Thai Mysteries 5
Ganpirom: a five-tiered umbrella made of white fabric inscribed with golden magic symbols (yantras) and having a gilded shaft. It is used as a regalia at the front of parading troops or in processions of royal elephants.
From which can be seen the importance of yantras at the highest level of the state.
Krata-tongdeng: burning hot, large frying pans where the sinners are fried in the hell pits.
Krabong-kleung: a long wand turned with a lathe and having a gilded handle, carried along at elephant processions.
Krabong-deng: ‘the red wand,’ a wand turned with a lathe, gilded at the handle, its body coated with vermilion red, its tip gilded too and sculpted in the shape of a shellflower, or water cabbage (Pistia stratiotes). The object is proferred to the royal physician at his investiture and symbolizes the privilege to collect medicinal herbs and plants in the kingdom.
Kring: 1/ the onomatopoeia ‘kring’ 2/ a small-sized, hollow metal amulet inside which is encased a sacred object. When the amulet is shaken, it produces the sound ‘kring kring,’ hence its name pra-kring.
Kampop: the birthplace of those still involved in carnal lust (kama); the dwelling world of those dependent on sensuality, namely the four abaipum (see that word here) (the hell pits and the respective worlds of beasts, pretas and asuras), the human world, and the six heavens (Tjatumaharachik, Daowadeung, Yama, Dusit, Nimmanoradi, and Paranimmittawat-Sawatdi), eleven in total.
Kiatmuk: ‘glory head,’ a nonhuman being in god Shiva’s retinue. It has a grinning, half-ogre (yaksa) half-singha lion face with no apparent protruding chin. It possesses no body nor limbs. They are believed to be guardian gods of thresholds, driving evil away. They are often engraved on arched gates. Also known as kalamuk or nakan, ‘black head.’
Kaopao: lumps of rice mixed with yellow and red pigments, used in the admission ceremony of royal (albino) elephants by preutibat brahmans, i.e. the class of brahman priests dedicated to ceremonies dealing with elephants. Same as Krayasangweng: holy rice in lumps used in the admission ceremony of royal elephants.
So-called brahmans have kept playing a role at the Thai royal court and in Thai society after the introduction of Buddhism, yet they are not recognized as part of the Vedic Hindu world community that includes the religious traditional communities of India, Nepal, and Bali (Indonesia). These priests are often invited to perform ceremonies with Buddhist monks at events such as marriages.
Here is a testimony of their presence from French scholar Pierre Lefèvre-Pontalis (my translation):
‘Like in Cambodia, there still exist today at the court of the Siamese kings brahmans who preside over certain official ceremonies, cast horoscopes, and determine auspicious days and times. Those who serve the brahmanic temple in Bangkok originate from Ligor in the Malay peninsula. Under the direction of Raja Khrou Vamathib, who accompanies the king in all his trips, they have achieved the degree of scepticism and readiness to oblige necessary in a Buddhist court where, if it is not believed in the divinity of the master (Lord Buddha), the idea that any god could be superior to him in the celestial hierarchy would never be admitted. ‘According to the scriptures, Mr Foucher wrote, Shakyamuni himself would always have denied being a god only because he is much more than that.’
The head of the brahmans in Bangkok himself is much at pain to distinguish between the gods that he is serving. Imbued with the idea that the Buddha is superior to all of them, he recognizes as orthodox images of Shiva (in Siamese Phra In Suen) only those representing the highest god having a Buddha sitting in his hair. Vishnu too is admitted only in the quality of Narayan (the Phra Narai of the Siamese), a complex god that procedes directly from Hinduism.’ (Notes sur des amulettes siamoises, 1926)
The original quote:
« Comme au Cambodge, il y a encore de nos jours, à la cour des rois de Siam, des Brahmes qui président à certaines cérémonies officielles, tirent les horoscopes, désignent les jours et les heures favorables. Ceux qui desservent à Bangkok le temple brahmanique sont originaires de Ligor dans la péninsule malaise. Sous la direction de Raja Khrou Vamathib, qui accompagne le souverain dans tous ses déplacements, ils ont atteint le degré de complaisance et de scepticisme nécessaire en une cour bouddhiste, où, si l’on ne croit pas à la divinité du maître, on ne saurait cependant admettre qu’aucun dieu lui soit supérieur dans la hiérarchie céleste. ‘Si l’on en croit les textes, a dit M. Foucher, Çakyamuni lui-même n’aurait toujours nié qu’il fût un dieu que parce qu’il était bien davantage.’
