The Khwan and ITS Ceremonies. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Phya Anuman Rajadhon   




                        THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES


                                  Phya Anuman Rajadhon



There is a primitive belief which has survived among the
people of Thailand that in every person either old or young there
is a khwan. The khwan, as vaguely understood in a confused
way, is an unsubstantial thing supposed to reside in the physical
body of a person. When it is there the person enjoys good health
and happiness. If it leaves the body the person will be ill or expe-
rience some undesirable effects. A baby which is easily frightened,
will have a khwan with the same tendency. When the khwan is
frightened it will take flight into the wilderness and will not come
back until it has regained its normal self. As the baby grows
stronger with age the khwan will grow stronger too. It will be
firmer and more stable in temperament like the person in whose
physical body it has as its abode.

Such belief is not confined to the Thais of Thailand; the Shans
of Upper Burma, the Laos of the Lao Kingdom and other Thai
minority groups in other lands have a similar belief. In fact, this
belief may be generalized to other races in Southeast Asia as well.
It is a belief rooted in the dim past and has survived in many Thai
expressions embedded in the language, rites and ceremonies in con-
nection with the khwan.

The khwan is not confined to human beings only. Based
on certain ceremonies which are performed in connection with the
khwan and also on certain expressions in the Thai language, we
may say that some kinds of animals, trees and inanimate objects
useful to man have individual khwans. For example: an elephant,
a horse, a buffalo or bullock, a certain house post, a bullock cart, a
paddy field or paddy, and even a city, each has a khwan.

The khwan may therefore be described as something in the
nature of a principle of life, vital to the welfare of man and animals.






120                                   Phya Anuman Rajadhon


Certain inanimate things have also a khwan because such inanimate
things have their particular spirit or genius residing in them.

Traditionally, a typical Thai house is made of wood. The
part of a house deemed most important by the people is the first
post raised called a khwan post (เสาขวัญ) or premier post
(เสาเอก). There are rules relating to the selection and the ceremo-
nial raising of house-posts. In the old days people built their own
houses with the help and co-operation of their neighbours. The first
thing they did was to obtain house-posts with lucky characteristic
marks. They obtained them direct from trees which they felled in
a forest. Now, every big tree in a forest is supposed to be the
residence of a tree spirit either male or female. A tree with
certain usefulness such as for building a house or a bullock cart or
a boat, has a female spirit called nang-mai (นางไม้) or wood
nymph, while a tree with no such economic value, as the pipal and
banyan trees for instance, has a male spirit called rukha devada
(รุกขเทวดา) or tree angel. The above fact is only a generalization
based on observation. When a tree is felled, its spirit or essence is
superstitiously believed to be still in it. Hence it is not desirable
to used trees felled from different forests as house-posts, because
female spirits residing therein, coming from different localities
would naturally quarrel among themselves; with the result that there
would be no peace for the occupants of the house. A bullock cart or
a dugout boat has a spirit or essence in the same manner as the
house-post. A paddy field or rice paddy has a Rice Mother; likewise
a city has its tutelary spirit. Naturally any thing that has a spirit
has also a khwan.

By comparing the word khwan with that of the Chinese
word khwun (---— old Chinese sound "kwun" or "gwun" ) which
means a soul or a spirit, one is inclined to believe that the Thai
khwan and the Chinese khwun are one and the same word. On
this presumption we may safely say that the Thai "khwan" was a
soul in its original meaning. The Chinese word kwun is com-
posed of two characters meaning vapour and demon. As the Eng-
lish word spirit and atman or soul in Sanskrit mean etymologically





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breath (compare the word atmosphere) one is tempted to think the
Thai words ghwan (ควัน soft aspirated sound in gh ) and fwan
(ฝัน hard aspirated f) meaning smoke and dream respectively have
derived from the same source as that of the khwan?"

The modern Thai word for soul is vlnyan (วิญญาณ) a Pali
word Vinnan meaning simply consciousness in its original sense.
No doubt the Thai obtained this word when they made their home
in Thailand after they had adopted Buddhism of the Southern
School. The Laos, the Shans, the Burmese, and the Mons of Lower
Burma and the Cambodians have the same word vlnyan for soul
in their modern languages. The khwan of the Thais, the Laos
and the Shans, is the Leip-bya of the Burmese, the pralung of
the Cambodians and the pung khamau of the Mons. As Buddhism
denies a permanent individual soul which clashed with the old
animistic belief of the peoples in this part of Asia, they probably
adopted the word vinyan from Pali, the language of the Southern
School Buddhism, as a compromise with the old belief, which is
still apparent among the people in the popular side of their


1. The character --- may have a simpler explanation than the
one you offer. Like the great majority of Chinese characters, it is split
into two parts: the meaning-part and the sound part.

The meaning part is the graph --- meaning "spirit", "demon"
etc. and the sound part is the--- pronounced "yun" in Modern Chinese,
but "yun" or "ywun" in Ancient Chinese. The kh or h initial conso-
nant is simply one of the permissible "family variants" of all words
using --- as a phonetic element.

No doubt the compilers of the graph chose the phonetic ---firstly
for its sound, but secondly may be for the fortuitous suitability of its origi-
nal meaning of "cloud", No strength of argument can be relied on,
however, for the second reason for choice. For example, ----is always
associated with p'o or p'ch (maybe ผี? ) in classical texts, but here the
phonetic part is --- pch/po meaning "white", which clearly has no
meaningful contribution to make.

It boils down to this: one spirit (---) is called " hun " (i.e.---in
sound), and the other is called "p'o" (i.e. --- in sound).

This makes the "atman" part of your argument rather far fet-
ched, but does not spoil your tentative " family " grouping of ขวัญ, ควัน
and ฝัน..—Peter Bee.






122                                Phya Anuman Rajadhon


Buddhism. As the word vinyan meaning soul is to be found in
the language of these peoples, one suspects that the word vinyan
came through the old Mons for the reason that the old Mons were a
relatively civilized race in this part of Asia, chronologically before
the coming of the Thai and the Burmese. Nevertheless the khwan,
deprived of its original meaning soul, still exists in its shifted
meanings as may be seen from the following Thai words and

When a baby is born, its inherent khwan is in a feeble
state like that of the baby. As this stage it is called khwan awn
(ขวัญอ่อน) or " tender khwan". By an extention of meaning, khawn
means in current use " tender, loving care " such as a mother
has for her baby. A young man may say in a mildly slighting
manner to a young woman who is easily frightened khwan awn or
"tender khwan".

When a child suffers a shock from some sudden fright and
cries sharply and continously, it is believed that the child's khwan
has taken flight. In such a case it is called in Thai as khwan hai
(ขวัญหาย), khwan nee (ขวัญหนี) or khwan bin (ขวัญบิน) meaning
respectively the "khivan dissappears, flees, or flies away". In its
extention of meaning we can use either of these three words to
express a state of alarm or suprise.

An appreciation expressed to a person is kham khwan (คำขวัญ)
i.e. "words for khwan".

When a man experiences a great fright and may die of its
effect we say khivan nee dee faw (ขวัญหนีดีฝ่อ) meaning literally "the
khwan flees, the bile (gallbladder) withers"

A sudden scare may be expressed as khwan khwaen (ขวัญ
แขวน) i.e. the khwan is dangling somewhere. This expression is
now to be found only in literature.

To threaten the khwan (khu khwan—ขู่ขวัญ) is to strike
terror, and to destory the khwan (thamlal khwanทำลายขวัญ) is to
give a fright.





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To refer to a person in approving or disapproving terms is to
klao khwan (กล่าวขวัญ) i.e. to speak about the person's khwan.

To lose courage is sia khivan (เสียขวัญ) i.e. the khwan is
despoiled, reversing the position of the two words to khwan sia
(ขวัญเสีย), it means a despoiled khwan.

Good morale, as in soldiers, is khwan dee (ขวัญดี) or good

To keep up the morale is bamrung khwan (บำรุงขวัญ) or the
sustenance of the khwan. Usually a priest will sprinkle conse-
crated water on a persons or persons as an act of "bamrung khwan"
as one often witnesses in a ceremony on certain occasions.

If a baby lying quite normally on its bed is startled suddenly
and gives a sharp cry and then continues to cry its mother or some-
one nearby will at once pat lightly many times on the baby's breast,
and at the same time pacify it wi+h such word, " Oh khivan ! abide
within thy body", (ขวัญเอย อยู่กับเนื้อกับตัว). Such treatment is called
rap khivan (รับขวัญ) meaning literally to receive the khivan. In
its shifted meaning rap khwan means to cajole or to sooth a child
from peevishness, or to make up to the girl you love if her feelings
are running high against you.

The ceremony of tham khwan (ทำขวัญ) is indispensable in
order to strengthen or confirm the khwan after a fright. In its
present meaning in everyday use it means a compensation for an
injury done. To harm a person, a person's animal or thing is ipso
to injure the khwan which requires a tham khwan as a restora-
tion to its normal state.

A gift presented after a ceremony of tham khwan to the
participant is called khong khwan (-v’-;yP) or " khwan s thing",
but in current use the words means a gift or a present in general.

Khivan is sometime used as a qualifying word with certain
nouns to mean precious or an object of affection. For example:
mia khwan, luk khwan, suan khwan (เมียขวัญ ลูกขวัญ สวนขวัญ) means
respectively a precious wife, a precious child, a precious garden.






124                                   Phya Anuman Rajadhon


Khwan chai (ขวัญใจ) literally the khwan of the heart chom khivan
(จอมขวัญ) the highest point of the khwan, khwan ta (ขวัญตา) the
khwan of the eyes, are words used to address one's beloved or
favourite. The last two words are to be found mostly in poetry.
Khwan fa (ขวัญฟ้า) literally the heavenly khivan means the beloved.

Eyes, ears, mouth, noses and hands have their particular
khwan; they are khwan ta, khwan hoo, khwan pak, khivan chamook
and khwan mil (ขวัญหู ขวัญตา ขวัญปาก ขวัญจมูก ขวัญมือ) These words
if precede by the verb " to be " mean a feast for whichever particu-
lar part of the body is mentioned. For example pen khwan ta
( เป็นขวัญตา) is a feast for the eyes.

Traditionally a person has 32 khwans. This tradition is
known among the Thai of Thailand particularly in the North and
North-East, also among the Laos and perhaps to the Shans, but so
far it is not found among the Thai in the central area including
Bangkok. In the many texts of invocations and addresses to the
khwan in the dialect of the North-Eastern Thai there is an enume-
ration of the various khwans in a person. There are, apart from
the khwan of the eyes and so on as mentioned above, heart, the in-
testines, the kidneys, etc. Try as I would I could not get the
khwan to make up their right number of thirty-two The belief in
plurality of souls is to be found in many peoples, but so far this
has not reached to such a number. Probably the thirty-two khwans
is a later development due to the influence of Buddhism where there
are enumerated thirty-two integral parts of a human body.


