Supernatural Beliefs and Practices in Chiengmai. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Sanguan Chotisukharat   

SANGUAN CHOTISUKHARAT. SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRATICES IN CHIENGMAI. JSS. VOL.59 (pt.1) 1971. p.211-231.

 

 

         SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

                                               

                                              IN CHIENGMAI

                                                          by

                                       Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

                                                 สงวน โชติสุขรัตน์

(Translation from ประเพณี และ วัฒนธรรมของเมืองเหนือ and Introduction
 

by Gehan Wijeyewardene)1

Introduction

            Mr. Sanguan Chotisukharat is a distinguished religious scholar,
historian and  journalist, well  known  to  everyone  in  Chiengmai. He
has written extensively on the culture  of  North  Thailand  and  these
five papers are offered in translation so that his work may be  brought
to the notice of those who either read no Thai or have no easy access
to his writing. The five papers  have  in  common  the  fact  that  they
have to do with  the  supernatural-even the  paper  on  courtship. The
belief in supernatural beings and powers is a subject of great interest
in Thailand, and in Chiengmai no  less  than  elsewhere. As in  other
parts of Asia the profusion of beliefs and  practices, their  complexity
and apparent confusion is a matter of great puzzlement to the foreign
anthropologist,and to him the work of a scholar describing the culture
of his own region is an invaluable guide through the intricate maze  of
practice and belief. Though  Mr.  Sanguan  is  not  an  anthropologist
the way in which he sees the  relevance  of  these  customs  for  the
on-going solidarity of the political unit, the family  and  society  as  a
whole,  will   be   very  familiar  to  the  anthropologist. Following   his
comments, it seems to me that any analysis of  Northern  Thai super-
natural beliefs and  practices  has to  begin  with  the  territorial distri-
bution of shrines  and  cults. As in  many  other, if  not  all, provinces,
the focus is the lak myang, central city post. In Chiengmai its natural
position appears to have been at the centre of the old walled city.This

 

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1) The original Thai versions appear in Praphe. ni. lae woatha.na- tha khaung
myatig nya
published  in  พ.ศ. 2505  in  Bangkok  at  the  Odeon  Store. Thai

words are transliterated  according  to  the Mary R. Haas system, with a few
exceptions. Some phonetic symbols have been replaced by combinations of
letters and tones are not identified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

212                                   Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

was the guardian shrine for the entire province.Outside the wall,on
the northeast, is the shrine sya myang. This appears to be the protective
shrine for the city itself. Outside  the  city  the  framework  of   the
system, if system it is, appears to be given by the  village  shrines
(sya baan) and the  monastery  shrines  (sya wat). Finally, at   the
domestic level we find an intriguing  reflection  of   the  city. Within
the bedroom is the shrine which guards the extended family in  the
female line. To the north or east of the house is the outside  shrine
which  could,  primarily, be  the  shrine  of  the  house  itself.   The
evidence on this, however, is not clear.Within this framework is an
almost infinite proliferation of shrines and spirits.

Mr. Sanguan also raises  questions  about  historical  origins.
One question we could ask concerns the lak  myang. It  is  easy  to
assume that it is Shaivite in origin, but both  the  name  and  similar
institutions are reported from the Black and  White  Tai. Though  not
impossible, it is unlikely that these  are  of  Hindu  origin. Of  course
seeing the phallic symbolism of a pillar is not the prerogative of India,
and generally, following the work of Shorto on the origin of  Burmese
rituals, we may have to reconsider the historical bases of Southeast
Asian popular culture. However that may be, it is clear  that  popular
culture of this kind retains great  interest  for historians  as  well  as
anthropologists.

Gehan Wijeyewardene

 

 

 

 

 

  SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI     213

 

I. The Customs of Saw Inthakhin

Before describing the customs, I beg leave to explain  saw
inthakhin
itself. First, saw inthakhin means the central post of the

city, in this case the central post (lak myang) of  Chiengmai. It  is
now situated within the precincts of Wat Cheddi Luang,which was
built during the reign of Prince Saen Myang in the year B.E.  1955
(1421 A.D.). But originally the post is said  to  have  been  in  the
compound of Wat Inthakhin which is now abandoned.It is situated
beside the present Provincial Office, on the southern side.The saw
inthakhin
was moved to Wat Cheddi Luang during the reign of Prince

Kavila. It is made of large bricks, and stands about  1  metre  high
from its pedestal. It stands in the hall  of  the "four mouths",at  the
eastern gate of Wat Cheddi Luang.Prince Kavila moved  the  stone
in B.E. 2343 (1800 A.D.), according to the chronicles. The post  is
the work of ancient Lanna (the old kingdom or  independent  princedom
of Chiengmai. Trans.)
craftsmen, and is venerated as an object of great

power, of prime importance, which has been inherited from ancient
times.

