THE PHI                                                   167


part   of   the  body.  Every   time  the  rod  or  knife  touches  that   part
the  phi  will  shift  its  hiding  place. The   magic   instrument  follows
it   unerringly.  The   phi  flees  further  down  until  it  reaches  one  of
the  "pratoo   lom"  (ประตูลม)  of   either  foot.  A   "pratoo  lom"   means
literally a "wind-door" and is the space between the base of adjacent
fingers or toes which is believed to be where the vital  wind  escapes.
The phi while dodging the magical rod or knife reaches this part and
tries to escape out  of  the  body  temporarily. To  prevent  its  coming
back the phi doctor will gather  the  toe  and  fingers  and  by  twisting
them catch hold of the escaping phi, imaginary of course, and  put  it
in  a  new  unused  earthen pot provided  for  the  purpose. He  seals
the  mouth  of  the  pot  with  a piece of cloth with mystical  characters
or  drawings. He  may  bury  the  pot  or  submerge  it  like  the  genie
in the Arabiau  Nights. If  on  the  contrary  he  keeps  the  phi  as  his
own or  as  a  counter-agent, he  may  send  it  to  obsess  its  former
owner in retaliation.


Phi   tai   thang   Klam. This   phi  has  its  peculiarity  in  connec-
tion   with   a  potion  or  charm  to  excite  love.  When  a  woman  after
dying  from  childbirth  is  buried  and   no   preventive   measures  are
taken, those  who  deal  in  magic  will go to a cemetery in the dead of
night,  preferably   on  the  third  day  after  the  woman's  death, to  dig
up the woman's corpse. Before doing so, a sacred  thread  is  wound
about the place and incantations made. This is to prevent the spirit of
the  dead   woman  from  escaping. When  this  eerie  business  is  in
progress   with   lighted  candles  and  incantations, there will  appear
suddenly   from   the   corpse, a   weird   light   shooting   up  and  then
down.  This   is   the   spirit   of   the   woman   trying  to  escape, but  it
cannot get away owing to  the  mystical  barrier  of  the sacred  thread.
The  light  is  caught  by  a  phi  doctor  and confined in an earthen pot
provided. He  seals  it  with  a  piece  of   cloth   with   mystical  charac-
ters.  The  corpse  is  then  made  to  sit  up  and  a  lighted  candle  is
applied to its chin. A small vessel is held  underneath  to  receive  the
oil  from  the  chin  of  the  corpse   trickling  down  by  the  heat  of  the
applied candle. It  is  a  matter  of  popular  belief  carried  by  hearsay







168                                 Phya Anuman Rajathon


that the muscles of the arms of  the corpse  will  contract  through
the candle's heat and try to embrace the operators. This is a sure
sign that the desired result has been produced. This ghoulish oil
is stored in the same earthen pot in which the imaginary  spirit  is
kept. If a small portion of  this  oil  is  secretly  smeared  on  a  girl,
the potent oil will have a wonderful effect. It  will  excite  madly  her
love for the man who has smeared it on her. In fact  this  ghoulish
oil is a well-known  love  philtre. Its  efficacy  is  never  doubted  by
credulous folk.


Phi  prai  (ผีพราย). The  spirit  of a  woman  who  dies  during
childbirth is called a phi prai. Her child  if  also  dead  becomes  a
phi prai also. She  is  a  terrible  phi  much  feared  by  the  folk  for
she harms everybody. Precaution is taken through magic to prevent
her coming to harm people. If a newborn babe dies, its  corpse  is
placed in an  earthen  pot,  whose  mouth  is  sealed   by  mystical
characters to prevent its setting out and becoming a phi  prai. The
pot is then buried or  submerged  in  the  river. This  is  the  safest
way   to  deal  with  a  fierce  phi, if  it  is  caught  to  prevent  it  from
coming back. If its mother is still  alive and no  such  precaution  is
taken,  it   will   come   back   to   take   her  away.  A   phi  doctor  or
magician likes to keep such phi, both the spirits of the mother and
her  child, in  his service. How the phi doctor gets  hold  of  the  phi
prai    is    fully   described   in  one  of  the  famous  works  of  Thai
literature   known   as  the "Khun  Chang  Khun  Phaen", a  popular
romance of the old days. A phi prai may be used to guard a  house
from molestations by other phi or men who come  into   the  house
with evil designs. The phi prai  may assume the form of  a  woman
being. If  the  intruder  is  a  young  man  and  good looking, the phi
prai sometimes falls in love with him, by turning itself into a  young
girl  and  flirting. Woe  to  the  young  man  if  he  succumbs  to   the
embrace of the phi. The above description is taken  from  the  said
romance which gives a romantic idea of the good old days. The oil
extracted   from  the  chin  of  a  woman  who  dies  of  childbirth  as






                                                  THE PHI                                             169


already     mentioned,  is   called,  "prai  oil"  (nam   man  prai).   A
banana tree that dies during the budding period is called "tai prai"
(ตายพราย), that is one that "died as a prai".


