Ghost month Nakhon Si Thammarat
Every year in September families gather to ‘pay respects’ to their deceased ancestors. This is a very important time for our neighbours as this time of ‘paying respect’ goes beyond our understanding. For the Thai’s born in Nakhon Si Thammarat, it is believed that their ancestors’ spirits have been released from heaven or hell and have come back to visit them. They have 2 weeks in which to feed their ancestors and make merit for them, thus hopefully gaining them a better place (moving up a level) when they return to either heaven or hell.
For some of the Thais aged 30 years and younger, it is purely a tradition that has to be followed and they do not believe that the spirits of their ancestors can return, but for many, they will tell you stories about how they could feel the presence of their grandparents and parents spirits in their homes. For us, it is a time where we feel the Spirit of darkness heavily in our community.
On the day that the spirits will be sent back, schools in Nakhonsithammarat are closed and many will gather at the temple with beautifully arranged packages of sweets to offer to their ancestors. Each item included has specific significance representing clothes, transport, money, something to entertain you, and something to adorn your body with. These will be placed on a large table in the temple allowing the ancestors to enjoy them. Many will also place one of these arrangements outside the temple wall as an offering to those spirits who are considered too evil to enter the temple. These spirits that are considered too evil to enter the temple are represented by sculptures of scary ‘monsters’ which have a variety of abnormalities ie. very thin mouths shaped to look like a straw to represent people who did not use their words kindly or were liars, those with extra-long arms were thieves, etc. These are found throughout the city at this time as a warning to those alive to live good lives because they don’t want to become like these ‘evil spirits’.
Much as this is a time of spiritual darkness it is also a good opportunity for us to share about the hope we have in Jesus. Over these last 2 weeks, I have had many opportunities to share the gospel with my friends and contacts as I have taken an interest in what they will be doing for ghost month and then shared about my own beliefs. One of my favourite questions to have asked those I have known for a while has been: if Buddhists believe in reincarnation what happens to this merit you are making for your ancestors if they are reborn? I have yet to be given a clear answer but it has led to many good conversations and for some of my Buddhist friends, it has led them to think and explore more deeply what Buddhism teaches and what is the truth?
Please pray for the Thai’s in South Thailand to question the benefit of ghost month and to seek the absolute truth which is only found in Jesus.