In the past propitiatory offerings were made regularly  each
year. The ceremony was as follows. It was performed at  the  end
of the 8th (northern) lunar month.On the first day of the ceremony,
townsmen, including old men and women, youths and young girls
went together to the wat carrying trays with flowers, incense   and
candles,and silver bowls of water perfumed with flowers.These are
propitiatory offerings. This ceremony must be performed  between
the 13th day of the waning moon of the 8th (northern) lunar month,
and the 8th day of  the  waxing  moon  of  the  9th  month. This is
regular, every year; therefore it is said to "enter in  the  8th  month
and come out in the 9th". This is the practice today, but in ancient
times there used to be native entertainments, such as sau, sword and
other native dances. These too, were propitiatory  offerings  to  the
guardian deity who protected the city.When these ceremonies were
held, sau singers who lived in the city, as well as those who  lived
close by, were bound to come together at saw inthakhin and take turns
at singing as an offering for the increase of merit. If a singer  failed

 

 

 

 

 

214                                     Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

to come, the Prince of Chiengmai might forbid him or her  to  practise
his (her) art for the rest of his (her) life.

Before the first day of the ceremony, some persons take large
baskets and solicit contributions of  vegetables, fish  and  other  food
from the townsfolk, from shops and markets and every house  in  the
city.  Everyone   should   contribute   willingly.  The   food   which  is
collected is offered to the protective deity, the  guardian  spirit (s)  of
the city and to the statues of the two  demons  who  guard  the  saw
inthakhin.
What is left is eaten by the people who come to  the cere-

mony,as those who come from outside the city must stay at the wat.
Besides the offering of food there used  to  be  animal  sacrifices, of

buffaloes, oxen and pigs.

Besides these sacrifices there are ceremonies of spirit possession
when the spirits of the city are invited  to  enter   mediums. Leaders
and officials of the city ask questions about the future fortune of the
city and its inhabitants, whether dangers may be expected,whether
will be enough rain, if rice, fish and food in general will   be  plentiful,
and what rituals should be performed. When the fate of  the  city  is
known, if the future is bad, rituals of a magical kind are likely  to  be
held, to exorcise the evil influences and make them less dangerous.
During the time that the rites of saw inthakhin are held,rain is  likely
to fall continuously-in the past it  was  very  powerful. Besides   this
there is the ritual of prolonging the life of  the  city (syyb chataa).  In
former times this was a very big annual ceremony. It was abandoned
after the last war. Abou   two  or  three  years  ago   the  Chiengmai
Municipal Council arranged to revive the  ceremony.  The  traditional
ceremonies of saw inthakhin must be considered a means of increasing
and demonstrating the solidarity of the citizens  of   Chiengmai,  for
everyone attends to perform the rituals together each day, until  the
end of the ceremonies.

The  history  of   the  erection of saw inthakhin is given in the
Chronicle of the Late Very Reverend Myyn Wuthijanoo of wat Cheddi
Luang :

 

 

 

 

 

     SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIEN       215

 

Long ago, the site of the City of Chiengmai was the site of a
city of the Lawa. The Lawa who lived here were disturbed  by  fierce

spirits, until the whole city was in an uproar.  The  god  Indra  heard
the complaints of  the inhabitants  and  decided  to  help  them. He
told the inhabitants  that  they  should  follow  the  sacred precepts
and pursue the truth, and the city would surely  be  free  of  danger.
When  Indra  saw  that  the  Lawa   were  leading   devout  lives  he
created   a   well  of  silver, a  well  of  gold  and  a  well  of  crystal
within the city, and  let  the  inhabitants  take  from  them  as  they
desired. At that time there were nine clans among the Lawa. When
Indra created the three wells he divided  the  nine  clans  into  three
groups, each of which had the task of looking after one of the wells.
These nine clans were virtually the first set of  multi-millionaires  of
Lannathai, and they gave their city the name  of  Nopburi. Later  on
the Lawa built the city of Suandauk, and lived in that city  in peace
and happiness.The news that the city of Nopburi had wells of silver,
gold and crysta l was  rumoured  in  different  cities. The cities that
heard the rumours raised armies and marched against Nopburi.The
citizens of Nopburi were fearful, and went to a holy man  (rishi) and
asked him to help them defend themselves against the danger.The
rishi informed Indra of the situation. Indra  called  on  the  two Kum-
phan demons to dig up the central saw inthakhin.There were many
saw inthakhin, but  the  one  in  Chiengmai  is t he central one. He
ordered the demons to place the post in the city of Nopburi. Through
the power of the saw inthakhin the warriors of the foreign cities  who
came to seize the three wells were transformed into  traders. The
Lawa divided the silver, gold and crystal, and of their own free will
gave the traders a share.The traders at first followed the rituals of
the Lawa in asking permission before taking any of  the  precious
materials. But later on they behaved uncleanly, and did not follow
the rituals of propitiation to the saw inthakhin and the demons who
guarded it. The demons then took the saw inthakhin and returned
with it to the heavens. The wells of silver,gold and crystal dried up.
Even begging for it did not help, and since then the citizens have been
deprived of this wealth. A Lawa elder,  grieved  by  the  knowledge

 

 

 

 

 

216                                  Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

that the post had been taken back to the heavens, became a rishi and
lived in the forest. He obeyed the holy precepts and meditated  for
two years. One day a monk came out of the forest Himaparn  and
prophesied that the city would fall on evil times, as they no longer
had a saw inthakhin to worship. The Lawa,in their numbers,called
on the monk to help them. He agreed and went to Indra, who said
that the citizens of Nopburi should cast a  large  cauldron, with  a
thickness of 8 inches, two metres (4 sank) in diameter. A hole  4
metres in depth should be dug in which the cauldron was to be placed.
The images of all the animals in the world,a pair of each were to be
sculpted, as well as the images of men  speaking 117 languages. The
images of a pair of elephants, and a pair of horses were also to be
sculpted. All these images were to be put in the cauldron,the caul-
dron closed, and the hole covered with earth. A saw inthakhin was
then to be placed on top of it. Offerings should be made,just as for
the true saw inthakhin. The city would then prosper throughout the
future. The inhabitants followed the instructions,and since then the
city increased in prosperity and the inhabitants lived in  happiness
and comfort. Since then propitiatory  offerings  are  made  to  saw
inthakhin.

