From August 2016 until August 2017, I studied, worked, and lived in Thailand. Although I do not come there anymore regularly, I like to post some stories about this amazing country. Actually, I might look into developing forest therapy in Thailand at a later stage of life, as I know Thai people who are interested in restoring the connection between Thai and the land. Thai have amazing nature, but there are not many trails or other spaces for this connection for especially urban people.
- Thai Way of coping with spirits in broken statues
- Why do Thai Tree Spirits like Red Fanta ?
- the dark wood wide web: prologue
Based on this linguist article published in 2014, “there are 49 categories of ghosts and spirits in Thai. They are classified into a taxonomy of 5 hierarchical classes: unique beginner, life-form, generic, specific, and varietal. There is only one unique beginner term: phii(1) ‘ghost+spirit’ . There are two life-form terms: phii(2) ‘ghost’ and winyaan ‘spirit’ . As for generic ghost terms under life form, there are seven. Thirty three specific ghost terms were found e.g., naa-maa y ‘female spirit of a tree’’, phii-paa ‘forest demon’, preet ‘evil tall spirit’, etc. There are six sub-specific or varietal ghost terms, such as caaw-m-say ‘female banyan tree spirit’ , caaw-m-makhaam ‘female tamarind tree spirit’ , naa-taanii ‘female banana tree spirit’, etc.
It should be noted that Thai people conceive of ghosts as human. Indeed, most types of ghosts have a human shape and some even are human. Thai ghosts are distinguished by their kindness or malevolence, sex, age, dwelling place and the food they take.
Furthermore, it has been found that Thai people have negative attitudes towards ghosts as can be seen from the meanings of ghost terms. They find ghosts frightening, disgusting, and susceptible to bribes or dogged with misfortune as a result of karma. However, ghosts are seen as a means of controlling society.” (Hengsuwan and Prasithrathsint 2014)
The ones that fascinate me are of course the
- thee-phaa-raak or ruk -kha- theewadaa (‘male guardian spirit of a tree’):
A spirit dwelling in a particular tree in the forest who is in charge of protecting trees from being cut by humans.
aa-maay (‘female spirit of a tree’): A female spirit dwelling in any kind of tree, dressed in a white traditional Thai costume. It is believed that she can harm or kill people in cases where her occupied trees are cut without asking for permission or without bribing her.
Apparently the female spirits can be classified in four groups
- caaw-m-say (‘female spirit of a banyan tree’)
- caaw-m-mak haam (‘female spirit of a tamarind tree’)
naa-taanii (‘female spirit of a banana tree’)
- naa-tak hian (‘female spirit of a ta-khian tree’)
However, in my previous post about Thai tree spirits: Why do Thai Tree Spirits like Red Fanta? I wrote that each different female tree spirit wears a different color. Taikan trees in particular, are considered to be holy and are rarely felled. The spirit would become furious and would release a dreadful shriek, making your blood cold. The only ones holy enough to cut down a takian are monks, and they must hold a ceremony requesting Nang Ta-khian’s permission first. It is no coincidence that a chapter I wrote already some time ago for my tree spirit related fiction book has a character with that name, and we get to know her when she and her colleague visit monks in a forest. One year ago, I published a preliminary draft of that chapter here, but I feel I have to dig deeper into the lore of Thai folklore and forests next time I am in Thailand. I wonder how a forest therapy session in a Thai forest would look like … Perhaps a topic for a next blog about Thailand?