Ghost story, Thai Tradition

The Strange Belief of Thai Northerners about New Born

This is based on a real life story in Koosang Koosom Magazine, by Sao Doi (Lum Pang), written in Thai Language, translated by Ginger.

 Thai Baby by Image ZenI have a strange story of my daughter to tell. I got married when I was 23 years old, and I’m now 27 and I have a daughter that is 2 years old. She was born 29 days before her due date. We stayed at the hospital for 3 days, and then the doctor released us to go home.

When I got home, it’s our customs for the new mother to stay on the ‘hot bed’ (steam bed, fueled by hot charcoal and boiling water) as most Thai Northerners do, and also, I was forbid to eat foods that are considered highly allergic for new mother, but what I had to drink was hot water, and also had to take a hot bath for 1 month.

It was recommended by my doctor to nurse my baby because mother’s milk contains vitamins from A-Z, and also helps to improve the immune status of the baby, but my milk didn’t come right away so the doctor recommend me to pump. I tried to eat all kinds of foods that will help the milk to come in, such as banana head (purple color, considered as a vegetable, made into soup,) broth of bambooshoot Nom Nang, but then it was almost a hopeless situation.

When my baby cried for milk, I had no choice but to give her formula, just like what I did at the hospital but it appears that she was not satisfied and might be because she didn’t know how to latch on to the nipple.

During the time that I stayed on the ‘hot bed’, I had my friends, neighbors, cousins, aunts and uncles that visited me none stop. Then one day, one of my neighbors came to visit and she asked, “Who does the baby look like?” Of course, it was too early to tell because I couldn’t even tell who she looks like at the time, and those that visited, some would say looks like the daddy, some would say looks like the mommy, then some would say aunt, uncle, grandparents, and so on.

Then she rephrased her question, “who reincarnated, came and born with you?” At the time I answered, “I don’t know, and I didn’t pay much attention.”

After she left, that night my baby started crying from 7 p.m. for no rhyme or reason. It didn’t appear that she was having indigestion, or maybe some bugs bit her, and I checked but no trace. She cried until she couldn’t produce any sound, cry as if she was afraid of something, she cried herself to sleep but then started again after a short rest, and she would do this all night until 4 in the morning, then we finally were able to go to sleep, but then it was not a restful sleep because she would pee and I used cloth diapers (I didn’t use ready made diapers such as Luv or Huggies diapers because I was afraid it would make her bowlegged) and so it had to be changed right away.

From that day on, I had changed my sleeping pattern, from night to day, but I’m still not used to sleeping during the daytime, therefore during the day, I tried to keep my baby awake by playing with her, so she would sleep longer during the night.

It didn’t work, she still cried during the night and this had gone on into the second weeks. Then my parents came to visit, I told my mom that the baby cried at night, as soon as she heard this, she then asked, “Did any one ask you as to who came to born as this baby?” Then I told my mom of what my neighbor said. My mom then consulted with my mother in-law and she suggested that we go see ‘Kone Soung Jao’, the ancient ritual where the ghost spirit would take over the body of ‘Kone Soung’ then s/he becomes the powerful that can communicate with the ghost spirits, and we thought that it’s possible that it might be one of our passed relatives that wanted us to perform a ceremony to welcome his/her soul (Rub Kwan.)

Came to find out, ‘Kone Soung’ said that the person that reincarnated into this baby was the aunt of my father in-law who was a widow. When she was alive, my father in law’s parents cared for her, so before she passed, her dying wish was, “If next life I’d be born as human again, I wish to be born to your family.” Then this life, she reincarnated as my daughter.

‘Kone Soung’ said that she wanted a welcome gift of gold ring and hair comb (picks pin). Then my father in-law said that the day she passed, they used black charcoal to mark her back so that they would know whom she reincarnated into, and sure enough, my daughter has a brownish black birthmark at the very spot. My father in-law then went and got the gifts as suggested by ‘Kone Soung’.

From that day on, she stopped crying at night, except for the time that she had indigestion, would you say that this was so strange.

This is a belief amongst the Thai Northerners and if you were to visit a new born, please don’t ask “who reincarnated, came to born as this baby?”, and from my own personal experiences, made me think that new born that cried at night and the doctor diagnosed as colic baby, this or that, it might not be like what the doctor said. I hope that my story will make some of you out there to understand our way of life better, in case you have a chance to visit a new born, you would know what not to ask. If you don’t believe, please don’t mock.

5 thoughts on “The Strange Belief of Thai Northerners about New Born”

  1. As for Lao people, we seem to talk openly about our past relative reincarnated with us, and it seems acceptable to openly tell people that grandpa or grandma reborn as this baby, which I’ve heard numerous times in the past, and it seems common for Lao people to ask such question.

    But one thing can’t be said around new born baby for Lao and Thai people is that you can’t call the baby cute, you have to say that the baby is ugly, saying the opposite. It is believed that if you say that the baby is cute, the evil spirits will hear you and they will try to come and steal your baby, and bad things might happen, so to say that the baby is ugly is to trick the evil spirits from wanting the baby, as you can see, even ghost spirits want beautiful baby. As for younger generation that might not have known this, if an elder call your baby ugly, they are paying your baby a compliment that it’s adorable, so just smile and said thank you. 🙂

    Of course this does not apply to adult, one time an old man called me “Kee Lai Thou,” using the term that you’d use with baby when you call them ugly (meaning beautiful,) that didn’t go well with me, but I knew he used the term that is commonly used for baby, on second thought, he might have really meant it and called me ugly. 😕

  2. after watching “Sawan Biang” i also lean that not only Hmong people believe in calling a new born “Ugly”. We also have the same belief. That is very interesting, and now that you mentioned it as well.

    Well for Hmong people, there are many reasons to why a child would cry so much. My parents said, when i was a baby, i was one of those baby, i cried day in and day out and it was to the point where it was soo bad that my parents had to see what was wrong with me. My cousins said, i didn’t like my given name, and I wanted a name change.. Once my name was changed, I finally stop my crying.. I’ve heard many similar stories.

  3. ascandaloussin, as for the name, many Lao/Thai people only give their baby nickname at first, and the common names are named after animals (in Lao/Thai language) such as dog, cat, chicken, fish, etc, or fruits such as apple, orange, or even alphabets such as A, B… and I’m not sure why, I’m thinking that they’re afraid that the evil spirit might know the real name, and after a while that’s when the real name is given for school purpose. I also have a nickname, and most Lao people around here don’t even know my real name. Sometimes the name is given by the monk at the temple for good luck, and some Lao/Thai people sometimes would ask the monk to give them a new name because they think the old name is considered unlucky.

    When I became a US citizen, I kept my Laotian name because it’s the name that my parents gave me but it’s very difficult to pronounce and a mile long.

  4. I have couple of friends, and their lao/thai names are pretty long, and good god, their last names are so hard to pronounce and even longer…

    Humm thats interesting about the nickname..

  5. ascandaloussin, I noticed that the Hmong have 3 names, first, middle, and last but which name is the name that you call someone. I’m thinking it’s the middle name as the first name, for example Ying Fu Khang, then the person name is Fu correct, how does that work?

    Most Lao/Thai only have first and last name, and when written out back when I was little, it’s the last name, then first name and this is very confusing for the westerners because westerners write first, middle, then last name. We have our nickname, but it’s not the same as middle name, and not recorded anywhere, but it’s the name that people know you by.

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