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What Are Some Common Superstitions in Thailand?

Paul has lived in Thailand since 2003. He has observed many superstitions inside and outside of his Thai family.

A spirit house on the grounds of a new strip mall in Udorn City, Thailand.

A spirit house on the grounds of a new strip mall in Udorn City, Thailand.

Thailand Superstitions

The people in Thailand—like most people in the world—have superstitions. Some are rooted in Buddhism and others are similar to Western superstitions. Since living in Thailand, I have observed several superstitions both inside and outside my home. This article covers 13 of the superstitions I have encountered.

1. Spirit Houses on Business Properties

Spirit Houses, or San Phra Phum, are constructed on most business properties. In the form of miniature houses or temples, spirit houses are mounted on pillars and found on the corners of business properties. They are shelters for spirits who could cause trouble if not appeased by offerings of food and drink.

The spirit houses are dedicated structures to honor the guardian of the land and to protect them from any wayward spirits. These houses often include images or carved statues of people and animals.

A spirit house on the corner of an apartment building.

A spirit house on the corner of an apartment building.

2. Nine Is a Lucky Number

Unlike seven in the United States, the Thai regard nine as a very lucky number. In the market, many prices will have the number nine such as 99, 999, and 1,999. Some people give monetary gifts in denominations of nine or get married at 7:29 in the morning. Many people will invite nine monks to bless their homes.

The number nine is considered lucky because it is supposed to bring good fortune. When pronounced in the Thai language, nine sounds like "kaw-nah" which means moving forward.

Nine is also a major part of the Indian psyche. According to navagrahas, nine heavenly bodies influence life in Hindu astrology.

The number nine is considered to be lucky by some.

The number nine is considered to be lucky by some.

3. Ghosts Cause Trouble

Amazingly, there are many ghosts shows that you can see on Thai TV and in cinemas. That is because most people believe that ghosts are real and can cause trouble. The Thai will immediately move to a new location if they suspect a spirit inhabits their house.

Most ghosts are nocturnal and people believe that they are mostly present in certain trees, on burial grounds near Buddhist temples, and in abandoned houses.

The Thai believe in ghosts because in Thailand's history Buddhist beliefs are mixed with legends of spirits and ghosts of local folklore.

A ghost.

A ghost.

4. Names Have Major Significance for Fame and Fortune

Most Thai have always believed that names must have certain letters of the Thai alphabet; otherwise, a person will have bad luck. Therefore, many Thai have consulted with monks and astrologers to choose the correct name for their children. If people think their original name is unlucky, they will change it to have a more prosperous business.

5. Nicknames Confuse Evil Spirits and Protect Children

Many Thai believe evil spirits can harm children. Using a child's given name will draw attention to spirits and put a kid at risk. Therefore, almost all children are given a one or two-syllable nickname at birth. My granddaughter's given name is Kwinthida but is better known by the nickname Yuri. Nicknames confuse evil spirits and protect children.

6. Buddhist Amulets in Motor Vehicles

If you travel in any taxi, van, or bus in Thailand, you will see a Buddhist amulet hanging from a rearview mirror near the driver. Most personal vehicles also carry amulets for a safe journey. I have one in my SUV and it reminds me of the Saint Christopher medal that my dad always carried in his car.

A Buddhist amulet carried in my car.

A Buddhist amulet carried in my car.

7. The Wearing of Buddhist Amulets

Many Thai wear Buddhist amulets around their necks for good luck. These amulets come from monks and temples. Whenever we visit a Buddhist temple, my wife insists that I wear an amulet around my neck.

Thai also wear amulets to improve marriage, wealth, health, love, and people relationships.

My wife wearing a Buddhist amulet.

My wife wearing a Buddhist amulet.

8. Don't Get a Haircut on Wednesday

Many Thai never get a haircut on Wednesday because they believe doing so can bring bad luck. This belief originated from members of the royal family having their hair cut on Wednesday. Common people were prohibited from getting a haircut on that day.

9. Using a "Wai" for Good Luck

A "wai" is a common greeting in Thailand. When a person gives a "wai," he or she folds their hands in the form of prayer.

Many Thai also use a "wai" for good luck when passing a spirit house, temple, or three-headed elephant.

10. Making Merit at a Temple or With a Monk

Most Thai believe in having good luck by making merit at a temple or with a monk. Merit is made by offerings of food or money.

Early in the morning, many Thai line the streets waiting for passing monks. As they pass, offerings of food and drink will be put into the monks' alms bowls.

On special occasions such as the beginning and end of Buddhist Lent, temple worshipers will make merit by offering food and drink at the temple.

Making merit at my wife's temple.

Making merit at my wife's temple.

11. Strings Tied Around Wrists

Monks and common people will tie strings around the wrists of their loved ones so that they will have good luck. My mother-in-law occasionally ties white strings around the wrists of her children, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The strings are cotton threads blessed by a Buddhist monk. These threads which are usually white are called "sai sin." A person is usually given one in the form of a bracelet to provide protection and good health. Sometimes the "sai sin" are in colors like red and yellow.

Author Wearing a "Sai Sin" Bracelet.

Author Wearing a "Sai Sin" Bracelet.

12. Beeping a Car Horn When Passing by a Temple

Whenever we travel to visit my mother-in-law, we pass a small temple that is only a few meters off of the road. My wife instructed me to beep the car horn twice for good luck as we passed by. Many other vehicles were also beeping their horns when passing.

Beeping the horn is the same as a "wai" and shows respect to the temple.

13. Finding Clues to Pick Lucky Lottery Numbers

Many Thai like to play the lottery. Some believe that they can find clues from monks and in dreams when picking lucky lottery numbers.

Sources

  • Wikipedia
  • coconuts.co/bangkok
  • Phil-a-phuket.com

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Paul Richard Kuehn