                          2. THE KHWAN AND ALLIED WORDS

Allied with the khwan there are three words in the Thai
language which produce a complexity as to the nature of the
khwan they are the words ming (มิ่ง) chetabhut (เจตภูมิ) and chai

Ming like the khivan is an immaterial thing, also residing
in a person. It gives him good fortune and prosperity if it does
not desert him. In speaking, the word ming is frequently coupled





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with the word khwan as ming khwan. It means probably a mys-
terious power supposed to determine one's luck or fortune. By
comparing the word ming with the Chinese word also ming (---)
meaning life, fate, destiny of men, I believe that they are one and
the same word. The Thai have lost the original meaning of their
word ming through the adoption of Pali word chivit (ชีวิต= Pali
Jivita ) meaning life. The various Thai tribes outside Thailand i.e.
the Ahom in Assam, the Tho and other Thais in Tongking, the
Dioi and the Nung in Southern China, still retain the ming meaning
life in their language.

Like the khwan the word ming has shifted its meaning from
life to that of luck or fortune. It has again been superseded
in its later meaning by the words sri and siri of Sanskrit and
Pali origin, both of which mean luck, prosperity, wealth, beauty,
fame. So popular are the words sri and siri with the Thais that
the two words are to be found in the above senses in everyday
use, and also to be found as a prefix to many Thai title-names, and
as a suffix to many Thai female personal names. No wonder, then
that the word ming has become vague in meaning. It is now,
confined to limited uses. With the exception of the couplet ming-
already mentioned, the word ming strange to say, is usually
followed by a word of the same initial sound such as ming muang
(มิ่งเมือง) ming mia (มิ่งเมีย). The word muang means a city, and
the word mia means a wife. With word ming as a prefix, ming
and ming mia may mean the best or precious city and the
best or precious wife. Comparing this with the meaning of khwan,
one is no wiser than before.

We now come to the word chetabhut. This is a Pali word
meaning in its original sense a substance which is the author of
thought or consciousness. It is, therefore, not much different in
meaning than to the word mind. But in popular parlance, particu-
larly among the older generation, there is not much difference
between the chetabhut and the khivan in certain characteristics.
The khwan will forsake someone only when the person is in great
fear or is influenced by evil spirits, while the chetabhut will leave a






126                                   Phya Anuman Rajadhon


person only when he or she is in an apprehensive fear or during
sleep in a dream. A man walking alone in a lonely place hears
footsteps as if someone is walking behind. He turns back in an
apprehensive fear but sees no one. To country folk the sound
heard by the man is no other than his chetabhut.

There is a folk story about the chetabhut well-known among
the different Thai peoples which agrees in substance and differs
only in details. Here is one version of the story. Two men on
a journey took a rest at a certain place One of them fell asleep.
His companion saw an insect issuing from one of the sleeper's
nostrils. He followed it and found that the insect, by accident, had
floundered into a water-hole. It tried to swim to get out of the
water. The man put a bit of grass on the water, letting one end of
it touch the water and the other end touch the ground. The insect
took advantage of that bit of grass and succeeded in getting out of
water. It crawled back followed by the man and eventually re-
entered a nostril of the sleeping man who then woke up. He told
his companion that he had had a bad dream: he fell into some water,
but succeeded in getting out without drowning by means of a piece
of wood which jutted into the water. His companion then knew
that the insect was his friend's chetabhut.

Among the stories of the chetabhut as heard from the older
generation, the form of the chetabhut varies. It may be in the form
of an ant, a caterpillar, a spider or a scintillating thing somewhat
like a firefly. Another version of the story relates that the chetabhut
got out from the sleeping man not through a nostril but through
the tip of one of his toes. Instead of falling into water, the chetabhut
climbed up with difficulty to the top of a hill; which in reality was
only a heap of cow dung.

Like the khivan with its thirty-two multiple souls, the
chetabhut has four. When a person is very ill in a critical stage
with no hope of recovery, old folk say that three of the sick
man's four chetabhut have left him. Probably the folk refer to the
traditional four elements, earth, water, wind and fire, but mis-
called them chetabhut. Possibly the chetabhut is no other than the






                                 THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                     127


khivan itself, but of alien origin, which the Thai have gathered into
the fold of their old beliefs along with the khwan.

Although the khwun. is nowhere stated explicitly to have
a physical form, the expression khwan bin or the khwan flies away
when it has a fright, points to the fact that the khwan must
have wings. The Lao's khwan. is in the form of a cricket, the
Malay, and possibly also that of the Indonesian, semangat soul
is in the form of a bird, and the Burmese leipbya soul is in the
form of a butterfly. There is also the belief of the people in Europe
that the soul of a dead man becomes a butterfly or a moth, so there
are some possible grounds for thinking that the khwan must have
a form of some kind.

Shway Yoe (Sir George Scott) tells us in his book "The
Burman, his Life and Notions" that the leip-bya or the Burmese
butterfly soul " is the cause of dreams. It is not absolutely necessary
that the butterfly should remain constantly in the body; death will
not necessarily ensue from the separation. When a man is asleep^
therefore, it leaves the body and roams far and wide. But in these
wanderings it can only go to those places where the person to whom
it belongs has previously been. A straying from known paths would
cause extreme danger to the sleeping body, for it might happen that
the butterfly would lose its way and never return, and then both
would die. The body because the animating principle was gone,
and the leipbya because it had no earthly tenement to live in ".

Sir George Scott, further in the same book, says that there
is another kind of soul of the Burmese, the thwe seit which he
translates as "soul of the blood" Lack of information on the pri-
mitive belief of the soul among the people of various races in the
Indo-Chinese Peninsula is a handicap to comparative study. Anyhow
the Burmese butterfly soul and the Thai chetabhut seem to be one
and the same kind in certain aspects.

The Chinese say that a man's soul goes out at night during
sleep through an aperture on the crown of the head. (Compare the
brahmarandhara or Brahma's opening of the Hindus, where the soul






128                                 Phya Anuman Rajadhon


of a holy man leaves the body during death from an aperture in the
same locality of the head). A man's dream is the experience of the
soul while roaming. As the soul gets in and out every night, the
hair on the crown of the head is disturbed by continual treading
of the soul, so they are, therefore, unable to grow and thrive, unlike
the hair on either side of the head, which grows luxuriantly undis-
turbed by the treading of the soul. Hence baldness is usually
confined to the central part of the head.

The Thai khwan goes out from that part of the head also,
though it is not expressly stated. An average Thai will not tolerate
without resentment anyone touching his head. Woe to the person
who pats a Thai head, if that person is a woman. Worse still if the
hand that touches it is a left hand, for that hand is unclean, parti-
cularly that of a woman. No man if he can will pass under a clothes
line, nor let a woman's lower garment touch his head. When passing
or standing near a superior or an elder, one should lower one's head
in order not to be above or on an equal level with the head of that
personage. If that personage sits on a chair or on a raised platform
one must lower one's head when passing near the person. If he
squats on a carpet or floor one must kneel or crawl. These social
habits have become so conventionalized that they now form part of
the Thai etiquette of good manners and decorum. Why is the
average Thai so fastidous about his head? The reason perhaps may
be found in the old belief that the khwan has something to do with
the head. If you want two boys to have a fight, just draw on the
ground two circles, assuming that one of the circles is one of the
boys' head, and the other circle is the head of the other boy (เขียนหัว
to draw heads). Now, dare the boys to rub out the other's circle
with their feet. Should one of them accept the dare and do it, it is
a great insult and in most cases there will be a fight between the two.
That is how sacred the head is among the Thai, and this I believe
to be due to the belief of the khwan.

The Thai word chai which means heart or mind, is also
curious. Through magical art the chai can be removed from a
person like a possession and hidden somewhere. No harm will be







                              THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                  129


done to the owner but it will give the person invincibility for no
weapon can harm him. He will die only when his duang chai
(the heart in a round form) is discovered in its hidden place and
crushed. The magical removal of a heart is called in Thai thod
duang chai
(ถอดดวงใจ) which quite literally means to remove a
heart. By extension, a lover may say to his beloved that he has
entrusted his heart to her. The belief of removal of a heart by
magical means is to be found only in a certain class of Thai literature.
It is probably of Indian origin. When frightened one's chai or
"heart is lost and overturned" (ใจหายใจคว่ำ).whereas the "khwan flees
and bile withers" (ขวัญหนีดีฝ่อ). Why, I do not know. As one of the
causes of jaundice is a severe mental emotion like anger or fright
one is apt to think " the khivan flees and bile withers" has the same
cause as the jaundice.

The word chai forms a couplet with the khivan in khwan
and the word khwan forms a couplet with ming in ming khwan
One can not reverse the order of these two couplets nor can one
interchange their components. I venture to translate the couplet
khwan chai as the khwan or vital spirit of the chai or heart while
ming khwan is the ming or life of the khwan. Hence a person has
in himself or herself a chai (heart or mind), while the chai has
its khivan (soul or vital spirit), and the khwan has its ming (life).


                               3. " THAM KHWAN " CEREMONY


If a child comes home crying and in a feverish condition after

experiencing a fall or a scare, people believe that the khwan has
left the child. Someone, usually the child's mother, will in an in-
stant take a brass bowl1 with its ladle and a piece of cloth and go
out directly to the spot where the child is supposed to have lost the
khwan. Calling back the child's khwan which is imagined to be


           1. The brass bowl as referred to above is a domestic utensil for
storing cooked rice and is to be found in nearly every Thai home in
the central part of Thailand. It is called khan (ขัน) in Thai. One
frequently sees it in the early hour of the morning when people present
food to monks







130                                   Phya Anuman Rajadhon


nearby at the spot, the child's mother takes the ladle out and dips
up the imagined khivan, which she puts in the brass bowl, and
covers it with the piece of cloth. Returning home to the sick child she
turns the brass bowl round and round many times over the child,
in the hope that the khivan will scent, possibly from odor, the
child; thus enabling it to go back to its former abode in the child.
Pieces of unspun cotton thread ( a thing to be found in every Thai
home where there is home spinning and weaving ) are then tied in
a fast knot round either wrist of the child. Then follows a wish or
blessing with a present as a gift to the child. With such procedure
and treatment it is believed that the sick child in due time will
regain its normal self.


