A Shaman, Some Tobacco, and Thai Chili Peppers

Now be honest, we’re among friends … When was the last time you had a burning desire to smoke tobacco mixed with a couple of hot Thai chili peppers? The answer for me was – the thought never even crossed my mind, and I grew up in the 60’s! So if I had never heard of it, my initial thought was, wow, that’s out there!

Ok, let me backup for a second and set the stage. Spirit Houses are a big deal in rural Thailand. It is rare to find a home without a set of spirit houses in the front yard, (actually two, the way it works is one house is to protect the home and a second one is to protect the land). The culture of Spirit Houses will require a separate blog post, but for now let’s just say they are a place for the spirits (both good and evil) to live so they don’t end up living in the home. Besides every home having a set of spirit houses, there are also larger spirit houses set up for the multiple families living in an area. I was invited to come to one of the annual blessing ceremonies for the community spirit house.

The day started out with the Thai families I’m documenting preparing a huge feast for the spirits. All this great Thai food will not go to waste however, after the ceremony the local families will have a large buffet lunch with all the food that the spirits did not eat. I mean hey, the spirits had their chance, they should be happy, so after the event it will be the villagers turn to eat.

After the food is laid out on a large table in front of the spirit house The local shaman comes on the scene. In our village, there are several shamen used for different things on different occasions. On this occasion, the shaman used is respected for her ability to communicate well with the spirits, which I have documented on several occasions.

The “cigarette” smoked by the shaman is a hand rolled special mixture of tobacco and Thai hot chilli peppers.


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