Category Archives: Thai Superstitions

Superstitions from Thailand

Here are some more Thai superstitions and old wives tales which have shaped Thai people today.

(1) Do not wear your amulet when you go to the toilet. If you do so it will no longer be sacred.
(2) Do not tap repeatedly with a spoon or chopsticks on a bowl of rice. Because you are inviting a ghost to come and eat with you.
(3) The same goes for the top of the rice cooker. You will upset the rice goddess.
(4) Do not kill yourself. It is a very bad sin.
(5) Do not taste food with a large serving spoon. It will make your child look ugly.
(6) Do not point your finger at a monk. You will lose your finger.
(7) Do not point your finger at a rainbow. It will make your finger fall off.
(8) Do not cut the wood for the stairs with a knife. Because the ghost will make you fall down the stairs.
(9) Do not place a plate on top of another while you are eating. It will make you unable to pay off your debts.
(10) Do not sell a needle in the middle of the night. Your shop will not be profitable.
(11) Do not smell the flowers that you are going to offer to the monk. Something bad will happen to your nose.
(12) Do not say bad things to your parents. It is a really bad sin.
(13) Do not insult or say bad things to a monk. In the next life you will be deaf and dumb.
(14) Do not insult sunshine, wind or rain because mother nature will make something bad happen to you.
(15) Do not let toddlers who cannot talk yet eat fish. It will make their gums bleed.

Source: Translated from “Boran Oo-bai” by Sanom Krutmeuang

Random Thai Superstitions.

Bang Sai Arts and Craft Center

Here are some more Thai superstitions from the past which directly affect Thai life and culture today.

(1) Do not bend down and look between your legs. You will see a ghost.
(2) Do not sweep dirt out of the front entrance. It will make all your money go away.
(3) Do not sweep at night. It is bad luck.
(4) Do not clean the spider web at night. You will lose all your money.
(5) Do not open an umbrella in the house. It will make you bald.
(6) Do not eat candy that has dropped on the floor. It now belongs to the ghost.
(7) Do not put valuable things away at night. The ghost will see and steal it.
(8) Do not keep broken Buddha images in the house. It will cause your family to be separated.
(9) Do not tell other people about your bad dream when you are eating. If you do it will come true.
(10) Do not rock an empty cradle. Your child will become sick.
(11) Do not throw anything onto the roof of the house. It is bad luck.
(12) Do not tap a kid on his head. It will make him a bed wetter.
(13) Do not enter a house through the window. Bad luck will come to that house.
(14) Do not allow wedding guests break any plates or glasses. It will cause the couple to become separated.
(15) If you have a scratch, do not attend a cremation. It will make your scratch infected.

Source: Translated from “Boran Oo-bai” by Sanom Krutmeuang

Superstitions and Customs from the past

Waiting Room for the King at Hua Hin Train Station

I have for you some more notes I wrote down from the fascinating book called “A Journey in Siam” written by Adolf Bastian. As I mentioned before, the author wrote about life in Siam 150 years ago.

* The Siamese not only avoid stepping over people, but also over books

* The length of time expressed by sak kru (usually translated as immediately), means in fact, as long as it takes to boil a pot of rice

* The Siamese sew seven buttons on their jackets and five on a shorter one. For children three is the norm.

* A staircase must not have four steps, but two, three and six are allowed

* In divorce the children born with odd numbers go to the mother, the even numbered ones to the father

* During a marriage ceremony the thumbs of the newlywed are tied together with the bonds of love

* Most siamese flowers are only fragrant in the morning, when they are open, or in the evening, but not in the middle of the day.

* The Siamese eat the lamphong fruit to get up Dutch courage, in the process becoming slightly mad in the head and very excitable, babbling confused sentences for the slightest reason

* The Siamese like to give their children hideous names to make them unattractive to the demons, thus protecting them

* Admiring a cute little child would make it ill, and so its parents hang a dog’s or pig’s tooth around its neck to blemish the child’s pretty appearance

* A Siamese shakes his head to deny something. He waves with his hand bent downwards.

* If one asks him whether he does not deny something, he nods approvingly that he does not do so

* Instead of kissing, the Siamese press their faces together and breath in

* During an eclipse of the moon, the Siamese make a great din to prevent it from being eaten up

* The Siamese call the rainbow “luster that eats water” and meteors “demons throwing torches”

More Superstitions and Customs

A typical crematorium in a Thai temple

I have been reading a book recently called “A Journey in Siam” which took place in 1863. It is written by Adolf Bastian and published by White Lotus. It is worth looking out for these white covered books as they are interesting contemporary accounts of life in Thailand over one hundred years ago. I find it fascinating how the experience of these early backpackers mirrors our own journeys today. However, these days we are more likely to travel by car rather than by boat or elephant.

