Friday, April 15, 2016
Siamese Magic Vs Northern Malay Magic (暹术漫谈)
It is quite difficult to put everything about the practice of Siamese magic in a nutshell. I am only interested in finding the bare bone structure of Siamese magic or Thai magic if you will. To understand the essential components of Siamese magic, we should first look into the ancient Malay magic of northern peninsular as the old Malays of this region had preserved those Siamese rituals pretty faithfully and in relatively complete form too.
The major components of original northern peninsular Malay magic rituals actually dealt with daily activities: protection from harm, love, agricultural, entertainment and traditional medicine. The end result of all the above mentioned activities is the accumulation of wealth and social status. The above is true for Siamese magic too.
There are many ways of generating wealth and also in achieving social status, one of course must work hard and on the other hand; it would be good to have a supernatural helper. Both in Malay and in Siamese magic that there are similar rituals to get a spirit helper. In Malay magic this spirit helper is known as ‘hantu raya’ and in Siamese magic it is called ‘pra tit wa da’.
If you were to conjure both entities with separate rituals, you would find that the creature that had answered to your summon is a green to black hairy creature with a height of about 10 feet or so. Its appearance may or may not be preceded by strong wind.
The altar of an authentic Malay Bomoh and a Siamese Bomoh look the same; except the Siamese Bomoh would worship the statue of a lersi and a Buddha at most. However, a very distinct diversion between Malay magic and Siamese magic is the making use of ‘poisons’.
The Malay ‘hantu raya’ is normally used to guard the owner’s property and for protection. But most of all, this spirit is also used in conjunction with ‘santau’ (a type of poisons) that can be fatal when consumed. In this sense, the combination of ‘hantu raya’ and ‘santau’ is actually synonym with the mountain wind (蛊) and poisons (毒) of the Indochinese hill tribes.
The surprising similarity of the santau and Indochinese poisons is that both of the system must take a life in three years or the owner shall be harmed by his/her own poisons. So the practitioners of santau/poisons are normally restaurant owners in remote areas.
Victims of santau/poisons shall die if not being treated and the dead souls shall in turn bound by the santau/poisons owners and bring them more money and business.
On the other hand, the Siamese ‘pra tit wa da’ can be used for all but poisoning. Perhaps this is the influence of Buddhism that had caused such a diversion; but the Malay bomoh has no such restrictions.
Another very interesting point to compare is the use of ‘corpse oil’. The Malay definition of ‘corpse oil’ is very definite. In Malay ‘corpse oil’ is termed as ‘minyak dagu’ or literarily the ‘chin oil’. This is in line with old Siamese practice of ‘nam man prai’ oil. Both Malay and Siamese magic would use white candles to burn the chin of a corpse to collect corpse oil.
The difference is that in Malay magic, any dead corpse of untimely dead can be used; in traditional Siamese magic however, only the corpse of a pregnant mother with still born can only be used.
The oils hence collected must be buried underground and it must not be carried over state or country boundaries. This is because both Malay and Siamese bomoh believe that the state guardians will prevent the dead soul which is attached to the corpse oil to cross the state. In addition, no one should carry this corpse oil around for the fear that the person might be hit by lighting. Practitioners also believe that this corpse oil shall replenish itself during full moon night.
In fact, I would like to point out that the quantity of corpse oil thus collected cannot be divided into smaller quantities because one bottle of corpse oil represents one individual spirit. For example: corpse oil collected from the corpse of a pregnant mother represents the mother and her baby spirit.
Modern Thai masters like to sell corpse oil from all sorts of sources and then diluted the oil into hundreds of portion. If this happens, then the original soul will disperse and new wandering spirits being summoned in. This is not only ineffective but also a waste of time.
As the term ‘minyak dagu’ implies, it is the ‘chin oil’ not ‘baby oil’ or ‘dog oil’ or anything like that. Hence I used the term Siamese magic to denote traditional Thai system compared to modern Thai magic as I would normally call it.
Perhaps you have already noticed the importance of a magic system comparative study and the understanding of the basic structure that comes along with it. There are more similarities between Malay magic and Siamese magic; and their similarities with the Indian folk magic as well.
Such comparisons would be another long discussion. But I am only keeping the ball rolling for the time being. And this posting may be updated in future. Of course, we must keep in mind that the number of Malay and Siamese bomohs are dwindling. Much of those information may have already lost in time.