          In   relating  this story I have followed the local chronicles. As
to their accuracy in every respect,it is up to the reader to investigate
for himself, for in the writing of chronicles, the supernatural is always
mixed in.

Later on, during the reign of Prince Kavila in Chiengmai, it is
likely that the original saw inthakhin was in a dilapidated  condition,
suffering the effects of age. His Highness therefore had  the  statue
of the giants Kumphan and the rishi made and placed together with
the saw inthakhin. These statues of the demons were  said, in  the
past, to have great power. If anyone defecated near  them, he  was
sure to suffer serious harm. Later  on  the  teacher  Bathoem  Wad-
waenfang felt that the statues were too dangerous and performed a
magical rite to remove their heads  and  replace  them  again. After
this their magical powers disappeared.

This is about as much as is known concerning the saw inthakhin.

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAIL      217

 

                     2. Courting and the placation of Spirits

Courting and the placation of spirits are  customs  of  the  Nor-
thern Thai. Today, in  the  city  and  in  the  more  developed  regions,
these customs are no longer popular. They are found, however, in the
country, outside the city limits in various communes (tambon). There,
these are still respected customs.  Courting  usually  takes  place  at
dusk, when it is cool, after the evening meal.

Youths (num in Thai, baan in Northern Thai) dress up, powder
their faces, comb their hair, and when they are ready go  visiting  the
houses of young girls. The  girls  too, beautify  themselves  and  sit
working in their houses. The  work  they  do  is  for example, rolling
cigarettes, sewing, cutting and stringing betel nut, and weaving, depen-
ding on  the  occupation of  the  particular  village  or  district.  They
sit, killing time until the youths  come  courting  and  "talk them up".
Some girls may pound rice in the yard, but nowadays pounding rice
is very rare in most districts;the small  mechanical  rice  mills  have
taken its place.

When the youths come to the house of the  young  girl,they
will go up  the  steps  and  sit chatting. The parents of  the  girl will
usually allow  them  to  talk  freely. What is  important  is  that  no
disrespect should be shown,nor should the youths'behavior infringe
on the rights of the girl.If this is not respected,  such  behaviour will
certainly not escape retribution. If you  speak  and  behave politely,
when the parents of the girl are pleased, they  will allow you to talk
for as long as you like. But sometimes, if it get too late, the sound
of the clearing of throats and coughing will be heard from  the  bed-
room of the parents who have been lying down and listening. If this
should happen,it is a sign that it is time to leave.If you don't ,worse
will follow, and it is impossible to prophesy if the result  will   be  a
cold or a hot war.

Chatting to girls is usually done in flowery language which is
called kham khrya.

(Sanguan gives an example at this point, first in Northern Thai and then
in Central Thai. Curiously, the translation is different  from  the  original.

 

 

 

 

 

218                                   Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

In Northern Thai the verse has the following sense: 'You are so beautiful,
you put the looking glass to shame. If  you  were any more beautiful you
would be like  the  mother  of  the  Lord  Buddha.' The  Thai  translation,
however, says, 'You are the beautiful daughter of a  beautiful mother. If
you were any more beautiful you would be a goddess.' Trans.)

The young girl will deprecate herself in reply: "The appearance
of your 'younger sister' is not beautiful.  She  looks  like  the  creation
of a ghost, or like  the  chestnut  bittern which  has  alighted  in  the
rice fields."

Young village boys and girls are highly skilled  in  using  this
kind of language, but city boys and girls have lost this skill, for they
are all very 'civilized' now. If you wish  to  see  courting  in  its  tradi-
tional form you must 'invest' in  a  trip  to  the  'outback'  where  you
will see these  customs  which  are  full  of  interest. In  addition  to
kham khrya, long songs known as Khaaw are sung. But for this the
couple must be in love with each other and call each other tua  pau
and tua mae, for at this time when they are in love  phid phii  or  sia
phii
may arise. For  if  the  girl  is  agreeable  and  'petting'  or  more

takes place, they  will  'offend the spirits'  (phid phii or sia phii). They
should go slow about this,as they should know each other's feelings
and intentions. A young man who sees a pretty girl, and talks to her
for the space of a single watch (three hours) cannot phid phii in  that
short space of time. Behaving in  that  manner  is  held  to  be   very
disparaging and very insulting. Such  behaviour  will  bring  dire  con-
sequences on the offender,and there will be no protection for the one
guilty of such offensiveness. The relatives  of  the  girl  are  likely  to
'teach him a good lesson'.