Today I want to give you some extracts which deal with local customs and superstitions.

* The Siamese sleep with their head facing north and their feet pointing south, or with the head towards the east and their feet towards the west, because they believe if you sleep with your head towards the west, it may be ripped off by the wind and lost, when it must be replaced by an elephant’s head. According to the old ways of speaking, the north is hua non (pillow for the head) and the south pai tin (side of the feet). Because corpses are cremated with their heads facing west, living people must lay down their heads pointing east.

* The Siamese ward off accidents with offerings of rice, bananas and other food, to which have been added six saleung in coins. If people are frightened about bad omens resulting from an evil constellation of the moon, they give a basket made from banana leaves and filled with flowers and cakes and sprinkled with consecrated water, to the local magician, to have it placed on the surface of some water. When gamblers are out of luck, they say sia kroh (may bad luck go away). To ward of evil (kroh), a clicking noise is made by pressing one’s tongue against one’s palate.

* A person who causes damage is a khon abpri. It is abpri if the roof of a house near a monastery is pierced by a tree growing through it. Sadiet changrai are inauspicious things, for example, if somebody plants a bamboo upside down. The evil consequences of abpri changrai are counteracted by the siah kroh ceremony. If someone walks under a line, hung with items of women’s clothing, if they read the holy writings of Buddha on the lowest floor of a multi-story house, or in any other way violate the customs, they have not committed a sin, but a chang rai and they must ward off the threatening consequence by building a shrine for Phra Thorani, the guardian spirit of the earth.

* If somebody touches another person’s head with their feet, changrai will befall both of them unless they both build shrines to rebuild their integrity. The same happens if somebody walks over the body of someone higher in rank or if a woman places her hands on someone else’s head. But such trivial cases can be made good by sprinkling consecrated water (nam mon) on the head. If one touches the head of another person with a hoe, this is changrai. But if injury results, it is an instance of ubat, and that perpetrator must be give satisfaction by tham khuan. If a slave is insulted in this way by his master, he can claim his freedom.

Word List

hua non – หัวนอน
pai tin – ปลายตีน (blai dteen)
khon abpri – คนอับปรีย์ (khon up-bree)
Sadiet changrai – เสนียด จังไร (sa-niat jung-rai)
abpri changrai – อับปรีย์ จังไร (up bree jung-rai)
changrai – จังไร (jung-rai)
sia kroh – เสียเคราะห์ (sia kroh)
kroh เคราะห์
nam mon – น้ำมนต์
ubat – อุบัติ

Making Good Luck for my Car

These past few months I have had some bad luck with my car. Last month someone backed into the car while I was shopping at Tesco Lotus. Before that, the two back windows kept dropping down. Then I hit the bottom of the car which also did some damage. Then, to cap it all, on the way back from Rayong, a stone hit the windscreen and cracked it. To have so much bad luck in such a short time makes me think that maybe I should pay more attention to the shrine inside the car.

When people buy cars in Thailand, it is almost compulsory to have it blessed by a brahmin priest or a monk. Some people also makes sure that they pick a lucky colour and also consult the stars to find the most auspicious time to bring the car to the house. On the ceiling of my car, just above where the driver sits, a monk has painted a number of dots in a pyramid shape. He also tied colour ribbons around the rearview mirror. For me, I thought that was the end of the story. Enough had been done to bring good luck. However, I should have done more.

If you have been in a taxi in Bangkok, you might have noticed a jasmine garland hanging from the mirror. You can buy these at most intersections for about 20 baht. You are supposed to hang these garlands as an offering to the shrine – for the guardian spirit who looks after your car. Before you hang the garland you should recite a short prayer asking for protection. Many people also wai the shrine in respect every day before they start up the car. They also wai any roadside shrines that they might pass. I remember the first time I saw a taxi driver do this. I was shocked as he was driving so fast and then he took his hands off the wheel to make a wai gesture!

It is hard for me to believe in this kind of thing. Even though I am interested in Buddhism, it should be made clear that this has nothing to do with Buddhism. What I don’t like about it is how much some people believe in the protection of their shrine in the car. Remember how I told you the other week how the taxi driver changed so much once he had bought a jasmine garland. Before he was a careful driver and then after he had made a short prayer he was tailgating everyone and changing lanes often. To me, he was putting too much faith into the power of the shrine.

Having said all of that, I don’t think it would hurt if I paid respect to the shrine once in a while. I suppose it is possible that the monk had invited a spirit to reside inside the car to protect it and its occupants. If the spirit thought that I had been ignoring it, then I suppose it is possible it could have got up to some mischief. So, the next time I stop at an intersection, I will buy a jasmine garland for my car. Though, I will have to think first what I should say in the short prayer.