Spiritual cleansing ritual in Thailand

Every culture believes in luck. Whether it’s carrying a rabbit’s foot, finding a four-leaf clover, or wearing a “lucky” colour, people across the world have their own way of ensuring positive outcomes. It’s the same in Thailand, where there seems to be an amulet or ritual for just about anything you want. 

In a mostly Buddhist country, it’s hard to say whether or not these rites are rooted in religion as technically speaking, the practices and the beliefs behind them straddle the thin line between religion and superstition.  

Part of those superstitions are “curses”, or simply, bad luck. And just like there are ways to ensure good luck, there are also methods to get rid of negative energy – or entities -, which is what I did a couple of months ago, after realising that traumatic events seemed to always fall on my birthday. 

Here’s how I convinced my family that I was in dire need of spiritual cleansing, and what happened afterwards. 

Other perspectives worth checking out:

Coincidences and bad luck, or something else?

As far back as I can remember, bad things always seemed to always happen around my birthday, which falls in March. For six consecutive years in a row, I was either injured or hospitalised within a month of my birthday. This year, I was in a motorcycle accident just two weeks shy of the celebration.  

Going back further in time, I managed to get the flu twice in both March 2008 and 2009. In 2012, I collided with a “zombie” in a haunted house and had to get six stitches just 2MM away from my left eye just a week after my birthday. 

However, I didn’t really consider that things were that bad because I was living with my family and had their assistance to get through these happenings. 

So, it wasn’t until I was in Washington D.C. for university that I actually considered I was cursed. Throughout my time in the states, the “coincidental” accidents continued – I, again, got the flu twice in March 2016, and got a concussion from a fall almost exactly a year later. 

After this accident in 2017, I was 90% convinced that I was cursed. So, when I was on a trip to New Orleans, which is known for its “voodoo” and magic, I consulted a tarot reader.

Finding out I was “cursed”

Deciding to consult a fortune teller was a rather difficult decision for me. Buddhism played a huge part in my upbringing, teaching me that my destiny was determined by my karma and not by whatever a superstitious fortune teller had to say.  

Superstitious practices, while not taboo, were not encouraged. 

myanmar-ritual-2My father and I making merit at a temple in Myanmar. My family and I participate in Buddhist ceremonial rites, like merit-making – or tam boon in Thai – praying at the temple and going to the temple for major holidays.
Image credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

My family never let me join any fortune-telling ceremonies or consult spiritual guides as I wasn’t ready to take ownership of my responsibility to ensure good outcomes. I was allowed, though, to participate in Buddhist ceremonies that are said to help with luck. 

spiritual-cleansing-thailandDays after going through this sacred ritual in Myanmar, I woke up with a 39°C fever.  
Image credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

So, despite New Orlean’s reputation for voodoo ceremonies and magic, I was still sceptical that a woman sitting under a tree with cards splayed across the floor would be able to tell me whether or not I was cursed. But, I was desperate. 

We spoke about my goals, where I was from, and what each card I drew meant. While her interpretation of each card managed to be relevant to events in my life, I still wasn’t convinced. These readings were rather general, and she was, after all, a tarot reader who had enough information about me to string together some ambiguous answers.

So, about five minutes into a tarot reading, I was already feeling defeated. I thanked her and paid for her time, and was already wallowing in self-pity that I’d never find my answer. But, as I was leaving, something she said stopped me in my tracks. 

“Your little black pooch and big bears are destined to be your caretakers, remember that. I know you love them and are always worried about them, but they love you more.” 

I did not mention anything about my dogs to her at all. 

bernese-mountain-dogI had a black cavapoo, and three Bernese Mountain dogs back home at the time. I assumed that these are the “pooches” the tarot card reader was referring to.
Image credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

In shock at the fact that she knew about my black dogs, I almost immediately started asking her about the weird coincidences, and if I was doing anything to tempt fate. I thought,
If she knew about my puppers, then she’d 100% be able to answer my questions.”

She asked me if there was anything that went wrong during my mother’s pregnancy or my birth. I informed her that I was born one month premature with both jaundice and colic. 

I’ll never forget her response: “Oh, darling. You’re just cursed.” According to the tarot card reader, the three factors surrounding my birth were the “holy trinity” of indicators that the child was not supposed to be born.  

To lift the “curse”, she would have to take a 3M slab of Aquamarine – my birthstone – and sink it in a sacred swamp to “pay” for whatever sins I did to anger the “guardians of March”.

How my Buddhist upbringing shaped my views

My family also assured me that I was not “cursed”, and that their trusted fortune teller said I would bring my family light and joy, and would live a charmed life.
Image credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

I remember frantically speaking to my family in a panic about what the tarot reader said and how I wanted to proceed with curse-lifting rites she proposed. 

Maybe it was because the ritual would have cost them ฿95,000 (~USD3,000), but my family immediately shut down the idea. They said that I was buying into superficial and easy ways to determine my destiny that were bound to fail, and that it would be better to donate the “fake ceremonial” money to someone who really needed it. 

Afterall, “curses” were not real, right? 

For the next four years, I tried to expel the notion that I was cursed and continued to do good deeds. 

scube-diving-koh-taoImage credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

But as luck would have it, I ended up being hospitalised on my next birthday once again after getting ulcers from ingesting disinfectant through my scuba diving breathing apparatus that had disinfectant spray lingering on it. To make matters worse, the diving school claimed that this was the first time this had ever happened.