The various kinds of phi already described  are all  phi   either
in human form or that originate from the spirit of dead persons  with
the exception of the phi  khamot  or  will-o-the-wisp  phi. They   arise
from the fantasy and  imagination  of  the  people in the past. These
beliefs have survived in many instances in customs, language, and
literature  and, no  doubt,  the  belief  still  lingers  among  the  more
conservative class of people.

Phi   Pret  (ผีเปรต). There  is  still  another  kind  of  phi of  the
above category which  is  very  well  known  to  all. Its  name  is  phi
pret. The word is of  Sanskrit  origin  from  "preta"  which  means  a
departed  spirit or  a  hungry  ghost. According  to  the  belief  of the
Hindu, a person after death becomes a hungry ghost.If no oblation
in  the  form  of  a  ball   of   rice  and  water  is  offered  daily  for  its
nourishment during the first ten days after the  person's  death, the
spirit of the dead man will suffer a  great  hunger  and  becomes  a
wandering  and   restless   phi. The   preta   has   been  elaborated
in Buddhism into  twelve  classes  of  its  kind;  but  in  the  popular
belief   of   the   Thai   there   is   only   one   kind   of   preta   or  pret
The  Thai  pret  is  a  very   tall   and  very  lean  phi  in  human  form.
"As tall as a pret," "as lean as a pret ", and " a  neck  as  long  as  a
pret"  are  common   similes  in  Thai  used  in  describing  tall, thin
individuals.  With   dishevelled   hair,  long   neck,  sunken   cheeks,
deepset eyes, and a very small mouth, the phi  pret  is  ugly  in  the
extreme. It feeds on pus and blood and even that does not  satisfy
its  hunger  for  its  mouth  is  no bigger than the eye of a needle. It
emits  a  shrill  cry  like  the  long  drawn-out  sound given by an air
raid siren, and its arrival is  heralded  by  such  a  noise. It  likes  to
put   out   its   very   long   tongue   and   protrude  its  eyes.  This  is






170                                    Phya Anuman Rajathon


characteristic of most kinds of  phi  who  want  to  frighten  any  man
in their human form. The phi pret usually inhabits  a  cemetery  or  a
desolate place, and occasionally appears at night to frighten people.

A person who during his or her life-time has done a great sin
will become a phi pret when  he dies.  Many  stories  relating  to phi
pret are current among the people and reinforced by an episode  in
the above-mentioned romance "Khun Chang Khun Phaen" whichis
a very well-known story. The heroine Wan Thong died  and became
a  phi  pret.  She  transformed  herself  into a beautiful girl to  inform
her  son,  who  commanded  an  army  on  a  war  expedition, of  his
impending danger.

The  phi  pret is always in a hungry  state.  It  will  be  relieved
of  its  hunger  only  if  someone  will  make merit by offering food to
the  monks  and  ritually  transfer  the  merit   to   the  benefit   of  the
pret. When  a  man  asks  for  something  as  a  pittance, such as a
starving  man  begging  for food, it is said he is "asking for a  share
of  merit  lik e the  phi pret". If  people  scramble  for  something  we
say they are "grabbing like a  phi  pret". When  accosting  someone
in a familiar way but vulgarly, or addressing a man as a joke  in  an
insulting manner, he is addressed as "phi pret" but  with  the  word
"ai" (อ้าย) as a  prefix.  "Ai"  in  the  original  Thai  means  the  eldest
son, but its meaning has degenerated in  Thai  to  use  as  a  prefix
to  masculine  names  when  addressing  intimately  an  inferior  or
addressina a person contemptuously.

