Stickman Readers' Submissions December 20th, 2007

Ghost, Rats and Snakes

Thailand is a wonderful place in many ways. The people are generally friendly and helpful if treated with respect and a smile. This at times can be difficult to do given the education level the average Thai has. This said, as an American living in the Land of Smiles, these warm people have helped me on several occasions. After having a minor motorcycle accident, there was a handful of Thai men who came over and moved me and my motorcycle out of harm’s way. They were on par with others I have encountered around the world, ready to help a fellow man. In some ways the Thai people, to me, are much easier to be with than my fellow Americans. In two or three generations the materialism of the world will have caught with them, and who knows what they will be like then.

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The purpose of this writing is to talk about superstition. Most of us from the west are not nearly as superstitious as the Thais, unless you count our religious beliefs, which I guess is what the Thais are doing also.

My first encounter was with a Thai lady I had met at a local bar here in Pattaya. We went to her home in Isaan to spend a few days. The house we stayed in was the home she had grown up in. In the last two years both her mother and father, as well as her sister had died in this house. I never fully understood why other than to say natural causes. The first night there at about 2 AM, she heard a noise and jumped up, put on her clothes, and went across the street to her brother’s house to sleep. She could not believe that I was going to sleep in the house after hearing the noise. The next day, all of the family members and some neighbors came over and washed the inside of the house. A few hours later three monks came and performed some sort of cleansing ceremony. We stayed there for the next five days and had no problems with ghosts. This was the first time the house had been occupied since her sister had died over two years ago. I did not know at the time that ghosts play a big part in the life of the Thais. The Thais go to great lengths to keep the spirits of the dead happy. They give them a place to reside with their small spirit houses you see all over the country. If you have a small simple house, then a small shrine will do. If on the other hand you have an elaborate house or business, a small and simple shrine will not do. Nice house, nice shrine.

I live in a section of Pattaya that I would consider middle class for a Thai. All of the houses share a common wall. Much like you would see in Boston or Philadelphia. When I first encountered a rat in my kitchen, I went out and bought a rat trap to catch the rodent and kill it. My Thai girlfriend tried to explain to me that this was not good. We can not kill the rat. Ok. I went out and bought a trap that would catch the rat but not kill it. The next night I set the trap and caught the beast. Upon her request I took the rat outside in the street and let it go. It immediately ran between her feet and off down the street. Now if this had been my former wife in America, I would have been calling 911 because she would have died on the spot. My Thai lady never flinched. The next night we caught the same rat, or maybe another again. This time I killed the rat, and to this day have not had any more problems with rats. Turn them loose and let them go to somebody else’s house. That is the Thai way.

Earlier this year I had some sort of large, 3 meter, black snake get into my kitchen. My cat attacked the snake and drove it back out the window it had come in. My Thai girlfriend said that she had watched the whole episode, but did not tell me about it until that night. No problem as she said. As it turned out five of my neighbors had seen a snake like this in their house within the previous several days. Leave it alone and it will go away. A couple of weeks later as I was pulling into my carport, I saw a snake trying to go in my front door. I cornered the snake and ended up killing it. It was a small cobra about 1 meter long. My girlfriend has a fit with me killing the snake. Pouts for two days.

Well tonight she sees a snake in the carport being guarded by my cat. Best pet I have ever had. What she does is to go out and talk to the snake. She tells it to leave and it will bring good luck to her house.

Now I am a country boy from southern Mississippi, and I do not talk to snakes the same way she does. A shovel or shotgun has always proven to give good results.

I would like to hear from others about the way things like this are handled here in Thailand.

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Stickman's thoughts:

Wow, that is one brave cat you’ve got!

My understanding of Buddhism is extremely limited, but your girlfriend being against you killing any animal may be related to religious beliefs.

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