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Spirits and Demons


A Wat is often protected from all kinds of evil in the world and in the after life by a whole string of demons and heroes from myths and legends. The monkey warrior with its huge frightening mouth is called Hanuman and he fights against evil with all kinds of magic tricks. He is also considered to be one of the most famous and popular heros of the Ramakien legend.
In the same way, Yaksha fights against evil and protects the good as well. A striking characteristic of this giant is the grim expression on his face with the both tusks directed upwards. Apsara is much more appealing to look at, a beautiful heavenly nymph. She was chosen to dance for the gods and to make them happy (gods can be also quite like humans…). The snake god Naga which is a half brother of Garuda the bird god, is used to protect Buddha in the shape of a seven headed cobra. During his meditation it is regarded as a symbol of the water. There are Nagas on the roof gables in order to protect buildings from  heavy floods.
However, even with enlightenment and nirvana, there are bigger or smaller problems in every day life. They are in need of more practical solutions rather than the meta-physic doctrine offered by the enlightened one. So, what to do? The youngest grandson always reaches school safely on his new bicycle. The grandmother doesn’t fall over the doorstep.  The uncle fighting against the traffic in Bangkok in his tuk-tuk without accident. Father finally buys the right Lotto ticket and mother finds out at last the perfect timing for the marriage of her eldest daughter? All these are important little questions, but far too insignificant to  disturb The  Buddha.
Therefore, the people turn to fortune tellers, astrologers and spirits. Without creating any problems  Thai people tend to be strongly pragmatic concerning religion. Since the beginning, Buddhism and Animism cooperate very peacefully in Thailand and in this way share the everyday needs of of the soul. On one hand there is a Buddhist doctrine of salvation directed to this ultimate great aim and on the other hand the spirits and their helpers who make way for a life less burdensome and more enjoyable.
Astrologers and fortune tellers are mostly practicing nearby Wats or even on the temple ground itself. Even monks intend in those session to learn about their fortunes. If you want to find out your luck in the lottery, love or job, you can consult the hinduism Elephant God ganesha, for example at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok. The release of birds bought at a temple has a positive influence.
There are many ways to be protected from all kinds of evil and unforeseen incidents. Very effective are amulets. Some Thais are wearing more than one, each one representing a certain protection, for example : one against bullets, another one for health. They are worn on a necklace; inside a tiny "shrine", often made from gold, is a Buddha statue made of
bronze, wood or stone.
Potentially endangered body parts can be protected with "magical" tattoos - Sak Yants- a famous measure especially by fishermen and Thai Boxers.

 Another way of protection is the use of a Sai Sin, a holy cotton thread worn as a bracelet around the wrist,tied on by
a monk.

In order that  people who use or live in a any building from a bamboo hut to a government building, are protected from evil, it is necessary to construct a little house for the spirits, the chao ti. This mini Wat stands on a pillar and it is the land owners spirit house.  It contains small figures and animals together with offerings such as rice, fruits, flowers and fresh water. It ensures the spirits will not be angry and therefore bring good luck to the house and family. For its well-being, its should never be built in the shadow of the  house.

Similar to Buddha statues and pictures of highly praised monks and the royal family, the little spirit houses  are decorated with one or several puang ma lai. This is the name for fragrant garlands and chains made of jasmine blossom, often mixed with orchid blossom as well.
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