Le chef des Brahmes de Bangkok lui-même a bien de la peine à distinguer les divinités dont il a la garde. Pénétré de l’idée officielle que Bouddha est supérieur à toutes, il ne reconnaît comme images orthodoxes de Siva (Phra In Suen en siamois) que celles où le plus grand des dieux porte un Bouddha assis dans sa chevelure. Visnu lui aussi n’est admis qu’en qualité de Narâyana (Phra Naraï des Siamois), dieu complexe qui procède directement de l’hindouisme. »
Kot: an object hard like a stone and found inside some animals and plants, used as amulet.
It is the bezoar, which is considered to have supernatural properties in many, if not all traditions around the world.
Kantamat: as an adjective, it means: making animals intoxicated through perfumes. As a noun it designates a legendary mountain, ‘the perfume mountain.’
This mountain is located in Himmapan forest. Its fragrance comes from various wood essences and plants. There are caves in it, namely the golden cave, the crystal cave, and the silver cave. It is inhabited by the Pratyekabuddhas, who became Buddhas without the guidance of Lord Buddha.
Ngang: 1/ a kind of image cast with metal for Buddha images, sitting in samadhi position, with even torso uncovered, having no robe nor sash (two of the three customary garments of monks: see trai-tjiwon here), only a garland around the neck. Being cast with a much greater admixture of copper than other images, it is called pra-ngang (pra-‘copper’) 2/ the name of a Buddha image when it has not yet received the final touch, that is, the completion of the eyes (the ceremony during which this is performed is called pitibeukpranet, that is, ‘the opening up of the eyes.’)
Ngasan or Pat-ngasan: (formerly) a fan of rank made of ivory, emblem of the Aranyawasi sect–monks who were dwelling in the forest.
Tjakarawon: (from Sanskrit chakravala) 1/ the three divisions of the universe according to the Buddhist faith, namely a/the worlds of sensuality, b/the worlds of corporeal Brahmans, and c/the worlds of shapeless Brahmans. On these notions, see Ruppaprom and Aruppaprom here; these Brahmans are not the priests but gods 2/ a legendary moutain range surrounding the world like a wall and the border between light and the darkness beyond.
Tjaturapum: the four levels of the mind, namely a/Kamawatjorapum, the reality of those who are travelers in Kampop (the world of the senses, see that word), b/Rupatjorapum, for the travelers in Ruppapop, c/Arupatjorapum, for the travelers in Aruppapop, and d/Lokutarapum, the world detached from the world.
Tjo: the name for addressing a monkey, or a child mischievous like a monkey.
Tjinteng: the Chinese boss of an opium den or of a gambling den.
Chappayaputta: a rainbow-colored naga.
With respect to the color of their scales, there are three other kinds of nagas: golden nagas, green nagas, and black nagas. Rainbow nagas are extremely beautiful.
Chaleo: a sign made of thin bamboo strips crossing themselves at angles in the shape of a five-pointed star. It is stuck above caldrons where medicines are boiled, or on trading goods, or as an indication of place, or as a talisman against possession by ghosts, etc. Also called chaliu or taleo.
As the picture shows, this is the five-pointed star, the pentagram or pentacle (Drudenfuß in German, that is, the foot of the malevolent spirit called a drude–spirits that were believed to have feet like those of geese), and partakes its mystical and apotropaic usages.
Chang-niam: an elephant having three distinct qualities, namely a black skin, black toenails, and banana-shaped tusks.
Chang-samkan: (law) an elephant having the seven auspicious marks that make him (given mark 7 I understand it has to be a male: see below) a royal elephant by right, namely white eyes, white palate, white toenails, white hair, white or clay-colored skin, white tail hair, and white or clay-colored penile sheath (as the following picture seems to show; or else this is a appendage of which function I am not cognizant; the word used for mark 7 is rare and direct from Pali/Sanskrit, literally it would mean ‘testicle urn’ but is translated as eggshell, which cannot be correct in the case of elephants).
The marks indicate albinism, hence the more common name of royal elephants as albino elephants (or ‘taro elephants’ because the flesh of the taro root is bright white). All royal elephants, however, are not albino in the scientific sense of the term and yet all possess the seven auspicious marks according to the Thai specialists.
Siamsi: (from Chinese) a system of fortune-telling practised in shrines (Chinese) and temples. Bamboo sticks marked with numbers are placed in a cylinder, the person shakes the cylinder until one or several sticks fall off and then deciphers the meaning of the numbers on a poster. (See also Tiu)
This Chinese ancient practice has a lot in common with the system known in English as ‘casting lots,’ from the Bible (Numbers 26:55 for instance).
Dok-dua: an animal’s horn revered as a magic object (protecting a house from fire), for instance the horn of various species of buffalo or, in the ancient texts, the horn of a sacred cow.
Dao-tjon: in astrology, a star believed to make a thief of the person born under its influence. =>Yati-dao-tjon: unreliable people.