In this simple ceremony just described, the first act done is
called riak khivan (เรียกขวัญ) meaning the calling of the khivan.
The next is called tak khivan (ตักขวัญ) or the dipping up of the
khivan, and the tying of unspun cotton threads round the child's
wrists is called phook khivan (ผูกขวัญ) or the tying of the khwan.
The whole procedure is called tham khivan, literally the making
of the khivan or, in its shifted meaning in current use as already
mentioned, compensation for an injury done. What has been des-
cribed of the khwan here is mainly done in Bangkok and in the
central area of Thailand. In other areas of Thailand the words
and details of the ceremony vary but overlap to a degree where two
sub-cultures meet. For instance, in Northern Thailand the tham
ceremony is called choen khivan (เชิญขวัญ) i.e. the invita-
tion of the khivan, while in the north-eastern part of Thailand
where its culture meets that of the Laos and also in a southerly
direction that of the Cambodians it is called su khwan (สู่ขวัญ),
i.e. the welcoming of the khwan. The tying of unspun threads
round the wrists is called mat mil (มัดมือ) in Northern Thailand,
meaning the binding of the hand. In the North-East it is called
pooh khaiv mil (ผูกข้อมือ) or the tying of the wrists. The
ceremony of tham khwan or to be short the khwan ceremony as
given hitherto is in its simple form. There is also a certain kind
of khivan ceremony in a complex form, perhaps due to later







                             THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                          131


development, with degrees of elaboration pertaining to different
classes and ranks of the people concerned.

Also, when a child every now and then has an ailment with
" three days good four days ill " (สามวันดีสี่วันไข้ = sum wan di si
khai ) as in the current Thai expression, a condition which
may, in the long run, deteriorate into serious ill-health with a ten-
dency not to survive, such child is called in Thai "hard to raise"
(เลี้ยงยาก). When a child is in such a condition, a person known to
" raise children easily " (เลี้ยงลูกง่าย) is invited to come and tie the
khwan for the child. The person will tie both wrists of the child
with unspun cotton threads. Before tying, the person takes one end
of the thread brushing it to and fro over the child's wrist many times,
and at the same time expresses a wish for the welfare of the child in a
formal chant worded thus: "Oh khwan ! abide with the flesh and body
( =peace ) and be cool and happy" (ขวัญจงอยู่กับเนื้อกับตัวจงอยู่เย็นเป็นสุข).
One will notice that, living in a comparative warm climate, the Thai
expression for a peaceful life is a life of coolness. The brushing of
the tip of a thread on a child's wrist is probably of Indian origin
(compare the investiture of the sacred cord of the Hindu twice-born).
There is a saying in a rhyming couplet of the people in the northern
area that " to tie the left hand is to let the khivan come, to tie the
right one, is to let the khwan stay " (ผูกมือซ้ายให้ขวัญมา ผูกมือขวา
ให้ขวัญอยู่). As the visible sign of life in man is the regular beating
of the pulse, perhaps the tying of the khivan round the wrists is to
keep it within bounds.

Some fifty years ago small silver coins with two denomina-
tions of an eighth and a quarter of a baht, were used in this
country. The person who tied the khwan, made from these coins a
plain inflexible and small bracelet, something like an anklet which
could be adjusted in size. Such a bracelet is called in Thai a "spirit-
fetter" bracelet (กำไลขื่อผี) The person who performed the tying of
the khwan put a pair of such bracelets on either wrist of the child as
a khwan, gift. Sometime, in its simple form, one of these small coins,







132                                  Phya Anuman Rajadhon


which had a hole in the middle, was strung to the unspun cotton
thread. It is to be noted that such small silver coins were to be
purchased from a widow. The parents of the child by custom had
to pay the person performing the tying of the khivan an amount of
money equal to the price for the coins he had paid to the widow.
Possibly due to a later development, instead of a silver bracelet,
gold or alloy of gold was used, and sometime also with a minia-
ture lock made of the same metal as the bracelet. At this
stage of development it became unnecessary to purchase the metal
from a widow, nor had the parents of the child to pay equal the
price of the bracelet to the person performing the tying of the khwan.
In fact the parents of the child simply gave something of value in
gratitude to the person tying the khwan. Usually the performers of
the tying of the khivan were two persons, a man and his wife, who
alternately tied either the right or left wrists of the child.

What is recorded here is confined to Bangkok and derived
from personal experience. In outlying districts, particularly in the
central part of Thailand among the peasant folk, the tying of the
khwan was no doubt the same but probably simpler. According
to my information, the miniature locks strung to the unspun cotton
threads were sometimes made of wood carved into the shape of a
lock, the wood having been taken from a beam supporting the floor
of monk's privy; or in substitution for a lock, the bone of a frog's leg
was used, which looked like a Chinese old style lock in shape as
used by people before the coming of European locks and keys, or
sometimes a vulture's bone in the shape of a takrut (ตะกรุด) or a
cylindrical shaped amulet was worn.

Also, in case of a child who is frequently ill, if he is a boy.
the parents take him to a monk to have the tying of the khwan,
If the child is a girl, the monk will give pieces of consecrated
unspun cotton threads to the parents to tie the child's khwan by





                             THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                         133


themselves at home, for monks cannot consciously touch a female
without sinning. The bringing of a child to a monk for tying of
the khwan is called in Thai idiom thot pha pa (ทอดผ้าป่า) literally
it means to lay a cloth in a forest or an uninhabited place. The
thot pha pa is a name of a certain convention where a monk's
robe is laid for merit-making on a branch of a tree where a monk
may come by and "draw" it. In ancient days a Buddhist monk lived
the life of a mendicant. By discipline, a monk could possess only
one yellow robe—a set of three pieces. More than the pieces he wore
he could not possess. When the garments became tattered and
worn out, he had to replace them from discarded cloth which he
found. This he washed, dyed and cut into the desired shapes. Per-
haps later on some meritorious minded person, seeing the plight of
a monk in a tattered robe, placed a cloth on the branch of a tree
where a passing monk might see and take it for his use. By discip-
line a monk cannot receive a robe offered from anyone unless it be
during the month after the Buddhist Lenten period, when a monk by
the religious vote of the brotherhood may accept a robe from anyone
in a ceremonial presentation. Such a presentation robe is known
as a kathin robe (ผ้ากฐิน). In the present day there has arisen a
method of presenting the thot pha pa by hanging the robe on a
branch of a tree together with other articles as befitting gifts to a
monk. Usually the robe to be presented is hung on a cut branch of
a tree placed in an ornamental basket or otherwise, together with
other articles hanging on the branch of the tree. Prominent among
these articles is a towel made into the shape of a gibbon which
purports to be a denizen of the forest. Sometimes there are many
decorated baskets in a thot pha pa ceremony where many people
co-operate. These are carried in a grand procession to the intended
wat or monastery where the monks help themselves to the gifts.

The taking of a frequently sick child to a monk for the tying
pf the khwan as a thot pha pa is a ruse to hoodwink the phi







134                                   Phya Anuman Rajadhon


(ผี) or spirit. A child was often ill, the people believed, because of
the phi who wanted to take away the child.1 If the child now
belonged to a monk, as if it had been left as a thot pha pa, it was
believed that the phi would not dare to afflict the child any more,
for the phi fears a monk on account of his holiness.

If a parent, usually the mother, has to be away from home
temporary and entrusts someone with the care of her baby, she will
tie an unspun cotton thread to each of the baby's wrists. She must
say something in a cajoling manner to the baby that she will come
back as soon as possible, may it be good and happy during her
absence. If the mother leaves her baby without performing such
necessary leave taking, the baby, during her absence will show
signs of vexation and cry continually. Such is a belief of the
people which has existed even up to the present lime. When a
baby during its mother's absence cries every now and then as if it
suffers a pain or illness, people nearby will make a remark during
her absence that she is a modern-minded mother who has not obser-
ved such a necessary performance.


1. According to popular belief, a person is born through the
making of the phi. The phi shapes some clay, perhaps, into the
figure of a child to its own liking. It then puts the figure into the womb
of a woman and a conception ensues. Within three days after the child
is born, the phi will come to see the child, and if it finds the baby
still to its liking it will take away the baby, which means the baby will
die. Hence the well-known Thai expression as "three days (the baby)
is a phi's child; four days a human's child" (สามวันลูกผี สี่วันลูกคน)
meaning that within three days after birth the baby may die to become
a phi's servant. If in the fourth day the baby still lives, it is then a
human's child. There is a trick to mislead the phi by selling the baby
immediately it is born to some one, by make-believe to mislead the
p/zi that the baby is not the woman's child. In order to hoodwink the
phi further, the baby is named with words of undesirable meaning
such as buffalo, dog, frog, bad smell, and so on. When the phi hears
of a baby with such names, it will not take away the baby believing the
baby has such characteristics as the names describe. Such names
sometimes stick and survive with the baby until it has become a man
without any change; if the baby grows into a child but has continual
ill-health, the parents believe that it is the phi again who is the
cause of the trouble, hence the giving away of the child to a monk in
the thot pha pa fashion.








                        THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                            135


In the North and North-East of Thailand there is a tham
ceremony for distinguished visitors who have been tempo-
rarily in their midst. Also, in Central Thailand there is a tham
ceremony for a person who comes back after arlong absence
from home or returns from an expedition of war. The nature of the
performance of such a tham khwan ceremony is not a simple one
such as has already been described. Neither is the tham khwan
ceremony related to other rites of passage. Before dealing with
these ceremonies it is necessary to describe first, certain parapher-
nalia in connection with the tham khwan ceremony in the next

                           4. ARTICLES IN CONNECTION WITH THE

The chief article in connection with the tham khivan ceremony
is the bai si (บายศรี- long ai in bai ). It is a word of Cambodian
origin, meaning literally auspicious rice or in other word the
khwan rice. In Northern Thailand it is called also bai si
(ใบศรี) but with a short sound in bai, which means auspicious leaf,
or also khan si (ขันศรี) or auspicious tray, while in the North-
East it is called ha si (บาศรี), no doubt a corrupted form of
bai si.

There are two kinds of bai si; the bai si pak cham
(บายศรีปากชาม) meaning literally the dish-border bai si, and the
bai si yai (บายศรีใหญ่) or the major bai si. Sometimes it is
called bai si chan (บายศรีชั้น— tiered bai si) or bai si tang (บายศรีตั้ง
standing bai si )

The Bal Si Pak Cham. This kind of bai si is composed of
three items; (a) the kruai (กรวย) or the cone-shape vessel,
(b) the nom meo (นมแมว) or cat's breasts, and (c)the mangda
( UJMfli - king-crab or horseshoe-crab-Tachypleus gigas).

(a) The kruai. This cone-shape vessel is made of banana,
leaf, cut and folded in such shape and filled with cooked rice. In
fact the kruai is similar to the ice-cream cone in shape. It is
placed with its circular base in the centre of a large sized dish.
The apex of the kruai is surmounted by a hard-boiled duck's






136                               Phya Anuman Rajadhon


egg, shelled and pinned by a small wood sliver. (In the North,
either a hen's or a duck's egg may be used, and in the North-East
only a hen's egg is used. Probably this is due to the abundance of
hen's eggs in relation to duck's eggs). This egg is called khai
(ไข่ขวัญ) or khwan s egg. Usually the khwan's egg is again
surmounted by a row or a cluster of flowers placed one upon an-
other with a wood pin stuck in the top of the egg.

