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Ghost Festival
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Thread: Ghost Festival

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
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    Amphoe Dan Sai, Loei

    A Happy Gathering of Fun-Loving Spirits
    The Phi Ta Khon festival is unique to the Dan Sai district in Loei Province and reflects the local Isan belief in ghosts and spirits. Held once a year, it is part of a grand merit-making festival known as the "Boon Luang" festival.

    The origins of the Phi Ta Khon Festival can be found in the tale of Lord Buddha's last great incarnation before attaining Enlightenment. In Buddhist accounts, it is said that when Prince Vessandara, the Buddha's penultimate incarnation, returned to his city, it was such a joyous occasion that the village spirits came forth to join the welcoming parade. This very colourful and vibrant Phi Ta Khon procession is the central focus of the celebrations.

    In a lively re-enactment of the tale, the young men of the community dress up as "spirits" wearing long trailing costumes made from colourful strips of cloth sewn together.

    The hideous-looking Phi Ta Khon mask which is made of dried sticky rice husk is painted in bright red, green or other colours, and features the characteristic long pointed nose. This completes the transformation. The clanging sound of the square cowbells worn around the waist announces the presence of the spirits who wield phallic-shaped long-handled swords decorated with red paint. The good-natured, fun-loving spirits mingle among the crowd, teasing and amusing all who take part in the procession. Spectators and visitors are welcome to join in the fun.

    There are two types of "spirits" featured in the Phi Ta Khon procession namely the "Phi Ta Khon Yai" -- the supreme Phi Ta Khon, and the "Phi Ta Khon Lek", the ones that are commonly found. The making of the Phi Ta Khon Yai involves the performance of a sacred ritual to seek the blessings of the supreme powers before work on the Phi Ta Khon Yai masks can be initiated. It is also a task reserved exclusively for the descendants of families in which the tradition of making Phi Ta Khon masks has been practised for several generations. The Phi Ta Khon Yai is made of bamboo and is dressed in either in male or female attire.

    The following activities are part of the two-day long Phi Ta Khon celebrations.

    On the first day of the celebrations known as the "Wan Home" - "Day of the gathering of spirits", the 'Phi Ta Khon spirits' assemble at the Chao Phor Kuan shrine at 01:00. The procession sets off for Wat Phon Chai Temple where the Buddha image in the sitting mudra is received and escorted to the Mae Nam Mun River, and then escorted back to the temple and reinstated in the Phra Upakut hall.

    The local villagers then assemble to perform the "Bai See Soo Kwan" ritual to pay their respects to Chao Phor Kuan, the guardian spirit of the community. Thereafter the festive celebrations begin with the 'spirits' enjoying a grand feast accompanied by Isan-style festivities. The opening ceremony of the Phi Ta Khon festival is held later in the afternoon at the Dan Sai District School.

    On the second day of the celebrations, the focus shifts to the merit-making rituals and sermons held during the "Boon Luang" festival.

    There is another account of the origins of this folk tradition. The story is set around the Wat Phra That Sri Song Rak Temple, an ancestral site and place of worship that has long been a revered landmark of the Dan Sai community. The monument signifies a pledge of friendship and co-operation between the ancient kingdoms of Siam and Lao. According to local folklore, a couple deeply in love were forced apart by their families. They soon eloped and sought refuge in a tunnel where donations made to the Wat Phra That Sri Song Rak temple were stored. One day, the entrance to the tunnel was sealed. The couple was trapped inside. United in death, the couple became the guardian spirits of the community known as Chao Por Kuan and Chao Mae Nang Tiem. Over time, many more spirits came to serve the venerable guardian spirits. When the season for merit-making rituals comes around, the spirits emerge to take part in the procession of the Phra Upakut, the Buddha image associated with rainmaking rituals. The date of the festival is set by the appearance of the Chao Por Kuan and Chao Mae Nang Tiem guardian spirits before the village medium during a trance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    Now that's interesting Spooky news
    Live your Life to the Fullest.
    The Lonely Boxer.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Spartanburg, SC USA
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