Friday, February 11, 2005

orasyons, anting-anting etc....

I can’t say that I believe, nor can I say I disbelieve in the presence or effectivity of charms, orasyons, anting-anting etc.... that can protect you in battle or in the ring. I have seen some things that I can’t explain as well as things that I know are bogus. So in a nutshell, I’m on the fence. My practical side tells me that I’m controlling and using my adrenaline dump (fight or flight) to my advantage. My artistic side would like to believe that I’m tapping into and harnessing energy from past warriors within my bloodlines. The curse of an artist schooled in the sciences. I am by no means an authority on Thai animist/Buddhist/metaphysical practices. Just information I have picked up from my teachers and read in different Thai texts. I try to keep an open mind about such things. But, one way to look at it is this; In the heat of battle, on the field or in the ring, someones Mongkon/Praciat/oryson/anting-anting is going to fail. Is it due to weaker metaphysics? Lack of belief? Poor training, strategy, or tactics? Or just plain old bad luck? All of the above?


I thought I would post this in response to questions that are popping up in different threads about the head bands (mongkons) and arm bands (praciat) used in the pre-fight rituals of Muay Thai.

Or protective Charms

The Thai people have believed in the magic arts since ancient times. Few people can compare to the Thai in this respect. In groups and circles all over the country, people still believe wholeheartedly in these arts.

The study and practice of Pahuyuth, or Thai Boxing (Muay Thai), has a well known reputation regarding magical powers, which have been studied by many. It goes without saying that students in all vocational areas are created by teachers, and one cultural heritage buried deep in the hearts and minds of the Thai people is that the student is always respectful, polite and forever grateful to the teacher.

The Thai Boxing (Muay Thai) teacher instructs the fighter over and over in magical formulae and incantations and when the fighter is entering the ring gives him protective charms to ensure that he keeps his strength, resilience and determination. These elements of the magic arts proved their powers for all to see in the old days.
This custom is illustrated by old drawings of Thai warriors in battle sometimes wearing shirts with magical letters and symbols or sashes with magical designs and numbers, as well as having tattoos all over their bodies--all of which provided miraculous protective powers during battle. Whether struck by a sword, stabbed with a knife, or hit by and arrow or bullet, there was never even the slightest sign of a wound--merely a burn mark.

However, faith and belief in these magical powers have been very much weakened because persons with evil designs have used them in unacceptable ways. This has been a bad development for the practice of the magic arts.
The protective charms that will be described are those found at the present time.

Mongkon, or headband.

None of the powers of the magic arts has an effect on the highest part of the human body, the head, so practitioners of the art of Muay Thai devised the Mongkon. The Mongkon consists of a narrow strip of cloth containing magical letters or symbols, that has been rolled up tightly, so that it resembles a finger-thick cord, and then tied with sewing thread or sacred protective thread "sai sin". Next it has been wrapped with a second strip of cloth that has been blessed by a master of the magic arts. And finally, it has been twisted into a coil and the ends tied together so as to form a tail which, when the Mongkon is placed on the boxers head, extends away from the back of the head.

The Mongkon is worn during the pre-fight rituals of "Wai Kruu", or paying obeisance to the Muay Thai teacher, in which the boxer performs "ram muay" or boxing dance. After completion of the "ram muay", it is removed by the trainer or handler before the first round commences.
In some locals the "mongkon" may be made by twisting strands of sacred protective thread into a cord somewhat larger than the thumb and long enough to be formed into an oval coil that will fit on the boxers head. The cord is then secured by wrapping it with a piece of cloth containing magical numbers or designs. The ends of this "mongkon" stick out from the back of the boxers head like the wick of a candle.

Whether one of the types listed above, or in some cases just a coil of plain rope, the "mongkon" is a protective charm that is believed to give auspiciousness to the fight and protection to the fighter against various dangers. It is favored by fighters of every region of the country and it is of note that in the old days if one wished to know from which region a fighter hailed, one only had to observe the fighter's "ram muay" to pay obeisance to his boxing teacher and the "mongkon" he was wearing, since the identifying characteristics of these were known to all and nobody had to ask.

At present, though, strict observances regarding the "mongkon" have become blurred to the point that identifying characteristics of each region or locality are no longer distinguishable; only a hodge podge remains. Moreover, nowadays it is not even possible to identify the "mongkon" or "praciat" of a particular training camp or an individual boxer.

Armbands, or "Praciat".

The praciat is another protective charm. It is worn around one or both of the boxers biceps throughout the fight and consists of thin, high-quality white cloth called "pha salu". It is sometimes red, however, depending on the preferences of the boxing teacher or the specifications of the protective charm itself. In general, the "praciat" contains numbers or symbols called "maha amnart" or "chatri mahayanta" infused with magical powers by a teacher or a master of the magic arts. The writing of these numbers or symbols on the "praciat" is accompanied by a ceremony in which magical formulae and incantations are recited. Old drawings show that in the past, Thai warriors often wore the "praciat" around their arms or head when they went into battle for it could mysteriously protect against and ward off dangers. Back then it was a piece of cloth containing magical letters and designs rolled into a coil and worn around or over the head while fighting. In relatively more recent times, during the reign of King Rama 1, for example, we find the abbot Chaem of Chalong Monestary in Phuket pre-pared "praciat" for his followers to wear around their heads when fighting the Chinese secret societies.
Nowadays, the Muay-Thai fighters wear the "praciat" around his upper arms and if he is a strict believer, it will both impart power and strength and provide protection during a fight.