(b) Nom meo or cat's breasts. Each ''cat's breast" is
made of a strip of banana leaf which has been cut to size and then
folded back so as to make a flat triangular, arrowhead shape at the
fold with a residual "tail" below. Three of these "breasts" are
then placed one upon another in an overlapping sequence so as to
form one unit with an overall triangular shape with a common
major apex but with the minor apices (the cat's breasts) jutting
out a little below the topmost point like spurs or spikes ( a bit like
the layers of an artichoke). Three of these triangular, multi-apical
units are placed equidistantly round the dish with the apices stick-
ing up and jutting out slightly beyond the rim of the dish. The
residual tail-ends of the "breast" are roughly interwoven into one
whole forming the "floor" of the dish and are fastened together
with a small wooden pin to prevent them from comming loose and
unfolding. Thus the three units of three, though separated radially,
are pinned together in the centre by their tails. As a further anchor
to keep everything in place, the kruai-cone full of cooked rice is
placed point-upwards in the centre of the dish on top of the tails.
The cone of the kruai should be higher than the apices of the units
around it. For the above reasons the " dish-border bai-si " is some-
times called bai-si-nom-meo or the cat's breasts bai si.

( c ) Mangda. A banana leaf cut into the shape of a serrated
leaf, something like the outline of a mangda, ( king-crab or
horseshoe-crab ). Such is the name of this article. The middle
of the serrated leaf is cut through into two slits like a gable
in shape. Three pieces of this mangda but sometimes four, are
placed in the same way as the nom meo or cat's breasts, but at
intervals between the nom meo. The mangda has also a long










                            THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                       137


tail which is twisted with the other two of its set and placed in the
same manner as the nom meo. The mangda is sometime called
tao ( เต่า ) or tortoise, probably from its shape.

Three pieces of ripe banana cut lengthwise are inserted in
the folds of the nom meo or cats breasts. The banana as used
traditionally is from a variety known as kluai nam Thai (กล้วยน้ำ
ไทย). Three pieces of cucumber, also cut lengthwise, are placed
each on the mangda. These pieces of banana and cucumber
may be placed simply in the bai si dish in a consecutive man-
ner at either place. Three pieces of sweetmeat are sometimes
used in place of the three pieces of banana and cucumber. Sweet-
meat as used commonly is of the kind known as khanom torn khao
(ขนมต้มขาว) meaning literally "boiled-white sweetmeat". It is
made of glutinous rice flour kneeded and rolled into a shape and
size of the children's stone marble with a small piece of palm sugar
caks inserted within. This is boiled and sprinkled with shreds of
ripe-coconut flesh. It seems similar to the Hindu sweetmeat called
modaka which I have been told of, which is used by the Hindus as
an offerring to their spirits and deities. The Thai use it too as
such an offering. Other kind of sweetmeat may be used in place
of the above one.

There are also three sets of another kind of offerings which
compose a set : one beeswax taper, an incense stick and a flower.
These are stuck and placed in and around the bai si dish alter-
nately between the cat's breast and the king crabs. Extra flowers
usually jasmin may bo used as decoration. Pieces of unspun cotton
threads of a hand-span in length are placed across the cat's breasts.
These threads are used for the tying of the khwan. The "dish-
border bai si " is an offering either to the khivan or to a deity, if
an offering is made to a deity there is no necessity to supply such

Critical comment. The "dish border bai si" is evidently a plate
of food and sweetmeats as an offering to the khwan. It is perhaps,
in part, of Indian origin. Orthodox Hindus are vegetarians and in
certain localities take their food from banana leaf or from a platter







138                                Phya Anuman Rajadhon


n occasions when there is no dish at hand, as in a
picnic excursion for example. In Thai traditional customs when an
offering of food and sweetmeat is to propitiate spirits or deities, it
is always offered in a platter made either of banana leaf or from the
sheaths of banana stem in certain prescribed shapes as dictated by
tradition. The offering of food and sweetmeats to the khivan is
in one respect differrent from that offered to the gods and deities.
In the former the owner of the khwan is visibly there, while the
latter are always invisible. It looks undecorous to have food and
sweetmeats placed in a banana leaf platter instead of a dish for en-
tertaining a person who is the owner of the khwan. The placing
of a banana platter in a large dish or tray is probably a compromise
between a tradition and a Thai recognized good manners. Even
today when one offers anything to one's superiors or elders, either
a glass of water or an invitation card, for example, it should be
placed on a salver or a tray when handing it. The handing of any-
thing to a superior or an elder in the offhand manner tolerated
nowadays is undoubtedly due to the impact of other cultures.

The kruai is evidently no other than the cone-shape woven
bamboo covering for food called in Thai fa chi (ฝาชี) to be found
in many Thai homes. The fa chi is always covered with a red
cloth, and in certain special occasions with brocades. Thai food
traditionally are placed in dishes and these again are arranged in a
tray. A fa chi for covering the food before partaking them is,
therefore, a necessity.

The khwan egg on the apex of the kruai may be a symbol
of vitality or a second spiritual rebirth if partaken ceremonially by
the owner of the khwan. ( compare : Easter egg ).

The nom meo or cat's breasts and mangda or king-crabs
are undoubtedly the serrated decorations round the borders of the
banana leaf platter. The best kind of Thai banana leaf platter is
made with a surmounted serrated border called in Thai kralhong








                            THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                       139


chirm (กระทงเจิม) meaning a surmounted-border krathong. If
such a platter is a small one, when placed in a large deep dish, only
the surmounted border of the krathong will be visible to the eyes
from a distance as something with pointed tips protruding above the
rim of the dish. No doubt in a later period the banana leaf platter
might have been discarded for the reason that the dish itself is an
appropriate receptacle for food and rice, why then should a banana
leaf platter be utilized unnessarily. A trace of a banana leaf platter
with serrated borders survived only in its border-decoration.

Sliced banana and cucumbers are dainties among the Hindu
in India in certain localities, as in Calcutta for example. Perhaps
the bananas and cucumbers are also dainties of the khwan and
have their source perhaps from India.


One will notice that the number of things as used in the bai
si is always in three. This is a favorite number with the Thai.

Bai si Yai or Major Bai si. This is a kind of structure usually
pyramidal in shape and is composed of five tapering tiers. There
are also seven or even nine tiers, but they are rarely constructed
owing to the fact the whole structure would be too high and would
not stand firmly unless it had a relative large base. The five tiers
have as their platforms thin .boards, round and flat like a disc, with
a rod or shaft running through a perforated hole in the centre of
each disc. The discs vary in sizes, the lower one is relatively the
largest and the size becomes gradually smaller with the higher ones
in a tapering manner. The borders of each of the discs are or-
namented by the nom meo or cat's breasts. They are arranged
in two consecutive circles; the top one with its tips pointed in a
sky-ward directions and the lower one with the tips pointed in the
opposite direction. These two nom meo with their pointed tips
in opposite directions are fastened round the borders of the disc by
a clasp-like fastener made of a material from the sheath of a banana
stalk. On each disc, save the highest and smallest one, are small
banana leaf platters filled with food, sweetmeats and choicest fruits.






140                                  Phya Anuman Rajadhon


On the highest disc is placed a small bowl or dish decorated with
flowers. In the old days a bai si pak r.ham or a dish-border bai
si was the thing in use. It is still to be seen, but infrequently, up
to the present time. Three laths of bamboo splits of an appropriate
length are placed endways at equal distances from base to top of the
sides of the structure and fastened each with three knots in equal
proportions. These three laths of bamboo are supporters of the
structure. Three young banana leaves (ใบตองอ่อน) are wrapped
round the structure, and this again is wrapped with a piece of
brocade or other valuable textile materials. This cloth is called
pha haw khwan (ผ้าห่อขวัญ ) or "khwan s cloth wrapper".

The making of bai si, especially the folding of banana
leaves into cone-shape nom meo or cat's breasts, was in the old
days handed and taught traditionally to the younger members of the
family. When a novice had a sufficient command over the folding
of the bai si he or she was initiated into the mystic art. The
initiation was simple. The teacher will hold the hands of the
novice while folding banana leaves into the shape of nom meo.
Such an initiation is called in Thai krob (ครอบ) which means
to cover ( or to impart asknowledge to the pupil ). The " krob
ceremony " or initiation is not confined only to the making of bai
si, but is used in most of the traditional arts, for instance, the fine
arts, sculpture, painting, music ( both vocal and instrumental ) and
dramatic art, have their " krob ceremonies ", some peculiar to each
case as well. The School of Music and Dramatic Art of the Silpakorn
University has its annual krob ceremony.

The best made major bai si is decorated around the shaft
with flowers or with figures carved from sweet potatoes and unripe
papaya fruits into scenes taken from certain episodes of the best
known Thai literature. Such figure carving is called keh bai si
(แกะบายศรี = carving of bai si). The "carving of bai si " forms a
part of a certain class of Thai oral literature called le keh bai si
(แหล่แกะบายศรี) in which a reciter describes in an intoned voice as
an extra part of an invocation to the khwan depicting certain
imaginary scenes to be found as décoratives of the bai si. Such








                              THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                      141


decoration of the bai si is rarely found nowaday for it cost a lot
of skill and time, not to speak of the relatively high pecuniary cost.
This workmanship is also to be seen frequently as decoration of the
best made funeral pyres.

Critical comment. Owing to the real meaning of the hai si
and also that of the khwan being vaguely understood by most
people, the bai si in modern times has undergone innovations in
certain aspects. Instead of the cone-shape things surrounded the
discs of the major bai si are made with banana leaves, in some
cases they are now made with croton leaves-a garden shrub with
ornamental foliages variously coloured and shaped ( codiacum
variegatum euphorbiaceac).
In one instance, the major bai si is con-
structed entirely of wood and painted, so as to have it look like a
real traditional one. The cone shape nom meo or cat's breasts
are painted green like the colour of banana leaves; the rod that
runs through the centre of the discs is made into the shape of the
mythological naga-snake (นาค) and painted white. So also the
khwan egg at the apex of bai si is made of wood and painted
white too. This bai si is made by a professional khwan doctor
(หมอขวัญ) who officiates at the ceremony. Perhaps the khivan
doctor wants to save the trouble of laborious work in constructing
a major bai si in its traditional style every time when there is a
brisk demand for his professional service during the season of
Buddhist ordination period, when there are in most cases tham
ceremonies for the many candidates. Also the khwan
doctor will be able to lower his officiating fee against competitions
of other men in his own profession. When there is a tham khwan
ceremony for a Buddha image newly cast, the major bai si on
such an occasion is filled in the disc-platters with flowers instead
of food, sweetmeats and fruits. As food and sweetmeats are meant
as oblation to the spirit, I believe that the replacement of the bai
si pak cham or dish-border bai si on the topmost disc by a silver
bowl or dish with flowers is the probable reason.

The royal bal si. There are three types of bai si used in the
royal tham khivan ceremony.