Tripop, Tripum, or Tripuwa: the three worlds, namely the world of the senses, the world of the corporeal Brahmans, and the world of the incorporeal Brahmans; in popular belief, the heavens, the world of men, and the netherworld.
Taping: a covering for little girls’ genitals, made of metal, for instance gold, colored gold (alloy of gold, silver and copper) or silver, existing in various plaiting styles and shapes.
It is largely an item of the past when Thai children walked about naked most of the time. Poor people would cover their daughters’ genitals with pieces of coconut shell but the wealthy classes would have these fancy coverings known as taping crafted for their own daughters.
Tiu: (from Chinese) sticks often made of bamboo, from 25 to 50 centimeters long, used to score points or, if marked with symbols or numbers, for fortune-telling (see Siamsi) or lottery.
Tamon: big and strong, said of an animal that is the leader of its group, for instance a monkey (ling tamon).
Known in zoology as the alpha male. Yet this scientific name is quite recent, whereas the Thai word is presumably as old as the language itself, and I do not know of any equivalent in vernacular Western languages. Were we to consider patois or dialectal forms of these languages, we might find a similar concept.
Nang-kwak: ‘the beckoning maiden,’ a certain holy image carved in the shape of a sitting woman beckoning with her hand, believed to bring its owner good luck, in general or in business matters.
Nam-mon: ‘mantra water,’ consecrated water for bathing, drinking, or sprinkling, as a blessing.
Nam-man-prai: an oil collected from the burning corpse of a woman died while pregnant. It is believed that when the oil is sprinkled on a woman, that woman falls in love.
Nam-man-mon: ‘mantra oil,’ coconut oil activated by magic formulas and used as ointment or massage oil to heal stiffness, sores, and sprains.
Badan: (from Sanskrit Patala) the underground world of the nagas.
Banpratu-pradapmuk: mother-of-pearl inlaid door panel. I added no Thai definition for this compounded word because the compound talks of itself. The following picture gives an idea of the beauty of this craft.
Bia-ke: the humpback cowry, chocolate cowry, or mourning cowry (Mauritia mauritiana), used to make medicines or as amulet.
Bai-miang: 1/cloth wrapped around a corpse in a mortuary urn 2/the arrangement of coral-tree or wild-betel (Piper sarmentosum) leaves used in Thai cuisine for food wrapped in leaves.
I find the dual meaning interesting.
Fang-kem: 1/ to jab into a limb the tip of needle besmeared with mantra oil (see Nam-man-mon) and recite incantations in order to make it penetrate the limb, in order to grant invulnerability 2/ Chinese acupuncture.
Panek: a pillow for supporting a sleeping elephant.
Pirot: a ring made of fabric inscribed with yantras or of holy cotton yarn (see Sai-sin), used as amulet.
Makorakunton: dragon-shaped earrings.
Ming-mia: a woman who is auspicious to her husband and family.
Mit-mo: a magic knife used among other things in exorcisms.
Ya-fet: something that a woman gives her man to eat in order to make him love her at the exclusion of any other woman, usually cooked while performing magical rites.
Rukkamulika-tudong: one of the thirteen different so-called tudong observances that a monk performs for merit-making, here making his habitual dwelling at the foot of a tree.
Look-keo: a glass marble; more specifically, glass marbles used by shamans to foresee the future; a boy who has shaved his head as required for being ordained a novice.
Look-chang: the pronoun ‘I’ when the speaker is a spirit of the forests and the fields.
I can’t say for certain why–or whether it is fortuitous or not–the very phrase used to this effect also means a baby elephant.
Sai-sin: a thread of white cotton yarn used in various religious ceremonies, for instance when monks are praying (it then goes from one to the other, resting on their hands and forming a line between them) or surrounding a house to make it auspicious ground during a blessing ceremony.
Suban: ‘the wonderful ones,’ another name of the garudas.
There exist five kinds of garudas with respect to their appearance, namely those who are entirely humanlike except that they possess wings, those with a human body and a birdlike head, those with a human body and birdlike head and wings, those with a birdlike body and a human head, and those who are completely like birds. Garudas live in the first heaven Tjatumaharachik. They eat divine foods same as the devas but also fruits and meat, and even nagas.
Hongron-mangkonram: ‘hovering swan, dancing dragon,’ a charm ceremony performed by a woman to make her man crazy in love with her and chicken-hearted (toward other women), for instance by bestriding the cooking pot before giving her man the rice to eat etc.
The bestriding of the cooking pot here described applies to the ‘hovering swan’ part of the charm and is shown in the picture below. The ‘dancing dragon’ part involves bath water that the woman then uses for cooking.
Look for the previous issues of the series in the Index page.