February 7, 2016
Here in Thailand folklore is respected and the spirit of a grieving mother is still asked for help
We here in Thailand have our own Ghosts and spirits a number of which have similar characteristics to those written centuries later by the likes of Bram Stoker and his 1897 gothic novel, Dracula and earlier medieval folklores regarding werewolf’s. Here in brief is Thailand’s most famous story
Mae Naak Phra Kanong (แม่นาคพระโขนง)
This is undoubtedly the Kingdoms best known hauntingly tragic love story which over the years has been made into a number of movies. If you are sitting comfortably then I shall begin. The story goes something along these lines; there was once a young married couple, a husband named มาก/mâak and his wife named นาค /naâk. One fateful day the husband and soon to be farther was instructed to join the Kings army, unfortunately while away his wife and unborn child died in childbirth. (Thai’s have a special name if this should happen “ตายทั้งกลม -dtai tang klom” loosely meaning to die during pregnancy and believe the mothers spirit will be fierce and unwaving “มาก-mâa”)
The husband not knowing his family had died returned home and was able to hold both his wife and child in his arms, after a number of days living with his beloved family he ventured out into the village to be informed by friends that his wife had indeed died and even though their bodies had been buried prior to his return, she could be heard singing to their dead child. His friends also explained that her spirit would not rest and their presence was causing people to lose their hair and to suffer from a fever.
The husband could not believe his friends as he was so happy to be home with his family, but they continued to repeat their warnings and told him that he should take note of an ancient fable, ‘that by their very nature ghost’s would not smile and blink their eyes and above all, a ghost had no reflection in a mirror’.
On the way home, mâak thought about the words of his friends and while he was able to hold and touch his family he could see no reason for his friends to deceive him and decided to watch his wife more closely.
On his return home, his wife was busy preparing food in the kitchen. He told her a joke and tried to make her laugh, but his wife did not smile or share in the humor. He then looked into the eyes of both his wife and child and could see neither blinked; to make things worse he could not find a single mirror in the house. Other strange things began to happen within the home which spooked the husband further, his wife began to suspect that her husband was beginning to see the truth and would not let him out of her sight.
To escape from what he now understood was a ghost, mâak pretended to go to toilet outside the house but naâk wanted to accompany him. To get around his now suspicious wife, mâak told her to tie his waist with a string which would enable her to detect his movement. Immediately after his wife agreed with the idea, mâak walked outside to the water jar he had punctured previously, releasing the water. The falling water reassured his wife and untying the string he made his escape to the nearby consecrated assembly hall.
On finding she had been tricked naâk, sad and furious followed her husband to the hall, but since it was the holy place, ghosts or evil spirits could not enter. Naâk sat crying for her husband and promised that she would not harm anyone if he agreed to come out and live with her once more. Mâak refused her plea’s and urged her to leave him and to be reborn once more.
Unable to persuade her husband to return with her, she transformed herself into an ugly ghost and threatened to strangle whoever stood in her way in reclaiming her husband. The resident Abbott and monks were unable to convince Nâak that she should accept the truth, that she was both dead and should no longer live in the human world.
Since mâak did not want the monks to be troubled, he left to seek protection in a camphora tree, which is said to be inaccessible to a ghost. Still unable to reach her husband, Nâak began crying for him once more and every night would terrorize the villagers.
Sometime later a Buddhist monk Somdej Phra Puttajarn from Thonburi was able to put her tormented soul to rest. Whether the story is true or not, the people believe her spirit now lives in peace and will travel from near and far to seek spiritual help from her and ask her spirit to help in time of need.
The Mae Naak shrine, which is supposedly her burial place, is located at the edge of the Wat Mahabute compound in On Nut, Sukhumwit Soi 77, Bangkok.