142                                     Phya Anuman Rajadhon


1. Bai si long long thong khao (บายศรีตองลองทองขาว) meaning
literally banana leaf bai si with nickel covers. This is a major bai si
as previously described, with the exception of the rod and discs
which are made of nickel instead of wood as in ordinary major bai si.
It is always in seven tiers and one of a pair.


             2. (a) bai si keo (บายศรีแก้ว) or crystal bai si (b) bai si thong
(บายศรีทอง) or gold bai si, (c) bai si ngern (บายศรีเงิน) or silver bai si.
These three kinds of bai si are composed of trays supported on pedes-
tals in various graduated sizes placed upon one another in such a
way so as to form five or seven tiers in a pyramid-shape like the
ordinary major bai si. They are named crystal, gold or silver bai si
according the materials used as trays. Food and sweet-meats are
placed on every tray. They form a set by themselves known as a
minor set of bai si, (in contrast to a major set of bai si in 3.), and
are used in the royal tham khwan ceremony on a minor scale. The
crystal bai si stands in the middle of a row, the gold bai si on the
right side of the crystal bai si and the silver bai si on the left side.
The pair of banana leaf bai si in 1. stand apart by themselves. This
reflects that the bai si in 2 is a later addition to the banana leaf bai si
in 1.
             3. This is exactly the same as the bai si in 1 and 2, but
bigger in size for an occasion of tham khwan ceremony in grand

Complementary articles of the royal major bai si. These
include :—

1. Waen wien thian (แว่นเวียนเทียน). It is a taper holder
made of brass in a lenticular shape with three beeswax tapers fixed
on it. Five of such taper holders form a set and are stuck in a metal
bowl filled with rice as supporters. These taper holders are used
only when there is a wien thian ceremony or the waving of taper-
lights carried round and round a candidate in a circle. The ceremony
is no other than the aspersion of light in ritual purification of the





                                THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                     143



             2. Thian jai (เทียนชัย) or victory candle. Such a candle
is lit from special fire caught from the sun by a magnifying glass and
is stuck in a candlestick. (Compare the Indian "arani", a wood
friction method of producing sacred fire ).
            3. Unguents of scented oil or paste, or sometime both, for
anointing the tapers on the holders.

            4. A salver of betel-vine leaves.
            5. Pieces of unspun cotton threads placed in the same salver
as in 4. ( If these pieces of threads are provided already in the dish
border bai si such threads are not necessary).
            6. A young coconut on a salver. The coconut is pared of its
outer husk and sometimes its top is cut off and opened. There is also
a small silver spoon on the salver.

There are sometimes extra things, supplementary to the above
articles as described. There may be a pair of boiled pig's heads, or
there may be a number of trays filled with food.

The articles as listed are for the royal tham khivan ceremony
on a grand scale, which includes the rite of wien thian or the
waving of lights. Certain articles listed may be omitted, or
there may be additions as dictated by necessity. The tham
ceremony is not confined to human beings only, but may be
extended also to certain kinds of domestic animals and other inani-
mate things as well. In the royal tham khwan ceremony the
listed articles are in most cases in triplets, so also is the crystal, gold
and silver bai si.

There is a certain type of bai si made of two circles of the
pointed-tip nom meo arranged in two consecutive circles one with
its tips pointed in a sky-ward direction and the low one with the
tips pointed in the opposition direction. This doubled circlet is
stuck on a stalk or bole of banana tree of a certain length as its base.
There is nothing in the bai si except flowers, incense sticks and,
perhaps, a taper. I was told that food or other eatables were pro-
vided as an offering to a spirit or a deity in a separate tray. It has
nothing to do with the khwan. After the offering, the bai si






144                                   Phya Anuman Rajadhon


was left at the place as something discarded. It has no particular
name except merely as bai si. This sort of simple bai si is
found in the provinces of Pitsanulok and Sukhothai, and probably is
also to be found in the other neighbouring provinces.


                              5. THAM KHWAN CEREMONY.

The tham khwan ceremony consists mainly of three parts,
namely :

(1) Wien thian or the waving of lights.

                       (2) The feast of the khivan.
                       (3)Pook khwan or the tying of the khwan with unspun
                            cotton threads.

The ceremony as performed by the people, particularly in
Bangkok, is for the following persons, animals and things :

                        (a) a month old baby when its first hair, (called "fire
                              hair" - ผมไฟ in Thai ), is shaved ceremoniously.
                        (b) a person coming of age when his or her top-knot is
                              cut in a tonsure ceremony (พิธีโกนจุก).

( c ) A person when he is going to be ordained as a
Buddhist monk on the eve of the ordaining ceremony.

( d ) a bride and bridegroom in a wedding ceremony.
( e ) a person returning home after a long absence or after
a recovery from a long illness.

( f ) certain domestic animals and inanimate things.

Of these the one still practiced in force is ( c ) when a
person is going to be ordained. The others are rarely done nowadays,
except on the outskirts of Bangkok or in the rural parts of Central

The performance of the tham khwan ceremony may be
performed in an abbreviated form or in an elaborate one. The former
consists of the tying of the unspun cotton threads ( phook khwan )
and the feast of the khwan with a dish-border bai si only, and
there is no ceremony of the waving of lights. The latter consists






                                THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                    145


of the ( 1 ) wien thian, ( 2 ) the feast of the khwan with the
dish-border bai si and the major bai si, and the phook khwan

The tham khivan ceremony in its elaborate form is as
follows :

The two kinds of bai si, i.e. the dish-border bai si and
the major bai si, are placed in the middle of a room prepared for
the purpose. It is spread with mats or carpeted for the occasion,
two small low tables stand on either sides of the two bai si.
There are on one of the tables three ceremonial taper holders, each
with three tapers attached to it in a row, stuck in a metal bowl
(usually silver or gold-plated) filled with rice. The rice in this
particular case has no meaning. It is used merely as a support to
the taper holders only. Rice has always been a thing ready at hand
in every home; hence the convenience of its utilization for such a
purpose, and it has then developed into a tradition. The number of
taper holders may be more than three as occassion demands if the
room is a big one and there are more people participating in the
rite. The number is always odd for it is deemed lucky. On the
same table is a metal tray with a pedestal called phan (พาน) in
Thai. In it is placed a young coconut pared of its outer husk and
with its top cut open. There is also in the tray a spoon. On the
other table are " small victory candle " ( thian chai ) on a candlestick
and a small jar or two of unguents of scented paste and oil. There
may be on the table a gold decorated conch shell placed also on a
tray. ( This is a redundance unless there is a lustration of water ).

When the astrological auspicious moment arrives, the can-
didate in befitting apparel on such an occasion is led by the hand
(or carried if a child ) by a parent or an elder of the family into the
middle of the room and sits alone near the two bai si surrounded
by a ring of relatives and friends in the sitting position. A Thai
classical orchestra, if there is any, plays a familiar tune when the
auspicious moment arrives and stops playing when the candidate is





146                                 Phya Anuman Rajadhon


                Now a pundit, either a native brahman or a professional
layman sitting nearby, starts to initiate the rite. He moves into the
middle of the room and sits in an appropriate posture 1 before the
candidate and the bai si. He directly raises his hands and clasp
them palm to palm in a worshipful attitude, and commences to recite,
in some places with intonations, in a loud voice the invocation of
the khivan. The invocation consists of three parts, and the end
of each part is marked by the beating of a big gong, three strokes
accompanied by three cheers of ho hiu (โห่ฮิ้ว).2 The commencement
of the invocation is the adoration of the Buddhist Sacred Triple
Gem, then follows the adoration of the King, the parents and the
teachers. This is confined to the ordination ceremony only. As to
the tonsure ceremony the high gods of Hinduism are also invoked.
In other ceremonies indigeneous tutelary gods receive the same
homage. These reflect the traditional belief of the people. The
rest of the invocation depicts the way of life of the Thai in the old
days, or at least during the time of the author who composed it. It
describes, for example, what tenderness and love has been bestowed
on the candidate by the parents in his tender years, how he has
been reared and trained. The last part contains the invocation to the
khwan not to stray in forbidden paths but stay always with the
candidate. A feast of delicious food and dainties is arranged for the
khwan to partake in pleasant surroundings. Here the invocation
depicts the various foods and dainties, and the scene of the best
furnished room of a typical Thai house in the past. The descrip-
tion does not necessarily coincide with the real things in the room.



  1. The appropriate posture here is the sideways sitting posture
with the lower limbs turned inward and touched behind the haunches
(นั่งพับเพียบ). By traditional etiquette squatting directly on the
haunches (นั่งยองๆ) sitting with stretched legs (นั่งเหยียดขา), or squatting
crouched on floor or on chair with legs apart (นั่งถ่างขา), or with knees
raised up like a monkey (นั่งชันเข่า) are deemed socially vulgar and
indecorous. Sitting with crossed legs (นั่งขัดสมาธิ์) is permitted with
foreigners or with Thai between equals and juniors on intimate terms.


               2. This is the traditional cheer of the people. A precentor begins
with the wor d " ho " (โห่) in a long-drawn high tone followed by a
chorus refrain "hiu" (ฮิ้ว) also in a high tone. It was replaced by
King Vajiravudh on certain occasions in later times with the word
" chai-yo " (ไชโย)







                                THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                         147


There are many texts and versions of such invocations which
have been handed down orally by professional officiants of the tham
ceremony. These versions of invocation form a part of
Thai expressive oral literature. Selected ones have been collected
and edited into book form and printed by the former Royal Institute
now the Fine Arts Department. The various versions are a valua-
ble study of folklore, for they contain beliefs, traditions and cus-
toms of the people of former days which have been inherited uncon-
sciously by modern progressive people in the ways they think, feel
and believe.

Immediately after the invocation comes to an end, the officiant
starts stripping the brocade and the three young banana leaves from
the major bai si. These he rolls together into a bundle with the
brocade as a wrapper. He hands it to the candidate who will hold
and press it tightly to his or her breast. If the candidate is a baby
the bundle is placed nearby.

The ceremonial room sometimes is surrounded by the conse-
crated unspun cotton threads (ด้ายสายสิญจน์) to mark a mystic boun-
dary of the place and to be a protection against evil spirits. Some-
times there is also placed in a tray nearby a set of the candidate's
clothing. This is confined to a candidate who is a child only. The
set of clothing is probably a used one of the child-candidate. This
is perhaps to attract the khivan from straying; for the khwan
is theoretically, very sensitive in recognizing the odor of the owner
of the clothing.

Now we come to the ceremony of the ritual waving of lights.
The officiant lights the tapers on the three taper holders with fire
from the "victory candle". He holds the three taper holders care-
fully with both hands by arranging the holders in such a way that
he can hold them together by rims, and circumambulates thrice in a
clock-wise direction round the bai si tables. He then holds the
taper-holders one at a time at the rims with both hands and lifts it
in a circle thrice to the level of his forehead as an act of adoration,
and wafts the smoke with the back of his right hand towards the
candidate. He hands the taper holder to the person next to him on
the left, who begins again and so on with the second and third in
succession. All the persons who receive the taper holder repeat
the same process.