            Phid phii or sia phii cannot be interpreted as bringing about a
marriage; it is  only  a  preliminary. After  phid  phii  and  sia  phii  are
completed according to custom, there still must  be  a  wedding  cere-
mony (kaan tengngaan) or as the Northerners say, the 'feeding of  the
guests (kin khaek). But if the parties  are  very  poor, they  may  only
perform the ritual of sia phii; this is sufficient

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2)นกยางแดง

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI      219

 

There are two forms of phid  phii. When  the   youth   'offends
the spirits' i.e.touches any part of the girl's body-even holding hands
or touching her arm are considered an 'offence'-if the  girl  is   willing
'to share her joy and sorrow with the youth', she will have  her  father
or mother, or relatives go and 'promise', that is, tell the boy's   father
or mother or head of his family, that the boy has  'offended' the girl's
spirits, and arrange for the customary payment to the spirits,and for
the marriage. This  is  known  as  saj  aw,-i.e.  payment  leading  to
marriage.

The other form is known as saj maj aw, i.e.,payment without
marriage. It means that either the youth or the girl is not  willing  to
join their lives together. Sia phii of this type calls  for  a  larger  pay-
ment than the other,for it is very shameful.The greater the intimacy
the greater the shame, and fellow villagers will abuse and gossip about
them throughout the village. Therefore before there  is  any  offence
to the spirits, the young couple should understand each other very
well, so that no misfortune or disgrace may come of it. A  girl  who
has been rejected by a youth after phid phii, or who is  not  looked
after properly as a daughter or wife is censured as being easily moved
and easily fooled. Many girls have been deceived by youths in this
way and have had to leave their homes and live elsewhere.

The ceremony of sia phii or saj phii requires boiled pig's head,
cakes, rice, porridge, flowers, candles and incense, and liquor-some-
times also chicken soup. This depends on the "owner" of the  spirits
(caw phii) i.e. the father and mother of  the  girl. Money, the  cost  of
placating   the   spirits, is  also  usually  paid. There  is  no  specific
amount-it depends  on  the  family  of  the  girl. It  may  be  anything
from 6 to 1000 Baht. These are the payments made by the man's family
to the girl's. On the girl's  side  too  there  may  be offerings made to
the spirits—at the spirit house,which may be in the compound of the
house. If not, there may be a  shelf  in  the  house, in  line  with  the
house post on the side the head is laid when sleeping. The offerings
are made at one of these two places. When the ceremony is finished
the boy's relatives  have  the  right  to  enter  the house of the girl. It
means that they are now united with the girl's family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

220                               Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

After the ceremony of sia phii there is the ceremony of "cros-
sing" the spirits (khwai phii), i.e. the girl's family takes candles and
incense to the spirits of the boy, to inform them that they  are  now
united.

The customs of phid phii and sia phii  must  arise  from  the
understanding and mutual regard between the two families involved
in a marriage-so that  the  two  families  must  be  of  one  mind. If
people have to use threats or use force through complaints  at  the
District Office, then there cannot be good will. Another  thing, phid
phii
does not only involve the touching of  a  girl  as  related  above.

Going into private and forbidden places such as the bedroom, is also
believed to be an offence against the spirits. Therefore those of you
who go visiting girls in the countryside, beware that you do  not  do
anything disrespectful by going into places which are forbidden, as
you will have to propitiate  the  spirits  according  to  custom, even
without having had the opportunity of touching the girl.

These  practices  probably  differ  from place to place. What
has been described are the customs of phid phii and courting in some
districts and communes of Chiengmai province only.

 

                             3. The Dance of the "Ant"3 Ghosts

The dance of the ant (mod) ghosts is a dance performed as a
propitiatory offering to the ancestor spirits. The origin of  the  dance,
to what race of people it belongs, is unknown. There is only  specu-
lation, and the oral evidence of old people still alive. There  are  two
varieties of the dance-the first is the dance of the mod ghosts itself,
the other is the dance of the meng ghosts. They differ only in  very
minor details, e.g. in the mod dance there is no pot of plaa raa (slightly
decomposed pickled fish), while in the meng dance a pot of plaa raa
is offered to the spirits. I do not know if this offering of fish has  any

meaning, for the old people who were asked merely say that it is a
custom that has come down to them since  the  beginning  (of  the
dance). It may be that these people enjoy plaa raa. This is  merely
speculation-in any case it is not the Northern Thai nor the Central

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI    221

 

Thai, but the Northeasterners who like to cat plaa raa. Even  so   it  is
not every household (in the Northeast), but one sees plaa raa on sale
everywhere. Because   of  this  it  is  better  not  to  worry  too  much
about this problem-it can only give one a headache.

The dance of the mod ghosts must be  performed  during  the
months of May and June. The dancers must be of one family (lineage ).
When they have completed the necessary period-in some families it
is three years, in others once a year, and some do not have a specified
period-the ceremony may be held. In the case of  the  third  category,
they hold the celebration in any year in  which  they  feel  they  have
enough money. Sometimes when someone in the family is  ill,  they
must "inform" the ancestor spirits, and they must  perform  the cere-
mony at the same time.When the ceremony is held money must be
spent on feeding and entertaining the relatives who come to perform
the ceremony together.

