In Thailand, the power of the amulet is still very much alive. An amulet is a mystical item that is usually worn around a person’s neck that because of some religious ritual possesses powers to protect or give good luck to the person wearing it. We have all seen pictures of old European Kings wearing emerald and ruby amulets that had purported power, and many old tales about how the wearer was protected. It was also a part of ancient Roman, Egyptian, Hebrew, Babylonian, Greek, Aztec, Mayan, Navajo and so many other great cultures that built the world we exist in today. Almost every ancient culture. In the West, we have tossed the idea about the power of amulets aside as just another old superstition or myth of something imaginary. Maybe we need to be open to this concept once again. Maybe there is something behind all this.
You see them around the necks of many, maybe most, Thai people, hanging off the rear view mirror of Taxis and Tuk-Tuks, these beautiful tiny artworks showing the likeness of the Buddha, of Monks or some special spiritual being. It is seen in all levels of Thai society, in the top level boardrooms and lowly construction worker. These are Thai Amulets and they provide their wearers with protection against a multitude of possible harms, or often provide good luck in particular situations. These miniature artworks are also a doorway into the history and religious culture of the Thai people. Symbolic amulets have been worn by Thais for centuries, and today even the most educated and modern Thai people will have a collection of them. The Thai Army gives amulets to soldiers that must face dangerous situations.
Nicknames in America last pretty much through 8th grade, and they aren’t pretty. I had one, and you probably had one, and we would just as soon forget about them entirely.
Every Thai has a nickname (chuu len which translates to “’playname”) that they usually carry with them all their lives. It is given to them when they are an infant, and they are often just one syllable. Sometimes these names are a bit silly, but the Thai is still known by this name all through adulthood, regardless of how prestigious a level they have reached. For instance, one long term Prime Minister of Thailand, Plaek Phibunsongkhram, was nicknamed “Strange” because as a baby he looked somewhat odd. So while the PM met with world leaders on the most important issues of the world, his staff always referred to him by his odd nickname. The current Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, is known by friends and associates by her nickname “Crab” (Pu).
When a Thai person is introduced, in both a social and business setting, they are introduced by their nickname, and people may never know the real name for the person. Employers would have to look up in their records to find the “real” name for their employees they talk with every day.
Thailand is predominately a Buddhist country where tradition and customs are strictly observed such as; in almost every home and business, you can find a “Spirit House”. Blessings, both daily and special occasions are rendered to the spirits in the form of food, beverages, alcohol and prayers.
Spirit Worship is as old as mankind itself. In Thailand the phenomenon goes back to the ancient days when the Tai’s were beginning their slow migration from the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam to all parts of the Southeast Asian region. Spirit Worship, or Animism, was a religion by which the entire world lived at one time, and when Buddhism came to Southeast Asia, it developed side by side with the ancient spirit religion. Today, many of the old animistic beliefs are intertwined with Buddhism and some animistic practices still exist in Thailand. One of these which is practiced by every Thai is the Spirit House.