Be Careful if You Asked for a Child From a Sacred Place

I hope that the introduction post of May the Force be With You will give you a little insight that Animistic beliefs are still widely practiced in Laos.  As for our neighboring country Thailand, they also share this belief because Buddhism in Thailand is also closely tied to animist beliefs and belief in ancestral spirits.  I found an interesting article from Koosang Koosom Magazine written by the mother of Nong Mou-Nong Mot from Maha Sarakham, Thailand that I like to share, this story will make you think twice before making a wish.  This article is written in Thai language, translated by Nye.

Erawan Shrine Photographs by Kiteion

Erawan Shrine Photographs by Kiteion

Photo source

Going back to 1990 (Thai year 2533), my husband and I were working in Krung Thep at the time, I was 3 months pregnant with my first child, my husband was ecstatic and so he went to visit the Erawan Shrine at the 4-intersection of Ratchaprasong to ask for a son.  Then the day of my delivery came and we had a son just like he asked, my husband and I were very happy.  We went back to give offering to Thunthou Phra Phrom Erawan (Erawan Statue),  we did everything that we promised if our wish were granted.  But one thing that we didn‘t do was to bring our son to pay respect to Thuntou Phra Phrom Erawan, not even once.

This was because my sons were raised by my parents in another town, they were good kids, easy to raise and I had 2 sons, the oldest was born in 1990 (2533), and the second in 1992 (2535), this one we didn’t ask for.  Then in 1998 (2541), we moved back home since the boys were getting older and about time that we lived as a family.  I kept thinking that I want to bring my sons to pay respect to Thunthou Phra Phrom Erawan, especially my oldest son, but since I was busy working, trying to make ends meet, and could never find the time.

During school breaks, my sons would help us at the clothing store in town to earn extra income, I worked there as a head cashier, and would get off work at 8 pm, and it’s considered late in the rural area, we did this for several years. My sons were good kids, they helped with household chores, including helping out in the rice paddy. I taught them not to forget their roots, the trade that has been passed down for many generations, we’d help each other farming during our day off, and hired out the things that we couldn’t do ourselves.  Who said that having a son the mother has to do all the work, I say not true at all because ever since they were in the 5th and 6th grade, I didn’t have to wash dishes, nor clean the house because my sons did it all, they felt sorry for their mom that I had to work so late.

I was very happy and proud of my sons, but my happiness short-lived because in 2008 (2551), my oldest son had a late class and wouldn’t get out until 7 pm, he called to ask if he could stay at his friend’s dorm, I didn’t mind and only asked him not to disappoint his mom.  He promised that he wouldn’t, and that was the last time that we spoke.

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May the Force be with you

When you’re in the presence of a sacred place, I think you could feel it, I know it happened to me. I’ve been in many holy places before, but the one place that has such a strong force to me was the road to Vang Vieng and heading towards Luang Prabang Laos, and might be that it was the guilt that I feel, we didn’t stop to pay our respect.

This place was nothing fancy, it was a place that lies behind the curvy road, and as we drove up the mountain road of Hwy 13, I saw several cars parked along side of the road, and a group of people paying their respect to a spirit house. The smokes from their incense sticks were forming clouds above them, I asked my cousin what they were doing. He said it was Sarn Jao Pou (The Shrine of a Sacred Spirit), they’re paying their respect and asking him for a safe journey .

Our vehicle climbed up the road slowly and we passed without stopping since we didn’t have any incense stick with us, I was mesmerized by the image in front of me that I forgot to take some pictures. I silently said my prayers as we passed Sarn Jao Pou. The name of the road made me feel uneasy and might be that I grew up in the Western society where number 13 is considered unlucky, but I didn’t have a chance to ask my cousin if Lao People living in Laos feel the same way.

I’m a Buddhist, and why do I worry so much about Animism you might ask because worshiping Sarn Jao Pou is an Animistic belief. If I were raised in Laos, this would have made perfect sense because Buddhism in Laos is often closely tied to animist beliefs and belief in ancestral spirits. And here I was raised in the US, but the feeling and belief is equally as strong as Laotians living in Laos, and I’m not sure why. I often thought that having six senses is a gift, but to some that actually have it might think differently, more like a curse I would say, and at that moment as we traveled on this mountain road, I was glad that I don’t have six senses, Hwy 13 looks so treacherous and I couldn’t imagine what I would see along the way.

A long introduction to my next post, I found an interesting article written in Thai language titled “Be careful If you asked for a child from a Sacred Place.”

The Belief of Ghost In The House

House at Tad Yuang in Pakse, Laos

  • I wrote this a while back, but never posted here, and it sort of related to the current topic that I’m posting at the moment.  All Photos are from my Laos Trip.

The belief in ghost or spirit has been in our Lao/Thai culture for generations, especially the belief of ghost in the house. The younger generations might think its nonsense, and superstition, but not according to our parents or grandparents, whom believe in ghost spirit in the house, might be because they’re thinking that eventually they’ll become the ghost of the house.

Because of this belief, there’re many things that we could and couldn’t do inside our own home, therefore this belief dictates how we live our lives, sounds a bit silly now, but if you’re Lao or Thai, you might not think it’s silly after all.

There’re basic rules that I’ve to follow, silly right? Me, following rules of superstition, don’t laugh because I might not be the only one, you might find yourself doing this also. I was told that when I sleep, I’m not suppose to lay my arms across my chest or in a hug myself position, not suppose to lay my arm (wrist) across my forehead, not suppose to sleep below the beams of the house, simple explanation given to me, “Pee See Umm.”

Pee Umm, which loosely translated as ghost controlling your body while you’re asleep, but I believe that it’s the same as a paradoxical sleep in which intense dreaming occurs during REM sleep as a result of heightened brain activity, but paralysis occurs simultaneously in the major voluntary muscle groups, which is a mixture of encephalic (brain) states of excitement and muscular immobility. Long explanation for Americans, Lao/Thai just call it Pee Umm, short and simple to the point.

Most younger generations don’t believe in Pee Umm, but they’re still experiencing or dreaming that gave them the sense of Pee Umm. However, if we’re to pay closer attention as to why our parents or grandparents don’t want us to sleep under the above conditions, then we’d see that it has nothing to do with Pee Umm, but a simple reason that we should pay more attention to how we sleep, even while we’re unconscious during our sleep, not just flop your body down and no telling which direction your feet are pointing when you wake up. This is all about mannerism, even while we’re asleep, and as for crossing your arms over your chest, you’re restricting the amount of oxygen intake, therefore not a good position to sleep and should be avoided, to prevent us from doing this, they’d say “Pee See Umm,” and it works every time.

House in Pakse, Laos

The ceiling beams above your bed are a Feng Shui nightmare, and Lao/Thai call it Pee Umm, but the term nightmare that is being used here, I seriously doubt if it means the same as Pee Umm. I think it means that the beams can be a source of cutting chi and the beams carry a tremendous load, and this pressure is focused into the beams generating chi, which continues downwards, placing direct pressure on you while you sleep.

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