For the dance it is necessary to prepare a  pavilion (called
phaam in the North) in the compound of the house. Sometimes a
tent may be borrowed. In the pavilion will  be  various offerings—a
pig's head, drink, chicken and liquor, flowers,incense and candles,
cakes and rice porridge—in vessels placed on a ledge, like a wall
shelf but about  a  metre  high, in  the  middle  of  the  pavilion. A
white cloth is hung  in  the  middle  of  the  pavilion, reaching  the
floor. On the day of the ceremony an old woman, the head of  the
family (lineage), leads all her children, nephews,nieces and grand-
children—the whole lineage-makes sacrifices to the ancestors, and
prays for happiness and good fortune in the future  for  the  whole
family, that they may be blessed in their occupations. She lights
incense and candles. This worship must be done at the spirit house.
Those who worship the mod spirits must build a spirit house.This
may be built anywhere in the compound, but in the direction in which
the head is placed while sleeping.After the offerings are made,the
spirit is invoked; the spirit is likely to be referred to as  caw  phau.
For invoking the spirit there must be a medium (tii nang in N. Thai,

khon song in Thai) to perform the rites. When invoking the spirit a
tray of flowers is offered, as is obligatory in all  such  rituals. Whe

 

 

 

 

 

222                                Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

the spirit enters the medium, her appearance changes, for example her
features are distorted. The caw phau will take the liquor  which  is
offered and drink till the medium's eyes are bright  red. Questions
will be asked of the spirit by the relatives. The  medium  refers  to
the relatives as len nauj, little great-grandchildren When the ques-
tions are over the spirit will be asked to  leave  the  medium. After
that there will be dancing;  this  is  an  offering  to  the  spirit. Old
women, members of the family,  must  start  the  dancing. Before
dancing the dancers must go behind the white  screen  in  the  pavilion
and dress themselves up. It is something that makes you dizzy, watch-
ing the dancers go in and out to change their clothes all the  time-if
you close your eyes for a moment they have changed their  clothes.
This and the rhythm of the drums to which they dance-drums which
have been hired-have a  hypnotic   effect. These   loud   drums   are
called tengthing in the north. There are also supporting instruments-a
two-sided drum, a rhythm drum, a xylophone, flutes, Javanese  flutes,
alto-cymbals, and small gongs—for beating out the rhythm. For
those of you who visit the North and wish to see  these  instruments,
they may be seen in any boxing stadium when there is a fight on, for
in the North they are used to encourage the  boxers. In  Central
Thailand a Javanese flute is used for the rhythm when the boxers are
fighting, but in the North the drum is used. It is as if this kind  of
drum provides more inspiration.I do not know its origin.It is used
extensively in funeral processions, but the tune is different.

The musicians play on in the section of the pavilion reserved
for them. The dancers continue dancing, each one who stops being
replaced by another, but all the dancing  is  in  the  same  manner.
While dancing they keep changing their clothes behind the screen in
the pavilion. There is one rule,  however;  those  who  dance  must
belong to the same lineage. In the late afternoon  young  girls  are
also likely to dance. Men do not dance, but it is said that in the past
they used to do various types  of  sword  dance. There  are  sword
dances today as well, but not by men, women dance instead. The
dances do not have very much art about them, they merely  follow
custom.

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI         223

 

Oh ! In the dancing itself there is a  changing  of  clothes  as
well. The dancers prepare different clothes before they begin dancing,
and place them on the side of  the  pavilion. There  are  no  trousers
among these clothes, only sarongs and scarves in the Burmese or Mon
style. I therefore think that these  are  Mon  customs. The  Northern
Thai call the Mon "Meng". Chronicles refer  to  them  as  the  Meng-
khabudr, or Mon, Raman or Taleng, they are  all  the  same  people.
I feel therefore that the dances of the mod and meng spirits must be
Mon customs, but I do not know if among the Mon there are dances
of this kind.

These dances are not sacrificial dances to dangerous  spirits
such as are found among the island and sea peoples  of  the  South,
dancing round a piled-up fire. The  mod  and  meng  dances, as  old
people have told me in conversation,are a means by which believers
make offerings and pay respects to  their  ancestors. They  are  the
spirits of their  forbears,  or  even  their  parents  who  have  died-for
they believe that when the members of the  family  die, their   spirits
(winjaan) will come and   live  together  in  one  place-that  is in  the
spirit house, and everyone must  respect the dead ancestors.Some
people with untroubled countenance, the younger relatives of  some-
one recently deceased, will tell you that the dead person is now living
with caw phau in the spirit house.

At the spirit house, flowers, incense and candles will be offered
everyday   as  a  propitiatory  offering  to  the ancestors. This is better
than the worship of fierce wild spirits.

These ceremonies are still found, but not among every family
in the North-only those who believe in the mod and meng  spirits.
Others who simply believe in the spirits of the ancestors worship
through the offering of pig's head, duck, chicken and alcohol, there is
no dance made as an offering. But this too expresses the  same
worship and respect for the ancestors, only the ritual is  different.

It is from these beliefs that the customs of phid phii and sia
phii have arisen.

 

 

 

 

 

224                                    Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

The spirit dances are likely to be performed from  early  mor-
ning till dusk. The programme is usually as follows : In the morning
there  is  ordinary  dancing. A  little  later  before  noon, there  is  a
"cock-fighting dance". In the afternoon  there  is  the  dance  of  len
sabaa
and the fireworks dance, and at dusk the elephant dance. This

is the end of the dancing. The spirit is asked to return  to  the  spirit
house and the ceremonies are at an end.