In the  South down the  Malay  Peninsula  there  is  an  annual
feast for phi pret  peculiar  to  that  area. The  feast  is  called  "ching
pret  " (ชิงเปรต).  It    perhaps   means   literally   "contesting  of   pret".
This feast occurs in late September when people in a body present
food,  fruit,  and  sweetmeats  to  monks  and  leave  behind  certain
quantities of these edibles somewhere for the benefit of poor people
who   will  scramble  for  them  like  phi  pret.  This  has an  indirect
relation   to   the  Autumnal  Feast  and  the  Feast  of  the  Dead  as
observed in India and China.





                                                     THE PHI                                                171


We now come to a different class of phi which are not in
human form and whose forms are difficult to determine. One of
the best known of this group is the phi ha.

Phi ha (ผีห่า). This is the phi of epidemic disease, particularly
cholera. They come periodically in a host from nowhere. When
widespread death occurs to people without any apparent cause, they
take the phi ha to be the author. Precaution is taken in many
ways: by making merit to appease them or by floating them away
ritually. In my young days people in the district where I lived used
to hang an empty sugar pot made of baked clay in front of the house
or at the head of the stairway. A rough sketch was drawn on the
outside of the pot at its base with lime water showing two small
circles placed near each other like eyes, a vertical line under

these as the nose and below it a horizontal line as outh. At
that time I did not know what it meant but had a vague idea that
it had to do with keeping the phi ha from getting into a house to
kill its inmates. Later on, after a lapse of more than four decades,
I was told that the drawing on the sugar pot was called "Tra Khun
Phon" (ตราขุนพล) or the seal of Khun Phon. Khun Phon means
a generalissimo. He was, as I gathered afterwards, a generalissimo
of the host of evil spirits. To hang such a seal at the entrance of
the house meant that it was under his protection. The phi ha
when seeing the seal would be frightened and never dare to molest
the people in the house. Old people used to tell children that the
phi ha came by boats, and in the dead of night their shouts of
"Yeow, Yeow" urging the paddlers to row in unison might be
heard faintly from afar. The best thing for the children to do was
to get into bed at once. In imagination, I as one of the children,
seemed to hear that foreboding sound. Acquaintance with epidemic
disease must have been a well-known thing in the past among the
Thai tribes, for the word "ha" is a common word among them but
with a variation in its pitch. Like the word "pret" mentioned already,
"ha" is a word used vulgarly in every - day speech especially
by young men. They address one another very intimately as




172                                   Phya Anuman Rajathon


"ai ha" or "ai ha kin" (อ้ายห่ากิน), and include it in their speech
now and then as a familiar and hearty expression. "May the ha
eat" (ให้ห่ากิน) you or me, is a word used thoughtlessly in vulgar
everyday speech like the English word "damn", without the
knowledge that the word "ha'' had a dangerous meaning in its
primitive days.

Phi pa (ผีป่า). Phi pa means phi of the forest or jungle. There
are many kinds of them and they confine themselves to the forest
and rarely come to a village or town. If they come it means there
is something wrong in the village or town. They come, usually in
the form of epidemic disease. Butterflies which come to a village or
town in unusual swarms are much dreaded by the people. They
believe that butterflies are harbingers of epidemic disease; for
swarms of butterflies come from the jungle which is the seat of
such disease, especially malaria, called in its popular form "khai pa"
(ไข้ป่า) or jungle fever. In Thai a butterfly is called phi sua (ผีเสื้อ)
which means a phi with a lineage or a phi with a germ. The word
forms many names of evil spirits. A giantess or ogress is called
''phi süa yak" or a "yaksha phi sua"; if it has its habitat in a lake
or pond, it is called a "phi sua nam" or a water phi sua. A giant
moth is also called a phi sua yak.

The people in towns have had, of course, less experience with
phi pa. Out of the many kinds of phi pa, two are perhaps well
known through literature. They are the "phi kong koi" (ผีกองกอย)
and "phi poang khang" (ผีโป่งค่าง). I knew these two phi only in
name until I happened to meet a friend of mine who had knowledge
of forest lore. He sent me an account of his experiences with
these two kinds of jungle phi, which descriptions, with his consent,
appeared in the journal of the Fine Arts Department. The following
is a brief summary.

