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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!