Thai Lucky Charm

amulet marketThe western world calls it a talisman but in Thailand the lucky charm worn by millions is named an amulet although they are not always lucky. Such is the popularity of these lucky charms in Thailand that in April 2007 a woman was stampeded to death at an amulet auction in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. A very sad tale indeed.

Thai amulets are usually worn around the neck and thought to bring good luck and ward off evil. The pendants normally have a carved or engraved image of a Buddha or revered Monk and are crafted from various materials.

All around the world different things are used to bring good luck, Beyond The Mango Juice takes a look at a few of them and finishes with a very strange Thai ritual.

United Kingdom
In the UK a horseshoe with its ends pointed up is fixed to an outside door to bring good luck, if the ends point down then bad luck will occur. The horseshoe must be a used one preferably found, and is hung at a height that someone can reach as touching the lucky charm will bring good luck. Very sober.

Taitung is in one of the more isolated parts of Taiwan on the eastern side of the island. One of its lucky rituals involves volunteers throwing firecrackers at the lucky participants. To bring good luck at the start of the Lunar New Year and to ward off evil spirits, some of Taitung’s citizens purchase fireworks to become the target in this 50 year old tradition. Burns are common and a trip to the hospital is seen as an absolute last resort. The ritual is called Han Dan and is named after a God who feared the cold and the throwing of firecrackers is to warm him. Strange indeed.

Solapur is an industrial city in Maharashtra, India and has an average elevation of 458 metres above sea level, for some it’s a little bit more. Muslims in this western area of India have a strange ritual in which babies are thrown off a temple roof 50 metres above the ground, but don’t panic because organizers say no baby has ever been hurt. The beautiful “bouncing” baby is dropped from the temple roof where down below a crowd waits with a large bedsheet to catch the confused toddler. The youngster is caught after the first bounce to bring good luck and for the child to grow strong. Strange but true.

The Coffin 2008The Coffin (2008) is a movie that is set in Thailand and the plot evolves around a very strange real life Thai ritual. The movie is about a woman who having been diagnosed with cancer runs off to Thailand to avoid telling her fiance about her life threatening illness.

Once in Thailand Sue played by Hong Kong born and London University educated actress Karen Mok discovers the Thai ritual of lying in a coffin to rid oneself of bad karma and give birth to a new life.

Sue is pursued to Thailand by her boyfriend Chris who participates in the ritual in  the hope of saving his girlfriend’s life. At first their fortunes change for the better but then strange incidents start to occur.

The movie also stars Thai actress Napakpapha Nakprasitte and was a number one hit in Thai cinemas last year but how does this bizarre ritual rank in real life Thailand today.

Non Loeng Sadorcro means “lie in a coffin, cast away bad luck” and this rather bizarre service is performed at some temples in Thailand. The bearer of bad karma lies in a coffin and monks chant death rites to them. The person then rises from the coffin reborn and rid of all ill luck.

With unemployment on the rise in Thailand this strange Buddhist ceremony is being performed more regularly as Thai’s seek ways of changing their fortunes. Money, love, health and happiness are all sought after stepping out of the coffin reborn and released from the bad karma of their previous life.

A mass funeral some years back in north east Thailand was attended by over 10,000 people. Death and rebirth all for a donation of about 150 baht. I’m starting to think a few burns from lobbed firecrackers doesn’t seem such an ordeal afterall.


Photograph Amulet market, Bangkok by zoonabar


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

9 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn fascinating stuff and just the sort of thing I could imagine MTF believing in. Just hope she doesn’t ask me to lie in the coffin with her.

    I have been watching too many Thai vampire soaps!

    Mike’s last blog post..Hill Tribe Trek Northern Thailand

  2. Martin In Bulgaria says:

    Hi Martyn,

    Some interesting points of charms and bad luck traditions you bring up for inspection. trowin firsworks at people certainly isn’t good luck for the recievers in Taiwan!

    You might be aware that I have Bad Luck everyday and write up on it. But then I could quite easily have good luck every day and write up about that, which is more interesting?

    You hit the nail on the head with saying that recession bring about good business for good luck charms and other factors that are deemed to change your luck and bring good fortune.

    Another excellent post.

    Martin In Bulgaria’s last blog post..A Bulgarian Easter 2009 – A Joyful Family Occasion

  3. *lynne* says:

    I can top the lying in a coffin tale.

    First, some context: in Malaysia, among the Malays, there is a strong belief in the supernatural, stemming from the traditional pre-Islamic animistic roots of the people here, coupled with Islam’s view of the “other world” inhabited by djinns.

    When someone is believed to be hounded by some sort of hereditary ghost/guardian/spirit, or wants to be rid of such and entity (there are a lot of “things” passed down, generation to generation…), the way to go about it is to go through burial rites. Thing is, Muslim burial rites involve being wrapped from head to toe in a 7-yard long white cloth! And you are then brought out into the jungle, somewhere you are to remain undisturbed, for (I think – three days?!), no food no water, all to “fool” the entity/ies into thinking you are dead. Then the bomoh (medicine man) comes to get you and releases you from the cloth, nd there you are, reborn!

    No, I’ve not gone through this. But I have heard about it, and someone I know peripherally claimed to have gone through that experience.

    *lynne*’s last blog post..Open invitation for Guest Bloggers!

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Mike I cannot understand how any non Thai can watch too many soaps. They all seem to follow a familiar plot.

    Martin at least your bad luck is happening in a country where you want to be and I’m sure you’ve got plenty of good karma waiting around the corner.

    Lynne that is one amazing ritual, being left alone in the jungle and bound to boot would be beyond me. My first sight of a snake and I would pass out. I am sure it would make an interesting post on your blog.

  5. Jade says:

    Charms and Amulets are very popular, it doesn’t hurt to have them sometime. The people in our tree farm in the Philippines believes in these type of things so we just respect it anyway.

    One of our old caretaker said that to build a house on the top of the hill, we must ask permission first to the unseen ones – my husband says within the two of us ” it’s my land so why ask permission”.

    Oh better do what the old people says I think …

    Jade’s last blog post..The Future Rural Life Part II

  6. Talen says:

    Martyn, There is a lady in the village that did the coffin ceremony last week…very odd.

    And I’ve been watching Thai soap opera’s the past 2 weeks!! Only one has been centered around ghosts and the supernatural though the rest are standard fare.

    Talen’s last blog post..A Stroll Down Nakom Phanome’s Riverfront

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Jade thanks for your comment and it is at times best to do as the old ones say. Years and years of life’s experience must count for something afterall.

    Talen – That’s amazing being in the village at the time of a coffin ritual. I hope you got some photos because I’m sure it would make a very good post for your site. Enjoy your holiday.

  8. expatudon08 says:

    the wife puts one round my neck every time we fly
    loved the post and the blog as a whole so i just digg it
    hope thats ok

    regards john
    ps does anybody remember in the UK when the gipsies used to sell lucky ribbons cloth and if a house wife did not buy they would say they would place a curse on you

  9. Hoo Don says:

    John welcome back from your Thailand trip and I hope it’s not long before you’re back over there. I do remember the gypsies from my childhood and was always a little scared of them. Thanks for the digg.

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