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To Wish Good Luck by Binding People’s Wrist
A Thai traditional ceremony to console the people’s Kwǎn (Thai: ขวัญ) based on Thais’ belief of having good spirit inside people’s entire body which affects people’s thinking and body health. If something bad happens to someones body, it may also have a bad effect to a person’s mind also. Therefore, when there is some bad experience either to a persons body or mind, Thai people will attempt to cure both physical and mental symptoms; using medical treatment to cure body and also holding a ceremony to console peoples mind.
The ceremony called “Rîak Kwǎn or Sùu Kwǎn” (Thai : เรียกขวัญ or สู่ขวัญ) it is regarded as an important ceremony to Thais. This ceremony will be held to strengthen the state of people’s mind, to console them and to return to normal positive thinking.
History of the Rîak Kwǎn Ceremony
According to Thais’ belief the Rîak Kwǎn ceremony; the ancient Thai traditional ceremony was originally held to help people through illness; which especially help the person have strength to fight with the illness. The ceremony Rîak Kwǎn has been held and traditionally followed by Thais from generation to generation. Thai people believe that the ceremony will help to bring Kwǎn (good spirit) back to one’s body.
Nowadays the Rîak Kwǎn ceremony is become the ceremony for blessing and bringing the prosperity to descendants of each family. And the ceremony is different depending on which part of Thailand you are in but there is one thing that is the same; it is people would bind one’s wrist with some holy thread (Thai: สายสิญจน์/sǎai-sǐn/) which mostly are white.
The Rîak Kwǎn Ceremony
Thai Isaan people usually call the ceremony as “Baai Sri” or “Baai Sri Sùu Kwǎn” (Thai: บายศรี or บายศรีสู่ขวัญ) ceremony; which is an important ceremony that would be held in every important occasion; both caused by either good or bad things. Isaan people believe that the Rîak Kwǎn ceremony would help to console people’s Kwǎn to return to people’s body, and can also be an expression of congratulation, joy, and appeasement for the Kwǎn’s owners from their relatives and guests who attend the ceremony. And for these reasons also the ceremony is held across Thailand especially in Isaan and in the north region. The “Kwǎn” is the intangible life spirit inside people and animals bodies initiated from birth.
The ceremony in Isaan style is mostly delivered by 2 methods simultaneously which are the methods from Buddhism and Brahman religions. Firstly, the Buddhism Method, an organizer will invite at least 5 monks to chant the prayers and set up a big monk’s alms-bowl with holy water inside. After that one of the monks will sprinkle holy water to everyone in the ceremony and together with the rest of the monks will chant the Buddhajayamangala (Thai: ชัยมงคลคาถา) . Following this there may be an offering breakfast for the monks.
As for Brahman method traditionally this is held after the Buddhist ceremony. A Brahmin priest will ask the Kwǎn’s owner (person for whom the ceremony is being delivered) based on their date of birth, to sit and face to the right direction following the Brahman’s rules. The Kwǎn’s owner will have to do the Wai (Thai: ไหว้) ; raise both hands up palm against palm to the Brahman priest while he is chanting the Brahman spell, the Kwǎn’s owner then using his or her right hand, touches the Baai Sri Tray (Thai: พานบายศรี) and prays positively thinking of good things in his or her mind. During the ceremony, all the guests and relatives sit in a circle behind the Kwǎn’s owner supporting the individual and praying for the Kwǎn’s owner to be happy, healthy, and prosperous. When the Brahman priest finishes his chanting, the relatives of the Kwǎn’s owner will bring some eggs, rice, and bananas to put in the Kwǎn’s owner’s hands. Then the Brahman priest will bind the prepared holy thread at the left wrist of the Kwǎn’s owner. It has to be left wrist because people believe that it is the weakest hand because it is not used much. At the same time that the priest is binding the white holy thread; all guests and relative will stretch out their right hands to touch the Kwan’s owner, for the guests or relatives who are sitting far away from the Kwan’s owner, they will touch the person in front of them by hand or arm to touch until everyone in the circle are connected to the Kwǎn’s owner. This shows the physical and mental support sending their good prays to the Kwǎn’s owner. After the priest has finished binding and give blessing to the Kwǎn’s owner then it is the time for other relatives and guests to take turns to bind the holy thread themselves to the Kwǎn’s owner and offer good wishes.
The Holy Thread (สายสิญจน์ /sǎai-sǐn/)
The holy thread (thread for binding the wrist), it is regarded to be an amulet; a sacred thing that should be kept on the wrist (after binding one’s wrist) for 3 days. Thais will not throw the thread in a bad or dirty place because the holy thread is sacred. Thai people believe that it is the center of the persons blessing, so it should be treated with respect. Some elder people used to say that holy thread that is well kept will offer good luck ie may help protect the owner’s from thieves, other dangers or can even help the owner to be loved by other people.
The speech said when the those gathered at the ceremony are binding the wrist is also considered to be another important things in this ceremony. It should be beautiful, sweet, polite, and have good meanings.
The Occasions to Hold the Ceremony
There are many occasions when Thai people hold the Rîak Kwǎn ceremony such as, Reverence of the Lord Buddha Statue, before the ceremony to enter the monkshood, pregnancy, welcome new childbirth to a family, housewarming ceremony, wedding ceremony, welcome a sick person back home etc.
The ceremony of binding one’s wrist with the holy thread is embedded in Thai culture and is widely used across Thailand and so is passed from generation to generation.
Hope this article is useful for all of you and see you again next blog ka 🙂
Thai Language Teacher