 

                                             4. Building a House

Among the customs of the inhabitants of  Lannathai  or  of  the
Northern region of our country, are customs  concerning  the  erection
of the house posts. First of  all  I  shall  describe  the  erection  of  the
posts which are  held  to  be  most  important  in  building  the  house.
There are two of these posts; the first is called the saw mongkhon (the
post of good fortune), the other is called the saw naang (the lady post).
Since ancient times it was believed that if the  correct  rituals  are  not
performed when erecting these posts, the inhabitants of the house will
never have peace or good fortune.

Before describing the erection of the saw mongkhon, the writer
begs leave to say something about the custom of pok  ryan  (the erec-
tion of the house posts). In  the  past  the  Northern  Thai  would  help
each   other   with  great  energy  and  co-operative  spirit, in  a  most
praise-worthy manner. Some  people  were  even  willing  to  sacrifice
time from their own work, without any  thought  of  payment  for  their
labour, or any other kind  of  return. They  believed  that  the  building
of a house necessitated helping each other because it was concerned
with  the  stability  and  durability   of   the   village. This   belief   still
continues.

The erection of the house posts is usually done  at  daybreak.
Because the air is cool and comfortable, and the sun not strong, the
work is no hardship. Before the job is begun the owner  must  go  to
a ritual expert and have him choose a propitious time, either through
consulting the texts, or through divination. Again, the  building  of  a
house should be done during an even-numbered month, e.g. the sixth
or eighth month. The tenth  month  is  believed  to  be  unpropitious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI       225

 

Before the actual erection of the posts the holes for the posts
must be prepared. There are rituals connected with the  diggings  of
the holes as well. Before they are dug the owner  must  consult  the
diviner or scholar about which hole should be dug first (i.e. at  which
cardinal point), and where  the  soil  from  the  hole  should  be  put.
According to ancient tradition it is believed that "if a  house  is  built
in the sixth month or the eighth month, the pole  is  placed  with  its
top towards the north, the hole is dug and the earth deposited in the
south, during the second and twelfth months, the end of the  post  is
placed pointing to the north, the earth deposited in the south, during
the fourth month the top to the south and the earth in the east".

Before the rituals are performed,  the  owner  will  go  to  his
neighbours and ask for help, or his intimates will help, because it is
believed that it is nothing to be ashamed of. On the  contrary, if  the
owner does not inform his neighbours and friends, they will think he
has something to hide. Sometimes they will be annoyed and angry.
But if someone is busy and cannot come,  this  is  not  considered
blameworthy in any way. This helping each other is one of the best
aspects of Northern culture and had been  practised  since  the  be-
ginning.

On the day of the ceremony those who adhere strictly to ancient
tradition  will  make  offerings  to  the  Lord  of  the   Place  (caw thii  or
panjanaak). During  ancient  times  the  Northern  Thai  had  the  belief
that panjanaak (called luang in the North) was a beast which had great
power as the lord of earth and sky, and had the power to bestow  good
fortune   or   danger   and   bad   fortune  on  human  beings. Therefore
before   the  building  of  a  house,  depending  on  the  owner's  beliefs,
offerings may be made to the Lord of the Place and the Earth.

The rituals connected with offerings to panjanaak or caw  phii
are as follows. The central point of the compound is found   by  mea-

suring from the four corners. At this spot a  hole  is  dug,  about  10
inches deep (1 khyb) and 10 inches wide.Into the hole is put a lump
of rice and sweet meats, a little bit  of  each  kind. Then  the  diviner
or teacher will recite the following kathaa :

 

 

 

 

 

 

226                                 Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

com namoo naakkha raachaa mahaa naakkha
rachaa sawaahung nakkha rachaa imatsaming
lookee    vimat    samying    nakalee  suwanna
ratchacataa samaniwaa aakasajjaa  aakataahi
phunchantu sawahung4

When this has been recited three times panjanaak is invited to
partake of the food which has been offered. The hole  is  then  covered
up, and the ceremony is over.

Apart from this there is the ritual of exorcising evil influences
(khyd) from the posts which will  later  be  ritually  erected. The doc-
tor or diviner will prepare a satuang (a rectangular  vessel  made  of
banana trunk about 10 inches wide). He will  then  put  in  rice, fish,
sweet and scented food  of  different kinds, oranges and other  fruit
cigarettes betel nut and  pickled  tea-a little of each. Four of  these
will  be  placed  at  each  of  the cardinal points by the diviner, and
another at the centre of the compound, at the spot where the offering
was made to caw thii as described above.The diviner will then read
propitiatory verses and will use a knife and axe to chip the base of
the post. He takes the chippings and then puts them in the satuang
at the four corners of the house. The s atuang  which  was  at  the

centre of the compound he will float  down  some  waterway. With
this the ritual is complete.

After this the posts may be erected. The saw mongkhon or
primary post (saw ek) must be erected first. Then the saw nang is
erected and then as many other posts as are necessary.

It has already been said that the saw mongkhon forms a pair

with the saw nang. The saw mongkhon must be chosen from tougher
wood than the other posts. It is d ecorated  with  coconuts, banana

_________________________________________________________

4) The Sanskritic form of this mon (montra) is

Om namo Nāgarāja, mahānāgarāja  savāhuṃ  nāgarāja !  imasmin
loke vimasa samam nikhile suvarna râjatra āmanīvā akasaiya akas-
sahi phunjantu savāhuṃ

The Sanskritists I consulted are not entirely sure as to the meaning of
the last line. Perhaps the gloss should read :

"A mon (มนตร์) derived from Sanskrit, which invokes  the  blessing  of
Nagaraja or panjanaak, the Cobra God."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI     227

 

shoots, bunches of bananas, gold and silver paper. A man's cloth  is
tied round the saw mongkhon. The saw nang is also decorated in the
same manner, except that a woman's cloth is tied around it. Besides
white and red cloth are wound around the posts.

