Some Siamese superstitions about Trees and Plants. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Phya Anuman Rajadhon   



                                SOME SIAMESE SUPERSTITIONS
                                     ABOUT TREES AND PLANTS


                                         Phya Anuman Rajadhon


            It   is   not   advisable   to   plant   certain   kinds   of    trees    and
plants   near   the   house   or   in   the   compound.  They   are  unlucky.

           1. Tau Rang เต่าร้าง (Caryota mitis-palmae ). This is a

type   of   palm  tree  which  bears   fruit-like  berries in  beautiful

 clusters  but  with  poisonous  fruit  walls. The  tree may be found

 in the compound of a European house as an ornamental tree. The

 Thai people do not grow it for the  reason  that  the  second  sylla-

 ble 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).

           2. Sala     and     Rakam    สละและระกำ   (   Zallaca      wallichiana-

palmae).  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  and  are

of   high   marketable  value.  Gardeners  grow   them   as  hedges,  for

their sharp spines will prevent trespassers.

          3. Soak    โศก   ( Saraka    indica).  Soak    in    Thai    means    an-

guish 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.






58                                Phya Anuman Rajadhon


                 4. Lanthom  ลั่นทม. This  is  the  frangipani  or  the  temple

 or pagoda flower tree. The word lanthom has a sound resembling

 the   word   rathom   which   means  agony. 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


                 5.Kradanga  กระดังงา   (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 branches

 are easily cracked and broken.

                 6.Champi and Champa จำปีและจำปา ( Michelia champaka).

 These  are  two  varieties  of  a  tree  which  bears in the former  a

 scented  creamy white  flower, and  in  the  latter   yellowish  ones

 which are in great demand  for  floral  decorations. Both  kinds  of

 trees  have  soft  wood  and  are  liable to be broken easily, hence,

 they are not grown near a house.

7.Rak รัก ( Calotropis gigantea ). This  tree  is   the  araka
of India. Its flowers 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 places. Its
trunk and branches have a milky sap and its flowers are used  for
floral  pieces  which are  to be seen usually at cremations. 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.

8. Chaba ชบา (Hibiscus rosa sinensis-Nalvaceae ). This
is a shrub plant which is raised by the  Chinese  and   bears  scar-
let - red   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 above 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 executed.








9. Nang Yaem  นางแย้ม ( 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 literature.

           10. Saraphi สารภี ( Ochrocarpus siamensis ). A tree  which

 bears sweet-scented flowers.

            11. Phikun   พิกุล  (Mimusops   elengi). A  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.

           12. Chan   จัน   ( Diospyros  packmanil-C.B.  Clarke). A  tall

 tree which bears yellow fruit. When  ripe  the  shape  of  the  fruit

 resembles the moon. Hence its name.

           The above trees No. 10, 11 and 12 are  not  usually  grown

 in the house compound, but curiously are  to  be  found  in  wats

 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.

             13. Malakaw มะละกอ (Carica papaya-cucurabitaccae).The

 papaya tree with edible  fruit, has  no  bark  and  is  liable  to  up-

 root easily, hence, it is not advisable to grow in the  house  com-

 pound or near  the  house. Unripe  fruit  of  the  papaya  is  used

 as food, but  ripe  fruit  in  the old days was not usually eaten be-

 cause of its strong butter-like smell which Thai  of older genera-

 tions 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 compounds of houses, but older people cling to super-






60                                 Phya Anuman Rajadhon


stitious beliefs, and  give  well-meaning  advice that  it  is not  good
to have such trees in the garden.

14. Phutaraksa พุทธรักษา ( Canna Sp.). In Thai, this means
" Buddha's  protection ". It  is  cultivated  in  a  house  compound  for
its  beautiful  showy  flowers. 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.

                15. Po โพ ( Ficus   religiosa). The  religious  fig  tree  under

which   the   Lord   Buddha  was  sitting   when  he  received  his  en-

lightenment.  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  man-

ner 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.

                16. Nun นุ่น (Ceibo pentendra) or kapok tree  is  not  grown

near a house.

                17. Ngiew   งิ้ว   ( Bombax  malabaricum - Malvaccae ). It is

unlucky to grow the red  silk  cotton  tree  in  the  house  compound.

These 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.

                18. Takian ตะเคียน ( Hopea odorata ) and-

                19. Yang ยาง (Dipterocarpus alatus). These are tall  forest

trees. They are of course not  fit   to  be  grown  in  a  limited  house

ground. Besides, 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
falling a tree of smaller size, the people will  first  make   an  offer-
ing  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.

The Takian tree in  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 beautiful maiden who some-
times 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  roots  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  Tang  are  usually  found  in  a wat where all sorts of
ghost stories emanate.


20. Phutsa  พุทรา  (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






62                                 Phya Anuman Rajadhon


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.

            21. Mayom   มะยม (  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 imitation of  Yama, the  Indian  God  of  Death

 who holds a staff ( Yama Dandha ) with which  he  beats  the  evil

 spirits. On seeing such a staff the evil spirits will flee.

             22. Marum  มะรุม   (  Moringa,  oleifera - Maringaceae ). The

 Indian drum stick  tree  which bears pods like drum sticks. Some

 people object to have 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

             23. Kluey Tani กล้วยตานี. A variety  of  banana  which  bears

 fruits. Though   delicious   to   taste   when  ripe, it  is  not  usually

 eaten on account of its numerous seeds. They  are  cultivated  in

 gardens   for  their  leaves  which  have   the   highest  quality  for

 wrapping purposes, or to make into leaf cups. They are in  great

 demand in the market. Kluey Tani is not grown  near  the  house

 for  it   has  an evil  repute that it has a female "phi" named Nang

 Tani who every now and then  scares people. It  is  a  belief  that

 by certain magical art the Nang Tani may be induced as  an  ally

 in love affairs. Here is one of the arts. You go to such  a  banana 








tree which is about to hear a  bud  and  flirt  with  the  Nang Tani-
imaginary of course. Repeat this  many  times  in  the  following
days until you are sure in your imagination that she consents to
love you. Then cut a small  piece  of  the  root  and  carve  it  into
a figure of a woman. While doing so recite a certain  mantra  or
magic  spell. Store  it  carefully  in  a  small  receptable.  During
the night the Nang Tani will appear to you in  a  dream  as  your
wife. If you love any girl you  can  invoke  her  to  the  successful
end of the affair. Like a human wife the  Nang Tani  will   resent
this and do you harm if you marry a girl without her  permission
or consent.












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