Tai folk religion

The Tai folk religion, known in Lao and Thai as Satsana Phi (Lao: ສາສະໜາຜີ; Thai: ศาสนาผี, /sàːt.sa.nǎː.pʰǐː/, "religion of spirits"), is a form of animist religious beliefs traditionally and historically practiced by groups of ethnic Tai peoples.

Tai folk animist traditions are practiced by the Lao, Tai Ahom, Shan people , Dai people,Tai Khamti Lao Isan and Thais of Thailand. These religions are pantheistic and polytheistic and their practice involves classes of shamans.

Among the Lao, the Lao Loum and Lao Lom[1] are predominantly Buddhist, while the Lao Theung and Lao Sung are predominantly folk religious. Tai folk animist traditions have also been incorporated into Laotian Buddhism.[2]

Pho Padang
A shrine to Pho Padang in Lom Sak, Phetchabun Province, Thailand.
Bo Lek Nam Phi (Nam Pi iron mines) 05
Inner hall of the shrine of the god of Bo Lek Nam Phi, in Uttaradit Province, Thailand.


Within the Satsana Phi belief system, supernatural Deities (ຜີ, ผี, [pʰiː]) or gods can sometimes be the tutelary gods of buildings or territories, of natural places, or of things. Deities can also be ancestral spirits, or other types of spirits of seemingly supernatural forces. Such deities often interact with the world of the living, at times protecting people, and at other times seeming to cause harm. Guardian deities of places, such as the phi wat (ຜີວັດ, ผีวัด) of temples and the lak mueang (ຫລັກເມືອງ, หลักเมือง, [lak mɯːaŋ]) of towns are celebrated and propitiated with communal gatherings and offerings of food. Gods of Hindu derivation are included in the Satsana Phi pantheon of gods, as well as several indigenous non-Hindu gods called phi thaen (ຜີແຖນ, ผีแถน).[3] Gods are ubiquitous, with some of them being associated with the universal elements: heaven, earth, fire, and water.

The belief system features thirty-two typically protective body-spirits known as the khwan (ຂວັນ, ขวัญ, [kʰwan]). At certain special occasions during the course of an individual's life, such as before a pending marriage, a job change, or at other times of high uncertainty, certain Baci (ບາສີ, [bàː.sǐː], บายศรี, [bāːj.sǐː]) ceremonies are sometimes performed for the benefit of an individual, with the aim of properly re-binding such "khwan" body-spirits back to one's body, as the unintentional loosening of such bonds is believed to possibly risk illness or harm. The baci rite calls on all thirty-two khwan to return to one's self to bestow health, prosperity, and well-being on the affected participant. During such ceremonies, cotton strings are often tied around a participant's wrists to keep the spirits in place. The baci ceremony can also be performed to welcome guests to one's home, before and after making a long trip, as a curing ritual or after recovery from an illness. The rite is also the central ritual for both the Lao Loum wedding ceremony and for the naming ceremony of a newborn child.[4]

In daily life, most people pay respect to the deities that reside in spirit-houses, who are thought to protect the general vicinity of the spirit-house from harm. These spirit-houses are essentially miniature shrines, built to represent the presence of the deity of the shrine, just as a full size shrine is meant to represent such a "presence." Offerings of flowers, incense, and candles are given, and the spirits are consulted during times of change or hardship for protection and assistance. Natural deities include those that reside in trees, mountains, or forests.

Guardian spirits of people often include ancestors or angelic-beings who arrive at various points in life, better known as thewada. Malevolent spirits (phi phetu) include those khwan of people who were bad in past lives or died of tragic deaths, such as the ghastly phi pob (ຜີປອບ, ผีปอบ) and the vampirical phi dip (ຜີດິບ, ผีดิบ). Deities associated with specific places such as the household, the river, or a grove of trees are neither inherently benevolent nor evil, and occasional offerings ensure their favor and assistance in human affairs.[4]

Priests: mophi

A class of priests called mophi (mo-phi ໝໍຜີ, หมอผี), "tellers", are locally trained shamans, specialists in the rituals and in communication with their personal angels and gods in general. Using trances, sacred objects imbued with supernatural power, or saksit, possessions, and rituals like lam phi fa (ລຳຜີຟ້າ, ลำผีฟ้า, [lam pʰiː faː]) or baci, the shaman is often consulted during times of trouble, hauntings, and illness or other misfortune that might be caused by malevolent or unhappy spirits. They are also usually present during religious festivals.[5]


Vientiane, baci ceremony (6172947454)
A baci rite conducted by a family in Vientiane.

Ceremonies devoted to the gods commonly involve an offering of a chicken and rice wine. Once the gods have taken the spiritual essence of the offering, people may consume the earthly remains. The head of a household or the individual who wants to gain the favor of the gods usually performs the ritual. In many villages, a person, usually an older man believed to have special knowledge of the gods, may be asked to choose an auspicious day for weddings or other important events, or for household rites.

