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Mon 24 Apr 2017
Superstitions about Trees and Plants - 02
Written by Panrit "Gor" Daoruang   
Friday, 09 February 2007 02:28
Thai people believe that it is not advisable to plant certain kinds of trees and plants near the house or in the compound. They are unlucky. 


Chaba (Hibicus rosa sinensis nalvaceae). This is a shrub plant which is raised by the Chinese and bears scarletred flower. There are many varieties of this shrub with various beautiful colors. In the old days an adulteress was punished by being exposed to the public on a kind of stilt with red chaba flowers tucked aboved her ears. A convict to be executed for heinous crimes was also decorated with such a flower behind the ear on his way to the place of execution. In southern India, a garland of such flowers is hung around the neck of a criminal to be executed.

Phutsa (Zizyphus jujuba). The Indian Jujube bears edible cherrylike fruit. It grows wild and its thorny branches are used to block the passage of evil spirits when there is a birth. The flowers have a strange nauseous smell. This tree is not grown near the house, perhaps, apart from the smell of its flowers when in bloom, the last syllable "sa" of "Phutsa" also means in Thai to diminish or to grow less. It is unlucky to have it in the compound of the house for one's fortune in trade will grow less and less.

Nun (Ceibo pentendra) or kapok tree is not grown near a house.

Ngiew (Bombax malabaricumMalvanccae). It is unlucky to grow the red silk cotton tree in the house compound.

These two types of trees have soft wood of no economic value. In former days big ngiew trees were utilized as coffins for the soft wood could be dug out easily for the purpose.

Malakaw (Carica papaya cururabitaccae). The papaya tree with edible fruit, has no bark and is liable to uproot easily, hence, it is not advisable to grow in the house compound or near the house. Unripe fruit of the papaya is used as food, but ripe fruit in the old days was not usually eaten because of its strong butter-like smell which Thai of older generations disliked. Recently a number of varieties of this tree have been introduced into the country with improved fruit which suit the taste of the younger generation. The papaya tree is to be found in the compound of houses, but older people cling to superstitious beliefs, and give well-meaning advice that it is not good to have such trees in the garden.

Takian (Hopea odorata).

Yang (Dipterocarpus alatus).

These are tall forest trees. They are of course not fit to be grown in a limited house ground. Beside, such big trees are believed by the people to be abodes of tree spirits. There are two kinds of spirits that reside in the trees. One kind is a male spirit half "phi" half thevada or god, and the other is a female spirit like the wood nymph. The former, as surmised from the tree cult usually resides in a big tall tree, the wood of which has no economic value, while the latter resides in a tree which supplies economic wood or fruits. Even today people in outlying districts will not dare to cut down any big tree for fear of the tree spirit residing in it. Even in felling a tree of smaller size, the people will first make an offering to the spirit to atone for the offence made. A very big and very tall tree of the kind which the people believe to be the abode of the spirit will not be felled at any cost. In the old days when certain big trees were required for the making of the traditional royal barge or posts for the tall roof of a royal pyre, an offering was made and a royal proclamation was read to the spirit under the tree before it could be cut down. This was a wise practice to preserve big trees of the forest from wanton felling by the simple folk.

The Takian tree in the particular is a very well-known one where a female spirit has her habitation. She is known as "Nang Takian" or Lady Takian. In the imagination of the people, Lady Takian usually takes the form of a beauty maiden who sometimes makes a wailing and piercing sound when the tree, her abode, is felled. Unforseen and mysterious calamities will befall the person or persons who destroy her abode. A Takian tree growing near the bank of a river with its root protruding above ground is to be avoided, for the Lady Takian of that tree is a fierce one. Whoever relieves himself near the base of her tree will suffer from ulcers. To add to the belief, both kinds of trees, Takian and Yang are usually found in a wat where all sorts of ghost stories emanate.

Po (Ficus religiosa). The religious fig tree under which the Lord Buddha was sitting when he received his enlightenment. It is to be found in most of the wats. Hence, when a person sees from afar a po tree, he knows that a wat is there. Such a sacred tree is not grown in the compound of the house. The po tree in the wat is usually a tall shady tree around which the people sometimes wrap a yellow robe in the same manner as robing a Buddha image with the yellow robe. Some people place bamboo poles, trimmed and whitewashed, as supports to the holy tree. In the old days cowrie shells used as token money, were inserted inside the bamboo poles. Poor people will bury the bones and ashes of their dear ones near the root of the po tree so that they may be near the holy symbol of the Lord Buddha.

Kluey Tani. A variety of banana which bears fruits. Though delicious to taste when ripe, it is not usually eaten on account of its numerous seeds. They are cultivated in gardens for their leaves which have the highest quality for wrapping purposes, or to make into leaf cups. They are in great demand in the market. Kluey Tani is not grown near the house for it has an evil repute that it has a female "phi" named Nang Tani who every now and then scares people.

Mayom (Phyllanthus distichus euphobiaceaea). The star gooseberry which bears acid fruit. Its branches are used by monks who dip it in the consecrated water and sprinkle it on persons or places as a sort of ritual purification. Some people do not grow this tree near the house. The Lord of "phi" is called in Thai, "Phya Yom" from Yama the Indian God of Death. Perhaps because the name of the tree "mayom" sounds like Phya Yom in its last syllable, it is not grown near the house of some people. The branch of mayom tree which is used for the purification ritual is no doubt used in immitation of Yama, the Indian God of Death who holds a staff (Yama Dandha) with which he beasts the evil spirits. On seeing such a staff the evil spirits will flee.

Marum (Moringa, oleiferaMaringaceae). The Indian drum stick tree which bears pods like drum sticks. Some people object to having such a tree grown in the house compound. No doubt the objection is due to the name of tree "marum" which coincides with the Thai word ma-rum which means "to come in a crowd". This may be taken to mean to come in a crowd in order to consume food or to come in a crowd to attack.