Phi kong koi It is said that the phi kong koi has only one leg
and hops along on one foot wherever it goes. It lives in a forest
and goes out only at night. People know only by its sounds
when it comes, but no one has ever seen its real being. Its cry






                                                  THE PHI                                               173


sounds something like "kong koi,! kong koi!" from which comes   its
name. When it approaches a sound of "chu, chu" (จุ๊ๆ) is heard from
afar and then it comes nearer and nearer. People spending a night
in   the   jungle   recognize  the  sound, and  know  that  if  frightened
by loud shouting it will go away.  When departing  it  gives  a  sound
like the  shaking  of  leaves  on  a  tree  blown  by  a  gust  of  strong
wind. The people believe that this phi comes  out  at  night   to  suck
blood from the  toe  of  a  wayfarer  during  his  sleep  in   the  jungle.
After the sucking the person will become  weak   and  die.  Perhaps
the phi kong koi is a sort of vampire bat.


Phi   poang  khang.  Poang  is  an  area  where  the  earth  is
salty;   in  other  words  a  salt-lick  found  in  a  forest.  Khang  is  a
langur or longtailed monkey. Phi poang  khang  is  therefore  a  phi
in the shape of the animal dwelling near a salt-lick. It  is  said  that
this phi, unlike the khang  monkey,  has  a  short tail.  Its  upper  lip
is bulging, revealing its upper teeth. At night  it  comes  down  from
a big tree in which it lives  near  a  salt-lick  to  suck  blood  from  a
sleeping person in the same manner as  the phi  kong  koi. When
camping in a forest near a salt-lick, one has to be on guard against
this phi.

No doubt the phi poang khang is a kind of monkey, nocturnal
in habit like the lemur which originally meant  a  ghost. There  is
a belief concerning the khang monkey that when it comes down
the tree at night, it gropes about and feels the ground in order to
be sure that it is still there, rather than sliding down quickly. It  is
said that tigers will wait nearby at night to pounce  on the khang
monkeys while coining down the  trees. Whether  this  is  a  fact,
no one has verified.

The phi, as already mentioned, are numerous. Each area of the
country has varieties of them. Some have queer names which are
often untranslatable. Of these phi, there is one in the South which
to me is particularly interesting. It is the "phi lang kluang".







174                                      Phya Anuman Rajathon


Phi   lang   kluang  (ผีหลังกลวง) . Translated, "phi   lang   kluang"
means a hollow-backed phi  in  human form. One  can  see  through
the opening all the entrails inside, and they  are  full of worms. When
people sit around a fire in  the  open air to warm themselves at night
or go out fishing  at   night, a  stranger  from  nowhere  will  come  up
and   join  the  party. It  is  the  phi  lang  kluang.  He  harms  no   one;
and if  he  wants to make a  joke, he  will  ask  a  boy  in  the  party  to
scratch his back. Then  the  stranger is revealed to  be  the  phi  lang
kluang   for   there  is   a   hollow  in  his  back  full  of  millepeds. The
phi   lang   kluang  live  in a community  by  themselves  in   a   forest.
Perhaps they are not phi but aborigines whose characteristic hollow
back  has been  exaggerated. A   Chinese   book,  "Shan  Hai  Ching"
contains  a  report  of  many  strange  peoples  residing  beyond  the
borders of the Middle  Kingdom. "Among  these, few  were  stranger
than  those  who  were said to be provided with a hole through  their
chests, so  that  all that was required to transport a  person   of  rank
from one place to another was a long bamboo  which  was  passed
through the hole and on which he was carried  along  by  bearers  in
he  manner  of   a  sedan-chair."* Is  there  any connection  between
these strange people and the phi lang kluang?

The phi ruan (ผีเรือน). The phi ruan is a  spirit  of  the  house.
In   other  words, it  is  synonymous  with  the  ancestral  spirit  which
in Central Thailand is called "phi pu  ya  ta  yai" (ผีปู่ย่าตายาย). This  is
a particularized word composed of "pu ya", meaning paternal  grand-
father   and   grandmother   respectively,  and   "ta yai"  meaning   the
maternal   grandparents. It   is   very   interesting  to  note  that  in  the
North   this  "phi  pu  ya  ta  yai" is  called "phi  pu  ya",  indicating  that
only the paternal grandparents are  recognized  as  ancestral  spirits.
In   the  Northeast  the  ancestral  spirit  is  called  "phi pu ta". Taking
the  word  as  it  is  "pu ta"  means  grandfathers  only, both  paternal
and maternal, leaving out the  grandmothers, unless "pu ta"  can  be
construed   as   meaning    paternal  grandfather  only.  In  the  South

*E.D. Edwards, The Dragon-Book, Hodge and Co. Ltd., London, 1946.
PP. 141.