When the three tapers complete their round the officiant takes
a betel vine leaf as provided from a tray and places it as a score on








148                                Phya Anuman Rajadhon


the table. It is called in Thai "tally betel vine leaves" (ใบพลูคะแนน).

After a completion of the three rounds (sometime five or seven) the
officiant replaces the taper holders in the bowl as before with the
lights still on. He smears the three betel vine leaves with the
scented unguents as provided. He now simultaneously takes the
three taper holders from the bowl bringing the flame close together
he extinguishes them each with one of the smeared betel vine leaves
and wafts the smoke towards the candidate. He next rekindles the
tapers for the second and the third time repeating the same process.
During the wian thian ceremony from start to finish the orchestra
plays its tunes throughout with appropriate melodies,1 and there
are three cheers of ho hiu at intervals.



1. Enquiries have frequently been made as to whether the cor-
rect way of lifting the waving lights is in an inward or outward direc-
tion. Evidently the ritual waving of lights is to conjure in the air a
sort of magic circle. Whether one does it in either way, one always
has a complete imaginary circle. To do it in an inward directions in a
clock-wise circle is deemed auspicious on all propitious occasions. Com-
pare "arati" the waving of lights of the Hindus before an image or a
person as a protection against evil eyes.

The extinguishing of the .lights with betel-vine leaves smeared
with scented unguents is undoubtedly a purification rite by driving
odorous smokes towards the candidate. Why is a betel-vine leaf used
as an agent in such a process. Perhaps in the old days a betel tray
(with betel nuts, betel leaves, lime paste, etc.) formed part of the bai
si articles, but things were missed out in latter times, only of the
betel-vine leaves which are used as scores for they are there conve-
niently at hand. Chewing of betel nut (which of course includes other
ingrediants too) was prevalent with past generations. Every Thai
home used to have at least one betel tray. The tray contained many
small receptacles for storing betel nuts, leaves and other ingredients.
They are made either of precious metals or of a baser kind or even in
wood, according to the status and rank of the owner. The king has two
formal betel trays made of pure gold, one for use in a state function
and another for his majesty's private use. These royal betel trays are
still symbolically in use in traditional grand state functions. Proper
Thai etiquette required the host to serve a guest first with a betel
tray as a symbol of respect and regard. After a meal, betel was
chewed in the same manner as one smokes a cigarette. If a girl
handed you a mouthful of betel for no particular reason, it means
that she had a kind feeling toward you.






                       THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                         149


After tbe waving of lights comes to an end, the officiant
anoints the candidate. He does it with his right-hand index finger
which wears a phirot ring (แหวนพิรอด)1 or a nophakao ring. 2
(แหวนนพเก้า) He touches lightly the unguents as left on the betel
leaves with the tip of his afore-said finger and anoints the candidate.
If the candidate is a male, a mystic figure in a clock-wise direction
thus is inscribed on the area between the eye-brows, if the can-
didate is a female a mystic figure in the opposite direction thus is
inscribed. Such figures are called unalom (อุณาโลม)3 in certain
cases both hands of the candidate are also anointed on the palms of
the hands.

After the anointing, comes the feast of the khwan. The
officiant takes the spoon on the table which he moves three times
up and down in the air near the bai si. This is a make-believe
that he has taken some food and dainties from the bai si with
the spoon, and mixed them in the commit. He then dips into the


               1. Phirot is a ring made from a cloth inscribed with mystic

figures and characters called pha yan (ผ้ายันต์) intertwined in a shape

of certain kinds of magic knots. It is used as a talisman.

              2. Nophakao is a ring set with nine variegated coloured gems
They are diamond, ruby, emerald, topaz (บุษราคำ), garnet (โกเมน), sap-
phire (นิล), moonstone (มุกดาหาร), zircon (เพทาย) and cat's-eye (ไพฑูรย์).
It is used also as a talisman. The Hindus deem the index finger and
also the middle finger as unlucky. They never utilize either of the two
fingers in anointing, but use the ring finger only. King Vajiravudh and
some high Thai princes utilize the thumb. Sometimes by necessity, in
the case of cutting a top-knot in the tonsure ceremony, one cannot
manipulate the scissors with other fingers than the thumb and index
finger. Hence the manipulator has to wear either a phirot or a nophakao
ring to counter-act any evil that may occur to the candidate".
             3. Unalom in its original meaning is a tuft of twisted hair
which grows on the forehead at a place between the eyebrows. It is
one of the thirty-two characteristic marks of the Lord Buddha which
may often be seen as a relief circular dot which adorned the forehead
of a Buddha image. The unalom is undoubtedly a symbol of Agni, the
Vedic god of fire.






150                                    Phya Anuman Rajadhon


coconut and draws a spoonful of its water, presuming the food and
dainties are also there in the spoon which he feeds to the candidate
in simulation. Sometimes a small helping of dainties is put in
reality. Such a simulation is usually performed in the case of a
child candidate. If the candidate is a baby the spoon with coconut
water is turned round and round over the baby's mouth only. I
have never seen an adult candidate receive such treatment, nor has
the person taken any of the khwan food either real or imaginary.
Perhaps the partaking of khwan food was a real thing in the old
days. In case the candidate is a young baby it is fed thrice with
plain tepid water provided for the purpose. Then follows the
partaking of the khwan egg and cooked rice in the dish-border
bai si, imaginary of course. It is a belief that the khwan being
thus feasted will satisfactorily stay with its owner.


Tying the khwan is the next ceremony. Three strands of
consecrated unspun cotton threads are entwined into one and
knotted at intervals with three fast-knots. The thread is passed
thrice under either arm of the candidate, and then tied in a fast-
knot on either wrist. Sometime the thread is passed also round
each leg first, then on the arms and the head of the candidate.
During the tying process the officiant mumbles certain incantations.
Perhaps he exhorts the khwan with the usual well-known words.
" Oh ! Khwan, abide with the body ", or he may use a Pali stanza of
his own selection to enhance the sacredness. Usually, the arms are
lightly brushed lengthwise three times with the thread or the wrists
are brushed three times with the tip of the thread which is then
burned and pinched off before tying. The brushing process is no
doubt the taking away from the candidate of all impurities and
undesirable things which cling on the tip of the thread. Hence the
burning and pinching off. Sometimes the candidate's ankles
receive the same treatment too, and sometimes the tying of the
khwan is done before the anointing and the feast of the khwan
in the reverse order to what was previously described. Such
differences as described are due to different schools as followed by








                                THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                       151


the officiants. (Compare the process of investiture with the sacred
thread of the twice-born Hindus as a second spiritual rebirth).

After the tying of the khivan by the officiant, relatives and
friends may tie the wrists of the candidate with additional threads
as provided in the dish-border bal si. Then gifts are presented
to the candidate by the binders. In case of the tham khwan
ceremony of a bride and a bridegroom as performed in rural areas
of Central Thailand in particular, gifts of money are the presents
made by relatives and friends. Here one may understand how the
words tham khivan and khong khivan ( gifts ) developed from their
original meanings of a " making of khivan " and a " khwan gift "
to that of the present day meanings of a compensation for an injury
done and a gift in general in the Thai language. The orchestra as
provided for the occasion plays its melodies at intervals through-
out the ceremonies of the anointing, the feast and the tying of the

The tham khwan ceremony is now concluded. The bundle
of three young banana leaves and brocade, or in other word the
" khwan wrapper cloth " is brought home and placed in the bed
of the candidate or in other suitable places for three days and then
disposed of (minus the brocade of course). The candidate, usually
a child, has to embrace tightly the " khivan wrapper cloth " during
sleep, evidently as a communion with the khwan. The banana
leaves with flowers and other perishable decorations on the bai si
are disposed by floating them in a running stream. The remains of
eatables in the bai si, if they are now uneatable for human con-
sumption, are disposed of by depositing them on banana leaves at
an out-of-way place as oblations to the common phi or spirits.


What about the boiled pig's head with its four legs and tail
as previously mentioned? It is perhaps meant also as the khwans
delicious food, and eaten afterward by the people after the ceremo-
ny. A pig's head with its four legs and a tail is a favourite offering
to tutelary phis. It is supposed to be the whole pig, but in fact








152                               Phya Anuman Rajadhon


the best part of the pig is not there. When one makes a vow to a
phis promising a pig as a thank-offering if the request is granted,
one will, after the request is fulfilled, offer such a pig. It is, of
course, very easy to hoodwink a phi.



The royal bai si with its accessories has already been des-
cribed in chapter 4. Now we come to the royal tham khwan

Three priests of brahmin extraction preside over the three
bai si. The chief priest or purohita stands in the middle near the
crystal bai si. His two assistants stand on either side, one near
the gold bai si on the right, and the other one near the silver
bai si on the left of the candidate. Behind these three stand
another set of two brahmins each holding a conch shell. Yet
again, behind them, there is another set of brahmins in equal num-
ber each holding a bandoh-tabor ( Pali pataha-a small hourglass-
shaped drum beaten by a lead ball on a string attached to a peg
projecting from its middle). If a ceremony of waving the lights is
to be performed in a throne hall, red cloths are laid over the carpets
along the route of the waving lights. This is to prevent molten wax
from the lighted tapers dropping and spoiling the carpet. The in-
vited officials who will participate in the ceremony stand at the
borders of the red cloths in a circle. The three brahmin priests in
the front row initiate the rite by anointing the tapers with unguents.
A "victory candle" is now lighted from a sacred fire. The brahmin
priest in the middle initiates the lighting of tapers from the fire of
the "victory candle" followed in the same process by the other two
brahmin priests on the left and right of the middle man. When the
first light of the tapers is lit, the brahmin priests in the two hind
rows of two each blow conch shells, the royal classical orchestra
somewhere starts playing. When lighted tapers on taper-holders
have all been handed to the next man standing on the left, who
waves the lights in a prescribed manner as stated in the last chapter,
the blowing of conch shell is stopped but begins again when the







                             THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                         153


tapers in succession complete a round. A person may mark each
round of the waving lights from the blowing of conch shells. The
playing of the " bandoh-tabors " and the orchestra continue from
start to finish of the rite without a stop.


