What an ugly baby you have!
I sat talking with Auntie Baht, whom our family has known for 6 years now.
“Yesterday I saw Teacher Is,” Auntie Baht told me. “She asked how you and the family are doing. I told her how much the two older girls have grown, and then I told her you had your baby. She hasn’t seen you for so long, she didn’t even know about your youngest! ‘Is the baby very ugly?’ she asked me. ‘Oh, yes, terribly!’ I replied. ‘Absolutely repulsive!’”
I did my best to keep my face neutral. I think I must have heard her wrong, I thought. Sometimes Auntie Baht is hard to understand because she doesn’t have all of her teeth. I must not be catching the words quite right.
Auntie Baht must have seen the confusion on my face, however. She lowered her voice. “That is what Thai people say about babies to keep the spirits away. If you say a baby is cute, the evil spirits will come and snatch the baby away. So it is good to say that the baby is ugly.”
Freshly back from the West, where the spiritual realm is largely ignored or even laughed at, I felt sadness rise up in me at this sober reminder about how so many of the Thai live in daily fear of evil spirits.
The Bible contains warnings – and good news! – about spiritual powers.
From Colossians 2: See to it that no one takes you captive … according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority… And you, who were dead in your trespasses, God made alive together with him… He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Christ.
There is freedom and security and protection in Christ that we so often take for granted. I’m glad I don’t have to call my baby ugly.