Carpenters (salaa) have told the writer that when cutting  these
two posts, in order that the saw mongkhon may be most beneficial and
powerful, and that the power may  not  be  lost, they  must  perform  a
ritual of cutting and  decorating  the  post. For  this  ritual  a  carpenter
must be found who is skilled in his craft, in order that he  may  remove
the evil influence in the post. Before cutting the post  tang  khan  must
be performed according to custom. Tang khan is  a  Northern  custom
which expresses respect for the person who will  perform  the  ritual; it
is similar to the custom of jok khruu, paying respects to one's teacher
as  performed  in  the central  region. Tang  khan  is the same. Things
which are put in the  khan  must  be  prepared. They  are  a  string  of
dried betel nut (these chains are on sale  in  Northern  markets), white
and red cloth, a measure of milled rice, flowers, candles  and  incense,
and one wing (12 satang) in old Thai  one  satang  pieces. Sometimes
it may be  one  rupee, 3  rupees  or  6  rupees. This  depends  on  the
expert, he is the one who decides it. Besides this there is a  bottle  of
liquor, and sometimes there are chicken soup and boiled eggs as well.

When the offerings have been made the carpenter or the expert
(acaan) perform the ritual of cutting the  post  according  to  the  texts.
That is, he speaks an incantation over the axe or knife  which  he  will
use to cut the post. While cutting the post he also says a  kathaa  to
coerce   the  spirit  (lady)  of  the  tree.  When  the  ritual  is  over  the
tree is  made  into  the  saw  mongkhon  without  the  fear  that  there
will   be   any   evil   influence, but   with   the  knowledge  that  it  will
have  a  beneficial  influence  on  the  house   and   its  occupants.  In
ancient times when the saw mongkhon and saw nang were being cut, it
was necessary to find a villager with a name such as  Golden  Crystal,
Silver, Golden Pledge, Constancy, to help carry the post and  to erect
it. This was in order to bring good fortune to the  owner  of  the  house.
Before the post is erected leaves of various kinds are put in and buried
in each hole.  It  is  believed  that  this  is  a  method  of  fortifying  the

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

228                                       Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

house, of bringing prosperity and wealth. These two posts should be
in a straight line opposite each other. The saw mongkhon is  on  the
side the head is placed while sleeping (the second post on the head
side in the bedroom) and the saw  nang  on  the  feet  side,  directly
opposite.

When erecting the posts the saw mongkhon must be erected first,
the saw nang and the other posts afterwards. Each post is likely  to
have cabalistic signs attached to the top. These cabalistic signs are
drawn on white and red cloth, on zinc or silver sheets, depending on
the status of the owner. These are protection against evil influences.
When the posts are all erected, they will  be  tied  round  with  holy
thread. After three or seven days, the objects on the posts may  be
removed.

In ancient times the two posts mongkhon and nang were greatly
respected as things bringing prosperity and protection against  evil.
They had to be looked after and kept clean. No one should  urinate
or do anything dirty near them. Some people  have  a  shelf  in  the
bedroom.On the shelf are placed flowers,candles and incense as a
form  of  worship. If  the  house  falls  down  through  age, or  if  the
owner moves the house to another site, the saw mongkhon and saw nang
must be kept apart. They cannot be used for any other  purpose. If

they are used evil will befall the person or persons concerned.

These customs concerning the two posts are practised by the
people of Lannathai since ancient times, and are held to be part  of
their tradition. Although  in  the  opinion  of  some  modern   groups,
these practices are nonsensical, they do have a value for the believer.
They give him confidence and thereby bring good  fortune, and  also
dispose his mind towards things which are good and beneficial. It is
like the collector of holy talismans, whose belief in the power of  the
Lord Buddha gives him strength, enthusiasm and a good  spirit. The
practices described here have a similar effect.

 

                                             5. Rituals of Healing

The practices called song khrau are one type of magical ritual
of the Northern Thai, which  involve  propitiatory  offerings  to  ward
off misfortune through  worship, and  to  transform  bad  into  good
fortune. These rituals are usually performed when someone is sick

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI        229

 

or faced  with  serious  trouble.  According  to  belief, the  rituals  of
song khrau allow the individual who is ill or in danger to  alleviate  or
escape the misfortune that threatens him. In  the past  these  rituals
were extremely popular, but today they are fast  disappearing. There
are those who still believe and practice  them, but  they  are  mostly
old and traditionalist folk, and those in the countryside far away from
the sights and sounds of city culture.