The waving of lights is of two kinds. The major one is in five
rounds, and the minor one is in three rounds. The latter has no
"khwan wrapper", while the former has three young banana leaves
and a brocade wrapped round the bai, si. Brocades as used in the
three bai si are of three different colours. The crystal bai si
has a white brocade, the gold bai si a yellow brocade and the silver
bai si, a green brocade as wrappers. After the waving of lights
completes its three rounds, the brahmin priest uncovers the wrappers
of the three bai si and gives them to the candidate to be held in
the hands. If there are more candidates than one, the wrappers
are distributed evenly to them. The waving of lights is usually
in three rounds, five rounds is rarely performed. As already
mentioned ( chapter 4 ) there are five taper-holders fixed each
to the triplet of metal bowls. When the waving of lights com-
pletes its prescribed three or five rounds, the brahmin priest in
the middle takes successively, whichever comes to hand first, the
first of the five taper-holders, which he sticks in the metal bowl in
front of him; but before doing so, he detaches all the lighted tapers
from the second to the fifth taper-holders and adds all these to
the lighted ones of the first taper-holder. The second and third
brahmin priests repeat a similar process with the succeeding tapers.
Then the three brahmin priests perform the rite of extinguishing
the flames from the tapers with layer of betel leaves smeared with
unguents, and waft the odorous smokes toward the candidate. After
this the three brahmin priests perform the rite of tying the khwan
with consecrated threads. One of them brings a "victory candle"
and a number of the threads to the candidate. He takes one thread
and brushes it lightly in an outward direction on the candidate's
wrist once only, and then burns it at the "victory candle". He takes
another thread which he this time brushes once only in an inward
direction, and then ties it to the candidate's wrist. (This is logically







154                                    Phya Anuman Rajadhon


better than the pinching of the tip of a thread after burning it and
binding the same thread on the wrist as previously described). He
repeats the same process on the other wrist. Another brahmin
priest takes a spoon and dips it in the air near the three bai si in
the same manner as described on the feast of the khivan in the
previous chapter. The third brahmin priest anoints the candidate.
Here ends the brahminical rite.

Next is the royal rite of anointing by the king. His Majesty
pours lustral water from a decorated conch shell into the hands held
in a worshipful attitude by the candidate. If the candidate is of
royal blood lustral water is poured by the King from a rare conch
shell with a spiral in a clock-wise direction belonging to the first
King of the Chakri Dynasty. Such a royal tham khwan ceremony
is called somphot (สมโภช) in Thai. It is originally a Pali word
meaning a feast or the partaking of food togther, but its current use
in the Thai language is for "celebration" and is confined to the
king's celebrations only. If a somphot is of a grand style which
has a young high prince or princess as a candidate in the tham
ceremony in a royal tonsure ceremony, for instance, the
King may graciously condescend to permit certain high-ranking
princes and selected dignitaries to anoint the royal candidate too.
A high ranking prince may anoint the candidate on the palms of his
hands, and a high-ranking dignitary on the instep (หลังเท้า) while the
King himself anoints the candidate on his forehead. The blowing
of conch shells by the brahmin priests in the hind row commences
when the waving of lights completes the prescribed rounds and
continues to the end of the tham khwan ceremony. When the
blowing of conch shells stops, the playing of "bandoh-tabor" and the
orchestra stop too. Here ends the royal tham khwan ceremony.

One will notice that the dish-border bai si and the major
tiered bai si of the people do not come into the royal ceremony.
The two kinds of bai si as above are there in the ceremonial hall
too, but they are kept apart, only the crystal, the gold and the silver
bai si are used. This means that the dish-border bai si is per-
haps the oldest and of the three kinds, next comes the tiered





                            THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                           155


major bai si in its development, and the crystal, gold and silver
ones are later innovations and confined only to the royal ceremony.
The major tiered bai si is nothing more than many dishes or
plates with pedestals placed one upon another in a graduated pyra-
mid, in order to save space when there are many dishes of food and
other eatables to be displayed for the khwan feast. This may be
inferred from either the crystal, gold or silver bai si which con-
sisted of many graduated plates placed one upon the other on pedes-
tal and filled with food and sweetmeats. No nom meo or cat's
breasts or other decorations made of banana leaves are included in
the latter kind of bai si1

I may add here as an addition to the end of this chapter a
tham khwan ceremony or celebration for a Buddha image which
is newly cast and to be sent abroad as a present to a certain Bud-
dhist Institution. I was one of the invited guests at such a ceremony
and here are the facts I have taken note of.

The Buddha image is placed on a table in the middle of the
room surrounded by articles such as trays of flowers, tapers and in-
cense sticks as befitting offerings. In front of the Buddha image
stands a major bai si in five tiers, but instead of eatables placed
in each tier of the bai si they are filled with flowers. There are
also small tables in front of the major bai si on one of which
stands a neillo silver bowl filled with rice in which five lenti-
cular holders with three tapers each are fixed. Nearby stands a
dish-border bai si on another small table flanked on either side
by two tapers on pedestals. There are the necessary accessories ap-
pertaining to the tham khwan ceremony, such as the unguents,
tally betel leaves and a young coconut pared of its outer husk but
with the top not cut open. There are three brahmin priests acting


1. I have witnessed the royal tham khwan ceremony once or
twice only. I have, in fact, had the opportunity to participate once in
the royal rite of waving the lights, but have never witnessed the cere-
mony in its entirety, nor have I been able to read any text relating to
it. What I have written the royal tham khwan ceremony as des-
cribed above, was through the kindness of a high ranking prince, my
revered mentor, who took pains to note for me what he had remem-









156                                   Phya Anuman Rajadhon


as officiants. The middle one who acts as a head is in a ceremonial
cloak clad in such a way which leaves his right shoulder bared.
The other two a little way behind him hold one a " bandoh-tabor "
and the other a conch shell.

The head brahmin priest commences the ceremony by light-
ing the tapers in the five lenticular holders and proceeds in the same
manner as for the waving of lights as previously described. One of
the brahmin assistants blows the conch shell and the others plays
the " bandoh-tabor " and the orchestra plays throughout the cere-
mony. The blowing of the conch shell is done at the commencement
of the rite only, and does not continue through like the " bandoh-
tabor" and the orchestra. Probably the conch shell brahmin blower
is either negligent or too lazy to continue blowing. The head
brahmin before extinguishing the tapers at the completed rounds,
takes the two lighted tapers from the dish-border bai si, and adds
them to the waving light tapers. He then wafts the smokes toward
the Buddha image. There are also three cheers of ho hiu at in-
tervals through the ceremony. The head brahmin then falls on his
knees worshipping the Buddha image in the prescribed attitute
thrice. Next he anoints the base of the Buddha image with three
dots in a horizontal row with his right hand index finger. The
finger as I can remember does not wear a phirot or a nophakao
ring. He next anoints the palms of the host's hand in a similar
manner. There is no feast of the khivan logically on such an
occasion. Most of the actions done in the ceremony are similar to
the royal tham khwan ceremony.



The tham khwan ceremony as performed in other areas
does not essentially differ much to what is performed in Central
Thailand as described in the preceeding chapters. In the North
and North-East they have the phook khwan or the tying of the
khwan and the feast of the khwan in their ceremony of tham
but, as known, there is no ivien thian or the waving of
lights in their tradition. They have a tham khwan ceremony per-







                             THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                        157


formed on distinguished persons who are strangers in their midst as
a gesture of goodwill and regard of respect to their honoured guests.
They have also bai si as the major part of the ceremony-.

Tham Khwan Ceremony in the North ( Chiengmai )

The bai si of Chiengmai consists of seven cones made of
banana leaves, somewhat like the cat's breasts bai si but with six
pointed tips to each of the cones. One of the cones is of a bigger
size relative to the other six. The big size cone may be compared
to the kruai and the smaller ones to that of the cat's breasts bai
si of Central Thailand. The big cone is placed in the same man-
ner as the kruai in the middle of a metal tray with pedestal with
the other six cones surrounding it. These cones are decorated with
flowers. There are also in the tray two balls of cooked glutinous
rice, two boiled eggs, of either a hen or a duck, two pieces of ripe
banana (or more if desired, but they should always be in even
numbers), a cup of water, mouthfuls of miang (fermented tea
mixed with salt and other ingredients used for chewing purpose),
two mouthfuls of betel-nut and leaf (or more in even numbers), two
cheroots or cigarettes, one small ball of unspun cotton thread which
has already been consecrated. All these are placed in the bai si
tray. There may be a boiled chicken, or sometime also a boiled pig's
head, as a complementary offering placed in a separate tray. The
bai si tray is set on top of another tray. More trays with pedes-
tals may be added to form a storeyed bai si to the number as

When a ceremony is to be performed, the bai si with its
accessories is brought into a room and placed before the candidate.
An old man experienced in the lore is engaged for the purpose. He
initiates the ceremony by taking the ball of unspun cotton thread as
provided in the bai si and with the tip end of the thread he
brushes, in a formal manner, both hands of the candidate who, by
now, sits in a worshipping attitude. The officiant then burns the tip
end of the thread and pinches it off. He then binds, in two rounds,
the candidate's wrists' first the left and then the right wrist. Every-
time when the binding of either wrist is completed, he pinches off a






158                                    Phya Anuman Rajadhon


thread from the ball and simultaneously says a formal wish thus:
"May it (the evil) fall along and off the tip of the little finger,
may it ooze along and drop from the tip of hands" (ขอให้ตกไป
ตามก้อย ขอให้ย้อยไปตามปลายมือ). While binding the wrists the officiant
says "to tie the left hand is to have the khwan come, to tie the
right hand is to let the khwan stay" (ผูกมือซ้ายให้ขวัญมา ผูกมือขวาให้ขวัญอยู่).

One will notice that the binding of unspun cotton thread to
the wrist is severed from the ball only after the ceremonial binding,
while in Bangkok the thread is cut in appropriate length ready for

After the binding of hands (มัดมือ) as called in the North,
comes the ceremonial feast of the khwan. Little bits of eatables
of the bai si are partaken by the candidate in a simulated manner.
The bai si with its accessories, except the boiled chicken or the
pig's head, is kept after the ceremony in the candidate's bed room
at most no more than two days and then disposed of. The North
call the tham khwan ceremony the "ceremony of binding hands"
only. The waving and aspersion of lights is not in the ceremony,
neither is the drinking of coconut water, as far as is known.

The "ceremony of binding hands" is performed on a guest
who is a stranger. If the stranger is a distinguished personage,
there may be a parade or procession and ceremonial dance by a bevy
of girls in honour of the guest.

I have never had an opportunity to withness the tham khwan
ceremony as performed in the North, and neither have I read any
book written on the subject. The above description of the ceremony
is, therefore, based from information as supplied by an informant
and verified in certain items from other people who are natives of
that locality. It is more or less difficult to get information on a
traditional subject from a person who is not a specialist or an in-
terested person. Thus my informant, though an aged lady of the
North, sometimes in answer to questions put to her, could not. give me
satisfactory answers for the simple reason that she could not remem-
ber, especially the sayings of the officiant. Hence my description
of the "khwan ceremony " in the North is relatively a short one and
must be read in the light of the above observations,











                             THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                        159


The Tham Khwan Ceremony After a Funeral at Pre Province.