Deciding to get an exorcism

While I did try to abide by what my family told me – that practicing Buddha’s teachings were more important than superstitious rituals – I continued to consult fortune tellers in Thailand without my family’s knowledge. 

At the beginning of the year, I was told that I had to change my phone number immediately as it contained numbers that would bring me bad luck. If I didn’t, I would suffer a fatal accident. With just two months before my birthday, I changed my phone number the very next day. 

Sure enough, just weeks before my birthday, I got into a motorcycle accident. Luckily, I managed to emerge relatively unscathed with just nerve damage and a torn ligament. 

This incident was the last straw – there were just too many incidents that occurred around my birthday for it to be a “coincidence”. I was going to get an exorcism. Expecting my family to veto my decision, I was surprised that they were not only supportive, but also wanted to facilitate the process. 

To me, it seemed like their sudden change of heart was the fortune teller’s advice to change my phone number and how I would suffer a fatal accident if I didn’t. They just asked that I refrain from calling it an “exorcism” and my experience a “curse” as they still believed that those weren’t real.

Spiritual cleansing in Thailand’s old capital, Ayutthaya

While you can find a specialist or shaman for just about any spiritual need in Thailand, it’s a little tricky to find one that doesn’t cost millions of Baht. Luckily, my mother had recently accompanied her friend on a trip to undergo a spiritual cleansing at a temple with an Ajarn – teacher – in the holy city of Ayutthaya and noticed that her friend seemed “noticeably lighter”.

Our specialist asked that we only pay what we could. A week later, we made the two hour drive along with 10KG of rice, a hoard of canned food, and supplies to donate to the temple. 

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Ajarn – the monk who did a quick evaluation of my situation. It was very unlike what I experienced in the States, as he did not ask me any questions but would only inform me of what he “sensed”. 

bernese-mountain-dog-german-shepherdAjarn also mentioned I was lucky to be surrounded by fluffy four-legged friends, and that “the departed” were still watching over me. I didn’t mention my dogs, nor did I state that one of them had recently passed.
Image credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

All of his hypotheses were surprisingly accurate and specific. He said that I was experiencing years of bad luck that always fell around a certain time, and have been seeking answers – and failing – for an equally long time.

The ritual

Ajarn recommended I go through a cleansing. As we prayed, other monks at the temple began filling up large buckets with water from a pump that stood outside. The buckets were then brought over to where Ajarn and his students were praying, and wax from the candles we prayed with was dripped into the water.

Afterwards, we were asked to sit in an un-roofed courtyard and wait for Ajarn to dump the entire bucket of water over our heads as he chanted prayers. 

He told us that we wouldn’t be feeling anything “miraculous” and to use our own discretion when deciding on the efficacy of the ritual. He summed it up by saying, “It should just feel like water washing over you. Not magic, just water.”

Water is a large part of Buddhist ceremonial rituals. Here, I’m pouring water onto a deity that is said to watch over those born on Thursday.
Image credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

The woman who was supposed to go before me mentioned that seeing no results was a good thing – those who had negative energy following them would feel cold, despite the hot sun. 

As I watched each person get “cleansed”, I was sweating under the heat. I had noticed that the buckets of water were also sitting under the sun, and probably progressively getting hotter. I was hot, dreading feeling hotter, and was starting to doubt whether this ritual was worth potential heatstroke. Yes, I was being a little dramatic. 

However, when Ajarn performed my cleansing, I froze. Literally. Every drop of water felt like an ice dagger piercing through my skin. I was shivering so hard and felt so cold, despite being so hot earlier. 

So, was I cursed?

Upon noticing my reaction, Ajarn tried to reassure me that I had nothing to worry about as “curses” didn’t really exist. Unfortunately, I was already in tears and panicking because I felt like everything I believed was true. 

He did, however, give me a special hair balm encased in a holy container with prayers written on it, and to use it like a leave-in conditioner whenever I felt doubtful. He also mentioned I should eat more vegetables. 

I never mentioned anything about my dietary preferences but anyone who knows me can testify that I do not necessarily enjoy eating my greens. So, after he said this, I was sold on his powers. 

Spiritual cleansing in Thailand: Did it work? 

It’s been about two months since I underwent the cleansing ritual in Ayutthaya. 

To me, the time that has passed have been characterised by uncertainty and fear from rising Covid-19 cases, so I haven’t really had the chance to objectively view whether or not the ritual completely flipped my luck. 

spiritual-cleansing-thailandWhile it’s difficult to say whether or not I believe in Buddhist rituals, I do always feel lighter after partaking in them.
Image credit: Sam Anukularmphai 

However, I have noticed little improvements in my life and positive coincidences. These minor changes could very well be attributed to the spiritual cleansing and Ajarns ability to rid me of negative energy. But, it could also be because I have been paying more attention to what’s going on around me.

The experience has led me to reevaluate my faith and just how much more I need to practice mindfulness in order to take stock of my karma, as well as how I’m affecting my own destiny. 

Weirdly enough, after pestering my family to undergo a superstitious ritual, my beliefs now align closer with theirs: there are no curses – just coincidences, and I am in charge of my own destiny. 

It’s difficult to say whether my experience was a result of bad luck, or other supernatural forces. However, that’s not going to stop me from wearing certain colours on certain days of the week or making merit more often around my birthday. 

We’ll have to see how this all plays out by March 2022. 

How about you? Do you believe in curses? What’s your experience with them? 

Supernatural beliefs in Thailand: 

Cover images adapted from: Sam Anukularmphai

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