For the Background Presses – Luk Thep and Kuman Thong
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The days of me aimless searching for random internet stories is unfortunately behind me, which is a shame because so many ideas came from news articles, but here’s one I can’t pass up posting. I followed breadcrumbs, see, and I don’t know where I am, and it’s getting dark, and I’m hungry…
Luk Thep are believed to possess a child’s spirit and bring good fortune, thus many Thais have taken to treating them like real kids.
The internal Thai Smile memo, being circulated among Thai media, says the dolls have to be buckled up like human passengers and will be served snacks and drinks.
As with real children, they’re barred from sitting in exit rows.
Contemplate this, Friends: dolls that possess the spirits of children, but are good luck.
Because what toddler melting down because the wind changed doesn’t bring good luck to all within earshot?
I did some digging, because clearly this idea didn’t just appear organically on the internet. I followed some links, did some reading, went to the bathroom and cried a little.
In Thai folklore, a Kuman Thong is a household divinity – I’m guessing like a kitchen witch, or maybe even a Brownie. According to hastily researched sources, a long time ago in a lang far away, necromancers used to take the body of stillborn infants, dress them in a neat oil called Nam Man Phrai (honest to goodness baby oil – from babies).
“This is much less common now, because this practice is now illegal if using fat from human babies for the consecrating oil.”
Onward: in an elaborate ceremony, the practitioners create homunculuses (homunculi? homunculeese?), by drying the bodies, anointing the forms with oils and wrapping them carefully in expensive silks and gold, creating essentially a fetish or amulet. Then a child’s soul is bound to the form, creating a Kuman Thong (“golden boy”), or if you desired a female child’s spirit, a Hong Phrai, to bring you fortune and success.
Much like an actual child might if they stayed in school got all the right breaks became a successful individual who didn’t despise his success-driven parents.
You can still find these curios if you look hard enough and are willing to go to jail if you’re caught trying to smuggle them out of the country, but the modern method is to use carved wooden dolls, or in today’s fast-paced gotta have it now mindset, a doll created in a factory and, I dunno, my mind is reeling with how “loose” souls are obtained for these mass-produced Luk Thep.
There’s a story in this, and it’s creepy and unsettling. Not so much the fetuses or the dolls themselves, (whatever, my stuffed animals protect me from everything) but the idea that these vessels contain the souls of children. I mean, what do they ask for in return? A shrine of juice boxes? Tribute piles of Cheerios? A TV in the alter room that shows nothing but Sponge Bob Square Pants?
But oh wait, it gets much, much worse.
See, the creator of the now trendy accessory, Mama Ning, was inspired by the first one she created, like the creepiest DIY you’ll never see on Create.tv.
Petch was her first and favorite doll because she infused it with the spirit of her son. Three years ago, when he was 17, she was at her wits’ end with his bad boy behavior. So she placed the amulets and charms he loved inside the doll, and it awakened. She starting treating Petch like her child, carrying him around and taking him to make merit at the temple, in hope that her teen at home would change his ways.
According to Mama Ning, it worked.
Her son started improving his life and eventually moved out and got married. Now doll-Petch is sporting gold rings on every finger as a reward for bringing in the money for Mama, and their relationship has become stronger than ever.
A moment, please. Petch is infused with the soul of her living son. Maybe Thai souls are different and can make anything they come into contact with “infused”, while still remaining whole, like a clove of garlic or a stick of cinnamon that’s good for several cups of tea. But this – and even as a novice dabbler of the arcane – this seems soooooooooooo…
…draining on the original soul.
I know doll babies are used in a number of ceremonial rituals as a binding, but mass-produced on this scale – are there really that many free-floating souls just waiting for a vessel to contain it and bring you everything you could every want?
Western magic says no.