When coming back after a cremation, all persons participating
in the service have to attend the tham khivan ceremony at the
house of the mourners. A ball of unspun cotton thread, one mouthful
of betel nut and leaf, a cigarette, two balls of cooked glutinous rice,
a boiled hen's egg, a piece of khao torn kluay (ข้าวต้มกล้วย) a ripe
banana enclosed by glutinous rice which is again wrapped with
banana leaves and boiled, a piece of ripe banana, a taper, an incense
stick and a flower which form a set, a set of clothing as worn and
belonging to the dead man just cremated are provided by the
mourners and placed in a lacquer bowl. The officiant brings with
him a small net with a handle. This he places across the bowl.
Each candidate, one at a time, puts his or her right hand at the rim
of the bowl. The officiant takes the ball of unspun cotton thread
which he ties to the wrists of the candidate in the manner as has
previously been described. He repeats the same process to all the
remaining candidates. He then over-turns the bowl for a while, and
reverses it to its former position. During the tying of the wrists he
recites certain words calling back the khwan. The wording of
the recitation I have with me is a short one of about eight lines full
of jumbled words both of Pali and Thai. After the ceremony the
officiant or rather a medicine man departs taking with him his net,
while the bowl and the rest of things are disposed off in a suitable


             This ceremony may safely be generalized to other parts of the
Northern Area, and perhaps to other peoples as well beyond that
area in the northerly direction. The Lahu or Musso, a Thibetan-
Burman tribe, in the Eastern Shan States have a similar ceremony.
After returning from a funeral, their medicine man will perform the
ceremony of tying the wrists with unspun cotton threads of persons
who have participated in the funeral service. The medicine man
will say during the tying of the wrist some formal words thus :
" Oh khwan ! do return. Do not stay with the dead in the dead land.


1. The information was gathered by my wife who participated
in the ceremony in 1947.







160                                    Phya Anuman Rajadhon


In that land there is no food, no clothing and no place to live. There
are only ills and unhappiness. Do stay in the land of the living
where there are joy and happiness. Oh khwan ! do return."1
( Compare the distribution of red silk threads to participants in a
Southern Chinese funeral in Bangkok ).



In the North-East of Thailand the tham khwan, ceremony is
performed :

When a person returns home after a long absence on trade or
expedition of war; when he suffers a fright through seeing a phi
or ghost; is scared by an elephant or experiences a thunder-clap;
when he recovers from a long illness during which he has made a
vow to a spirit promising a thank-offering if he recovers: when he
recovers from a fall from a tree, from having nearly drowned when
a boat capsized; from being kicked by a horse, horned by a buffalo,
or crushed by a boa snake.2 When a person is elevated in rank.
When he is critically ill, when he marries, when he has a house
warming, when he is ordained, when it is prophesied by an astrologer
that his days are numbered, when a distinguished person his supe-
rior or master visits his home, when he becomes a father.3

Before we come to the ceremony of tham khwan a descrip-
tion of their bai, si which is called ba si is necessary, for it
differs from the bai si, in certain details. The tham khivan
ceremony is called pit-thee su khwan (พิธีสู่ขวัญ) or the ceremony
of the welcoming of the khwan. What is written in this chapter


              1. See J.H. Telford, Animism in Keng Tung State, J.B.R.S. Vol.
XXXVII. part II, p. 204.
              2. From an old North-East hook entitled " Thamada Sorn Lok "
(ธรรมดาสอนโลก) or a teaching on a worldly lore as kindly supplied by
Nai Thong Chuivachat (นายทอง ชัยชาติ)

              3. From " Prapheni Boran Thai Isan (ประเพณีโบราณไทยอิสาณ) or

 Ancient Customs of the North-Eastern Thai by a Monk Phra Maha

Preecha Parinyano (พระมหาปรีชา ปริญญาโน) Bangkok, 1954.






                           THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                 161


may be generalized also to the Laos, though perhaps there may be

some variants due to local and regional aspects.l

The North-Eastern bai si is of two kinds i.e. the ba si

(บาศรี) and the mak bens (หมากแบง) the five articles. The latter

is also called kruang ha pha khivan (เครื่องห้าพาขวัญ) = the five
articles of khwans tray). The ba si and the mak beng may be
compared to the major tiered bai si and the dish border bai si of
Central Thailand.

The ba si. This consists of a large size metal tray with
pedestal. In the middle of it are placed in five circlets of the cat's
breast bai si, similar to that of the major bai si of Central
Thailand, surmounted one upon another. Sometime there is a wooden
structure supporting these surmounted circlets of bai si, which
are decorated with flowers. The following articles, fruits and
sweetmeats, are placed in the tray around the bai si circlets; four
pairs of beeswax tapers, a pair or two of knives, or a penknife or a
razor-like knife with handles made of gold, silver, ivory or other
valuable materials, four pieces of khao torn kluay (ข้าวต้มกล้วย - a
domestic sweetmeat made of ripe bananas covered with glutinous
rice and wrapped with banana leaves and boiled), four ripe bananas
or other kinds of sweetmeats which have to be in pairs, pieces of
unspun cotton thread cut to a length of a hand span in size. In the
tray there is also jewellery made of silver, gold and precious stones.
(Compare the crystal, the gold and the silver bai-si of the royal bai
si). Sometime the ba si is topped by a mak beng.

               Mak beng. Five cones made of banana leaves in the same
manner as the cat's breast bai si of Central Thailand and decorated
at the tops with flowers, are placed in the middle of a large size tray.
In the tray there are also other cones made of banana leaves, five in
number, each contains a pair of tapers, incense sticks and flowers.
A set of used clothing belonging to the candidate of the khwan
ceremony is placed in another large size tray. The tray of mak
beng is then placed on it. Around the pedestal of the mak beng


1. See the Baci by Thao Nyouy Abhai in the " Kingdom of Laos",
p. 128-131, France-Asie, Saigon, 1959.






162                                 Phya Anuman Rajadhon


tray are a bottle of spirituous liquor, a boiled hen's egg in a shell,
one or two pairs of khao torn kluay sweetmeat, one ball of boiled
glutinous rice, a cluster of ripe bananas, two young coconuts, one
cup of uncooked glutinous rice, one small leaf cup of popped rice,
one cup of scented water (made of khamin water (curcuma do-
mestica, Zingeberaceae ) and sompoi water ( Acacia concinna, Legu-
minosae ) mixed together and scented by placing in it, a few of
frangipani flowers, a leaf cup of betel nuts and leaves for chewing
and a number of local made cigarettes, a small skein of unspun cot-
ton thread placed in a small tray, and there are also in it five pieces
or more of such threads cut in the length of a hand span. Some-
time this mak beng instead of being made with banana leaves is
made of three or five trays with pedestals surmounted one upon
another. Food and sweetmeats are placed in these trays, but the
top one is exclusively filled with boiled glutinous rice with a boiled
hen's egg as the top1

Here I may add as a parenthesis that before the introduc-
tion of soap, sompoi pod (Acacia concinna) and kaffir lime (Citrus
hytrix) were used as a detergent particularly for washing the hair.
A yellow powder of khamin ( curcuma domestica ) was rubbed on
ones face and body after washing to preserve the skin and enhance
a golden complexion which was admired in the olden days but not


When the time arrives for the performance of su khwan, as
it is called in the North-East, the ba si is brought into the middle
of a room or a temporary shelter provided for the purpose. Both the
master of ceremonies or officiant and the candidate or candidates sit
in an appropriate attitude facing a point of the compass as deter-
mined by astrological knowledge usually by the officiant, surrounded


1. I have had no opportunity to see myself the ba si tham khwan
ceremony. For what has been written here I have relied on informa-
tion kindly supplied by friends who have been in the North-East. for a
number of years or who are the natives of that area. My thanks are
due to them, particularly to my friend Phya Rajasena, who had been a
governor in many provinces of that area and to Nai Thong Chaiyachart
a North-Easterner by birth.









                             THE KHWAN AND ITS CEREMONIES                     163


by relatives and friends who are participating in the ceremony.
When the auspicious moment arrives the officiant initiates the
ceremony by announcing the duty he is going to perform. He
then lights three tapers and three incense sticks. The light and
smoke of which he waves above the head of the candidate, and stricks
the tapers and incense sticks in the ba si or khwan s tray after
the waving. He now sits in a worshipping attitude with his hands
raised, carefully and reverently holding an old style book a little
above the breast, in the same manner as a monk reads his sermon from
a palm-leaf book. The book he holds carefully is a text on the in-
vocation of the khwan. There are many versions of this text which
form part of the people's oral literature. The officiant reads, or
recites by heart if he can, the text. From the start to the end of the
invocation of the khwan, the candidate must hold the edge of the
bai si tray with his right hand. He cannot release his hold until
the reading of the text comes to an end.

When the officiant has finished his invocation of the khwan,
he, or the parents of the candidate, puts a boiled hen's egg (un-
shelled) and a ball of cooked glutinous rice about the same size as
the egg into the right-hand palm of the candidate. The candidate
now, instead of holding the edge of the ba si tray, has to lean on
it with the back of his right hand, and have his left hand hold his
right arm just below the elbow. The parents and other relatives
with their right hands hold the candidate's right arm. If there is
a large number of candidate's relatives, every one has to repeat the
same process alternately and cannot be left out before the ceremony

of tying the wrist can begin.

The initiation of tying the wrist is done by an elder monk.
If the candidate is a woman the monk will delegate a layman to act
for him. Then the officiant and the parents of the candidate and
others in seniority of age or rank will tie the candidate's wrist. The
tier picks up with his right hand two pieces of unspun cotton thread
as provided in the ba si tray. He makes a fast knot in the middle
of both of the two threads, and then holding them at the knot he
brushes with the ends of the threads up and down a number of times







164                                       Phya Anuman Rajadhon


the right hand wrist of the candidate, who still holds in his palm of
the right hand a hen's egg and a ball of cooked glutinous rice. While
brushing the wrist with the ends of the unspun cotton threads the
tier mutters a wish as to the welfare of the candidate. The tier then
smoothes the threads, as a matter of course, and parts the threads
in the middle two by two and then ties the right wrist by passing
the threads around the wrist in a clock-wise direction. In tying, the
two threads must be fastened in one knot. The tier mutters a wish
by saying, "Oh khwan! come and stay in the body".

After the tying of the wrist the boiled hen's egg of the
candidate is shelled. If the white of the egg is pure white and in
a perfect state it is a sign that the candidate will be lucky in all his
undertakings. If the egg turns out otherwise, it is a sign that the
candidate's lot will be an unlucky one. Some advice and exhorta-
tions will be given by the elders as a forewarning to the candidate.
Then follows a repast and celebration among the participants. After
the ceremony any materials of the ba si such as tapers and in-
cense sticks are presented to a monk, the unspun cotton threads
which remain are kept for future use or presented to the monk.
Spirituous liquor, food, bananas and sweetmeats which are still in
good condition are kept for consumption. It is a belief that sweet-
meats belonging to the ba si if partaken by a child, who suffers
from a certain chronic disease characterized by thin arms and legs
but enlarged abdomen (โรคตานขโมย), the child will be cured.











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