Moreover not everyone can perform the  rituals. The  man  who
performs them must be an old man who has been a monk, has studied,
obeyed the precepts of and eaten as a monk. He must be a naan, i.e.
one who has left the monkhood. They believe that  one  who  has  not
been initiated into the monkhood cannot be an acaan.People perhaps
feel that learning alone is not  sufficient  to  achieve  that  status. This
necessity for an acaan (learned man) to have the status of  naan  has
come down from  ancient  times. There  is  an  old  saying  that  "it is
not good to have a nauj5 as an acaan and a naan as  a  kae  wad". A
kae wad is a layman who acts as the agent of the monks. The reason
why an ex-monk is not suitable as a kae wad is, according to traditional
belief  , because such  men  are  over-cautious  and  fearful. The  lay
agent must be quick-witted and quick-limbed  to  perform  his  duties
efficiently.

Now that it is understood that the man  performing  the  ritual

must have the spiritual power of a naan, I shall go on to describe the
rituals themselves.When someone is so ill that he has to take to his
bed and all treatment has failed to alleviate his condition, or he  con-
tinues to get worse, the  parents, relatives, husband  or  wife  of the
patient will consult a diviner about  the  fate  of  the  sick  man-what
supernatural being or cause is responsible-and if a ghost or spirit is
responsible, from which direction  has  this evil influence come. The
diviner having consulted his books or other  equipment, will  tell  the
relatives of the sick man whether the sickness has been caused by a
ghost or tree spirit and from where, what propitiatory  rituals  should
be performed and what offerings should be made to lesssen the hos-
tility and anger of the spirit. If these things  are  done  the  sickness

___________________________________________________________

5) One who has left the novitiate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

230                                Sanguan Chotisukharat

 

may be cured. There are many  types  of  propitiation; there  is  the
songkhrau naaraa, song tua coon, song thaen, song thaw thang sit, song
pikajak
and many others. They do not differ very  much  from  each

other. Before any of them tang khan has  to  be  performed  for  the
acaan. The things which are offered to the acaan are betel  nut  and
betel leaf, cigarettes, white and red cloth,and the "teacher's fee"-the
acaan himself will inform the relatives of these. In former  times  the
teacher's fee was from half a win, i.e. 6 satang up to 1, 2, 3, or 4 rupees.
But now the fee has gone up, 3, 6, 12, Baht and so on  in  series. Apart
from the above the offerings to the acaan must include liquor, either
a small beer bottle full or a large one. When the  ceremony  is  over
the acaan will either share it with the others present or he may  not.
This is his right as it is an offering made for his consumption.

When the tang khan has been prepared, the offerings for  the
ritual itself must be prepared. Again, the acaan  will  give  directions
as to what should be included,usually these include small triangular
flags, about two inches wide, made of paper  of  different  colours—
usually   white , red,  black  and  yellow. The  number  and  colours
necessary will be prescribed  by  the  acaan, but  they  are  usually
multiples of three, 3, 6, 9, 12 etc. Why this should be I do not know,
and when asked the only answer people give is that  the  text-books
prescribe it thus.

Besides this, clay figures of humans and animals are used. The
animals are, for example, ox, buffalo, tiger, snake, chicken and  ele-
phant. Also  bananas, sugar  cane, betel   nut,  chillies,  cigarettes,
pickled tea, and cooked rice.Other kinds of food used are curries of
raw and cooked meat, and sweetmeats - a little of each. When it is
song pikajak, i.e. an offering to a demon, there must be raw meat  cut
into little pieces as well. The acaan will then  ask  for  banana  bark
out of which a krathong of size 10 by  24  inches-this  is  about  the
largest-is made. The offerings are put in the krathong or sataung as
it is called in the North. When it is  ready  the  acaan  will  take  the
satuang to a fork or crossroads, or to one of the cardinal points, depend-
ing on where the evil influence comes from.  He  will  spread  a  loin
cloth, light candles and  incense  and  worship  the  ghost  or  spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES IN CHIENGMAI        231

 

concerned, according to custom. He will raise the satuang above his
head and invite or entreat the ghost or protective spirit to receive  the
offering. He then places the satuang on the ground and recites pro-
pitiatory verses from his text book in a loud voice. In this invocation
there is likely to be included the name of the sick man, an  offering
on his behalf and an entreaty to allow him to get well again.  Some-
times if it is a greedy or dangerous spirit, it will be abused and told
that when it eats the offering it should get out and go somewhere else,
and not bother them again. It should take  away  the  bad  influence
which it has brought on the sick man and not  intrude  again  in  the
future.Sometimes forgiveness for any wrong the sick man may have
done is asked—intentional or unintentional. When the ritual  is  over
the satuang is left on the spot for the birds, dogs  and  monkeys  to
divide among themselves. The acaan returns to the patient's  house
for his fee and other offerings. Sometimes he may bind the wrists of
the sick man-it is a means of increasing his strength.

This method of songkhrau is more powerful than others. The
ritual of song thaen comes from the word thien which means  "sky".
The "ancients" believed that the ancestors of all  men  lived  in  the
heavens and were called puuthaen jaa thaen. These beings have the
power to cause sickness  and  various  misfortunes. Offerings  and
sacrifices to them are ways of  asking  forgiveness, of  beseeching
puuthaen jaathaen to remove or lighten punishment. If they  do  not
consent this could mean the death of the sufferer.In my experience
song thaen does not imply that the sufferer is freed of all his misfor-
tunes. In some serious cases the acaan can hardly finish the ritual
before the man is dead. Suffering is more a consequence of fate or
merit (or demerit). Whatever  the  case  may  be  there  are  in the
countryside people who place faith in the rituals of song khrau and
their numbers are not small either.

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