Thursday, August 14, 2014

Patron Spirits Of Northern & Southern Traditions (降头守护神)

I am often being asked on how to identify if a person is practising Kong Tau. Let us look into the Northern Thai tradition first. The influence of Brahmanism is much stronger than Buddhism in the North than the South. So, a normal altar will have Brahman, Hanuman, Siva, Kali, Vishnu etc.


If in addition to the above deities, the person also worship Thai hermit or ‘lersi’; then he/she is also likely to be a white shirt master. On the other hand, if the person also worships Garuda (金翅鸟) which is an eagle lookalike; then this person may also be practicing snake magic or variants of phi phop (琵琶鬼).


The purpose of worshipping Garuda stems from Hindu mythology that Garuda is the arch enemy of Naga or dragon. Garuda is also said to be fierce enough to be able to devour any kind of Kong Tau. So Kong Tau masters also call Garuda as ‘the grandmaster of Kong Tau’ (食降祖师). Another reason for having Garuda in a Kong Tau altar is to prevent the snake or other spirits being sent back by a stronger opponent during a magical duel. A spell rebounded will harm the spell caster so even though the snake spirit belongs to the master, it need to be neutralised for good too.


People in the north normally practise Kong Tau for their own protections not for showing off or for the fond of collecting spells as what we are doing today. A household may only practise snake magic and none other else; while another household may own a Phi Pop and others a centipede spirit. These spirits though of lower classes are worshipped faithfully for generations for the sake of keeping the tradition alive. This is very different for us in modern society that we only think of the spirits when we are in trouble, let’s say law suit for example.


Kumanthong and Phra Ngan normally have no places in an altar of Northern Tradition; perhaps only the Southerners worship them. Influence of Buddhism precedes the Brahmanism in the South. I have also seen a mixture of Taoist deities and even Guan Yin being worshipped together in a Southern Tradition altar; which is a wrong practice to follow I am sure.


If I am to sum up, the Northern Tradition is primitive, easy to learn but difficult to master (易学难精); the Southern Tradition is complex, difficult to learn but easy to master (难学易精). The only difference if I am to pick, is that the Northern Tradition spells are as if 'one way ticket'; i.e. no turning back. Hence Northern folks don't cast spells easily as the spells are deadly; the Southern folks simply cast spells yet the success rates are pretty low.


Things are definitely changing as I speak due to the commercialization of magic services in general. If you don’t believe what I said, just hop into any amulet shop and you can purchase a leklai stone for GSD10 in Orchard Road or MYR10 in Petaling Street!


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