Coffin Ceremony for the Living

Thailand’s Coffin Ceremony for the Living

There aren’t many things in Thailand that surprise me any more. After a while living in Thailand you know that just about anything is possible. However, I must admit I did raise an eyebrow this morning when I saw the latest news from the campaign trail. In an attempt to increase their chances during the forthcoming Thai election, a number of political hopefuls have taken part in a ceremony which involves lying down in coffins.
The event took place in Nonthaburi province with members of the pro-red shirt Pheu Thai party. The parliamentary candidates lay down in coffins as part of a ceremony that signifies being reborn and is supposed to bring good luck. The politicians also asked for amulets to protect them from any violence that may occur during the election campaign. Amulets are commonly used in Thailand by people who believe in their protective powers.

Lying Down in Coffins for Good Luck

Thailand is a country with many superstitions and beliefs and the coffin ceremony is just one example. There are some provincial temples in Thailand, such as this one at Nakhon Nayok that specialize in the coffin ceremony with Buddhist monks providing the blessings. For a fee of around 200 Baht (a merit-making donation to the temple) participants lay in the coffin holding flowers. The lid is then shut as the monks chant death rites. Just over a minute later as the monks chant about new life, the coffin is opened and the participants are ‘reborn’ leaving behind their bad karma. If, in future years, the participant endures a spell of bad luck or misfortune, they may again opt for the coffin ceremony to bring about a reversal in their luck.

It should be pointed out that not all Thai people believe in the power of the coffin ceremony. There are plenty of Thai Buddhists who view it as a bad omen for a living person to lie down in a coffin. The ceremony was the inspiration behind the 2008 Thai horror movie, The Coffin which brought the unusual ritual to a wider Asian and international audience. In a much less scary scenario, the video below shows a variation on the ceremony and instead of the lid being closed, monks pull a white cloth over the coffins. You will note that the ceremony is very quick and as soon as one batch of believers have been ‘reborn’, the next participants are in place. In this example there are nine coffins used with nine being an auspicious number in Thailand.

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