Friday, November 14, 2014

Sakura advises barren women to pray at Bangkok’s Mae Nak shrine and Chao Mae Tumbit shrine

My mobile beeps and the caller ID shows Sakura Siew.

“What’s up, Miss Siew?” I say into the microphone.

“I just came back from Bangkok. Got some souvenirs for you. Can I come tomorrow and pass them to you?”

“Why, sure. Thank you. Was it a vacation?”

“I took my auntie to pray at two temples. They’re popular with barren women wishing to conceive.”

“Interesting! Tell me more about them.”

“First, there’s the Mae Nak Shrine. Legend says that a woman named Nak was married to a man called Maak during the reign of King Mongkut. In 1885, Maak was conscripted to fight against the Shan State in the north. During her husband’s absence, Nak died during childbirth. When Maak returned, he saw his wife and a baby at home. Unknown to him, they were both ghosts. For several months, they lived a normal life. One day, Nak dropped a piece of lime while preparing food. The lime fell through a slit in the wooden floor to the ground. She elongated her hand through the slit to the ground to retrieve it. Maak saw this incident from the bedroom, realized that his wife was a ghost and fled from the house. He hid in a temple. Nak was furious and starting hurling stones at villagers. Finally, a monk captured her and imprisoned her in an earthenware jug. The jug was thrown into the Phra Kanong canal. Two fisherman unwittingly released her when they found the jug and opened it. By now, Maak was living with another woman and Nak returned home and strangled her to death. To appease the fierce spirit, another monk built a shrine at Wat Mahabut for her to stay.”

“Sheesh! That’s scary. Address of the temple?”

“Soi 77, Off Sukhumvit Road.” A pause. “Not only barren women pray to her. Mae Nak also gives luck to lottery punters. But pregnant women are advised not to come, in case the spirit decides to do some mischief with the fetus.”

“What’s the second shrine?”

“The Chao Mae Tumbit shrine. This fertility shrine is dedicated to the goddess Chao Mae Tumbit who is believed to reside in the banyan tree there. There are hundreds of wooden and stone phalluses scattered around the shrine. Big and small.” A giggle. “Seems that the goddess likes offerings of phallic objects.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “Really? Weren’t you embarrassed?”

“No, there were many female tourists there. The shrine is located in the compound of the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Bangkok on Wireless Road.”

“Thanks, I’ll put them in my blog.”


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