                                                     THE PHI                                               175


the ancestral spirit is called  "phi ta yai"  which  means  the  phi  of
maternal   grandparents  only.  Why  such  differences? Have  they
something to do  with  patriarchy  and  matriachy?  I  think  they  do.
But there  is  a  complication  for   the  word  "ta yai"  which  means
maternal grandfather and  grandmother  in  the  Thai  language  is
coincidentally   identical  in   sound   with  the  word  "ta yai"  in  the
Cambodian  which  means  grandfather  and   grandmother,  both
paternal   and   maternal.  However,  the  question  of  kinship  will
have to remain unsolved until more data is obtained.


The phi ruan is supposed to have its residence in the house.
It is a paradox that phi and man should live together. When  a  person
is   dead  he  lives  physically  no  more  with  the  living, but  love, fear
and  other  sentiments   will  make  him  live  still  in  the  house  as  a
reality though invisibly.  He  is  now  a  phi  ruan  and  is  supposed  to
look   after   the  welfare  of  the  family  as  hitherto.  Perhaps  a  place
in   the   house   is   assigned   to   him   by   the   family,  where  he  is
worshipped   daily   with   flowers   and  perhaps  with  food  when the
sentiment is still strong. This  place  becomes  sacred  and  tabooed;
and no person unless he is  a  member  of  the  family  is  allowed  to
enter the place  without  consent  and  permission. The  family  when
doing   any   important   things  on  special  occasions, do  not  fail  to
worship   the  phi  ruan  to  ask  his  permission  and  blessing  for  a
successful outcome, or to inform him of  any  significant  problem  of
the  family. On  New  Year's   Day  and   perhaps   on   Mid   Year  Day
also, the phi ruan will not  fail  to  receive  his  due  share  of  a  feast.
In short, he is treated in the same manner as he was when alive  as
the head of the family.

The  above  description  is  only  an  inference  from  certain
practices which  have  survived  in  custom  and  literature  and  also
from  the  cult  of  ancestor-worship  as  observed, though  feebly,  in
certain  regions,  especially   in   the   North   and   Northeast,  In  the
North, I  am   told, there   is   a  shelf  perched  high above  the  head
in   the   sleeping   room. The  shelf  is  laid  with  a  red  cloth.  Every
morning or evening fresh flowers are laid on the  shelf  as  offerings






176                                   Phya Anuman Rajathon


by   the  household  to  the  phi  ruan   which   is   supposed   to   be
there. On New Year's Day and on special occasions the phi ruan is
feasted.  When   a   young  man  of  the  family  is  marrying  he  will
take  a  number  of  dried  flowers  lying  on the shelf with him to be
placed later on the spirit shelf of his bride's family,as a sign of now
being co-joined by kinship,  The  taking  away  of  a  certain  portion
of dried flowers  from  one  family  to  another  is  called "baeng  phi"
(แบ่งผี), that is to share out a phi. Note that  the  phi  here  is  meant
as a good spirit. Why do we not  change  the  word  phi  which  later
degenerates into the meaning of bad phi, into a  devada?  I  venture
to  think  that  the  ancestral  spirits  of kings are called devada, and
implicitly   the  word  devada  has  become  tabooed. The  ancestral
spirits of commoners cannot reverently aspire to that name.

In Bangkok a rite for the propitiation of ancestral  spirits  is
to be seen occasionally  as  part  of  a  wedding  ceremony  among
orthodox people. Such a rite is called  "wai  phi" (ไหว้ผี)  or  worship-
ping the phi. In  the  Northeast  any  contravention  of  tradition  and
custom is called  "phit  phi" (ผิดผี)  that  is,  wrong  done  to  the  phi.
"Phit phi" has served as a code of law to the people whose outlook
is still primitive, by regulating their general conduct.

On New Year's Day, apart from other observances a  "bang
sukun" (บังสุกุล),a kind of memorial service to the dead is performed
by   the   family   before   the   bones   of   the  departed  ones. I  have
elsewhere    described    the    above   ceremony   of   "bang   sukun".
This is undoubtedly a development of the feast of the  dead  fathers
on  New   Year's   Day   as   practiced   in   the  past. The  change  is
due   to   the   adoption   of    Buddhism   by   the   people.  It   is   the
practice of  some  of  the  people  to  keep  a  certain  portion  of  the
charred bones of their dead in  the  house  after  their  bodies  have
been   burnt.  The  bones   are   kept  in   a   gold  or  silver  urn  and
sometimes a jewelled one, according to the wealth of the owner.
This is placed in a low position near an altar of a Buddha image in







                                                    THE PHI                                               177


the   house.  Every  time  there  is  a  "tham  bun"  (ทำบุญ)  or  merit-
making in connection with the dead, the people do not fail  to  have
a memorial service or "bang sukun" performed on the occasion.

You will wonder perhaps as to the disposal of the remains
of the calcinated bones and ashes of the dead which have not been
taken from the funeral pyre. There is a custom  among  the  poor  of
gathering and placing these in a receptacle,usually a small earthen
pot, and burying it at the  root  of  a  "ton pho"  (ต้นโพธิ)  or  sacred  fig
tree in a  monastery, or  they  are  wrapped  in  a  bundle  with  white
cloth and placed near the pedestal of a Buddha image  or  under  a
pulpit  and  whatever  things  are  deemed  sacred  in  a  monastery.
There is an old  law,  dated  1805  A.D.,  prohibiting  the  practice  of
placing   bones   and  ashes  in  such  places  as  did  not  befit  the
decency of the monastery; but  the  people  in  outlying  districts  are
still doing  it. The  well  - to  -  do  build  a  "pra  Čhedi"  (พระเจดีย์)  or
stupa and have  the  bones  and  ashes  placed  in  it. A  pra  Čhedi
was   originally   a   funeral   mound  from  which  it  has  evolved.  If
possible, the bones are placed in a vault within a  large  pra  Čhedi
of the monastery or  inserted  in  its  niche  or  under  the  altar  and
sealed. The people are desirous of having the bones of their dead
kept in such places because  they  want  to  have  their  dear  ones,
though  dead,  near   the  Buddha  and   his  religion; in   the  same
spirit, I think, as a cross is placed at the burial  ground  in  a  Chris-
tian cemetery.

The practice of keeping a portion of the bones of the departed
in   the  house  is  a  new  thing  and  contrary  to  former  practice. In
fact, it is not more than 170 years  old, (See  my  Siamese  Customs
in   Connection   with   the   Dead)  
Again, a  Buddha  image  was,  a
hundred years or more ago, a sacred thing not to be installed within
a human habitation. The proper place  for  Buddha  images  was  in
the temple of a monastery. Later  on,  devout  people  in  towns  and
cities,  desiring   to  worship  the  Lord  Buddha as  a  daily  devotion,






178                               Phya Anuman Rajathon


found   it   inconvenient  to  go  every  day  to  the  temple  which,  unlike
that   of   the   village   was   not   located   nearby. They   therefore  built
an out-house  for  installation  of  a  Buddha  image  where  they  could
worship Him as  many  times  as  they  wished.  King  Nang   Klao,  the
predecessor   of   King   Mongkut,  who   was   a  very  devout  Buddhist,
raised the question  with  the  prelates  of  the  realm  as  to  whether  it
was   proper   for   a   devout   Buddhist  to  have  the  image  of  Buddha
installed in the house for  purposes  of  worship. The  prelates'  answer
was in the affirmative. Hence the  practice  has  developed  of  having  a
Buddha image installed within the house  itself,  although  inconsistent
with  the  old  belief   that   sacred   or   supernatural   beings,  including
the phi  of  course,  should  not  be  under  the  same  roof  with  human
beings.   Here  I   may  add  that  even  masks  representing  gods  and
giants in theatrical performances are superstitiously deemed improper
to be kept in  a  house  with  the  living,  for  they  will afflict  the  inmates
with "something  hot  to  the  heart  and mind", i.e.  troubles. Foreigners
and   some   progressive   Thai   who   have   Buddha   images  in  their
houses as decorations or curiosities are frowned upon  by  the  people
as offending their feelings.


The phi ruan or spirit of  the  house  is  gradually  dying  out'
especially  with  the  city  and  town  people. No  vestige  of   phi  ruan
is now to be found in  their  houses  except,  perhaps, a   vague  idea
that the phi  ruan  is  somewhere  in  the house. If  they  want  to  ask
their ancestral spirit to  give  help  in  their  difficulties,  they  light  one
or two joss sticks and place them somewhere in a convenient  place
where    they    worship    while   asking     for   help. To   the   younger
generation the phi ruan is  a  nonentity  except  in name. The  change
is due first to Buddhism and second to the encroachment of a newer
culture.  Nevertheless   the   old   belief   of   animism   is   still   there
disguising and  adapting  itself  to  meet  its  present  need  with  the
progress of time.



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