Lowland Lao villages believe they are protected by the phi ban, which requires an annual offering to ensure the continued prosperity of the village. The village ritual specialist presides over this major ritual, which in the past often involved the sacrifice of a water buffalo and is still an occasion for closing the village to any outsiders for a day. To liang phi ban (feed the village spirit) also serves an important social function by reaffirming the village boundaries and the shared interests of all villagers.[4]

For followers of Satsana Phi (Tai folk religious people), worship of ancestors is very important, although each ethnic group has different practices and beliefs. The Tai Ahom called it Phi Dam or ancestor god. The Khmu call spirits hrooy, and they are similar to the phi of the Lao Loum; the house spirit is particularly important, and spirits of wild places are to be avoided or barred from the village.


Lamet religion

Lamet have similar beliefs, and each village must have one ritualist (xemia), who is responsible for making all the sacrifices to village gods. He also supervises communal houses and officiates at the construction of any new houses. When a ritual practitioner dies, one of his sons is elected by the married men of the village to be his successor. If he has no sons, one of his brother's sons is chosen.

Ancestral spirits (mbrong n'a) are very important to the Lamet because they look out for the well-being of the entire household. They live in the house, and no activity is undertaken without informing them of it. The spirits of the ancestors are fond of buffalos; thus buffalo skulls or horns from sacrifices are hung at the altar of the ancestors or under the gable of the house. Numerous taboos regarding behavior in the house are observed to avoid offending ancestral spirits.[4]

Ahom religion

Ahom religion have same belief of Phi , Khwan and Ancestor worship. They offers chicken and traditional Rice bear known as Lao in the Ancestor Worship ceremony of Phi Dam(Dam= Ancestor, Phi= Spirit) and Ban-Phi ( Ban= Village , Phi= Spirit)[6].

See also


  1. ^ Yoshihisa Shirayama, Samlane Phompida, Chushi Kuroiwa, 2006. p. 622, quote: «[...] Approximately 60 to 65% of the population, most of whom are Lao Lum (people of the lowlands) follow Buddhism. About 30% of the population, on the other hand, hold an animist belief system called "Sadsana Phee" [...]».
  2. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2007 - Laos
  3. ^ Poulsen, A. (2007). Childbirth and Tradition in Northeast Thailand. Copenhagen, Denmark: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.
  4. ^ a b c d Ireson, W. Randall. "Animism in Laos". A country study: Laos (Andrea Matles Savada, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (July 1994). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Walter, M., Fridman, E., Jacoby, J., & Kibbee, J. (2007). Shamanism: an encyclopedia of world beliefs, practices, and culture. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
  6. ^ Gogoi, Shrutashwinee (2011). Tai ahom religion a philosophical study (PhD). Retrieved January 31, 2019.


  • Yoshihisa Shirayama, Samlane Phompida, Chushi Kuroiwa. Malaria Control Alongside "Sadsana-Phee" (Animist Belief System) in Lao PDR. In: Modern Medicine and Indigenous Health Beliefs, Vol 37 No. 4 July 2006.

External links

Ahom people

The Ahom (Pron: ), or Tai-Ahom is an ethnic group found today in the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They are the descendants of the Tai people who reached the Brahmaputra valley of Assam in 1228 and the local people who joined them over the course of history. Sukaphaa, the leader of the Tai group and his 9000 followers established the Ahom kingdom (1228–1826 CE), which controlled much of the Bramhaputra Valley in modern Assam until 1826. Even though the Ahom made up a relatively small portion of the kingdom's population, they maintained their original Ahom language and practiced their traditional religion till the 17th-century, when the Ahom court as well as the commoners adopted the Assamese language, and Ekasarana dharma and Saktism religions.

The modern Ahom people and their culture are a syncretism of the original Tai and their culture and local Tibeto-Burman peoples and their cultures they absorbed in Assam. Some local ethnic groups, including the Tibeto-Burman speaking Borahi, were completely subsumed into the Ahom community; while members of other communities, based on their allegiance to the Ahom kingdom or the usefulness of their talents, too were accepted as Ahoms. Currently, they represent the largest Tai group in India, with a population of nearly 1.3 million in Assam. Ahom people are found mostly in Upper Assam in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia (south of Brahmaputra river); and in Lakhimpur, Sonitpur and Dhemaji (north). There is a significant presence in Karbi Anglong and Lohit District of Arunachal Pradesh.

Ahom religion

The Ahom religion or Tai-Ahom Religion is the ethnic religion of the Ahom people. The Ahom people came into Assam in 1228, led by a Tai prince Sukaphaa, and admixed with the local people. The people who came into Assam included two clans of priests, joined later by a third, who brought with them their own religion, rituals, practices and scriptures. The religion is based on ritual-oriented ancestor worship that required animal sacrifice (Ban-Phi), though there was at least one Buddhism influenced ritual in which sacrifice was forbidden (Phuralung).. Ancestor worship and the animistic concept of khwan are two elements it shares with other Tai folk religions. There is no idolatry except for the titular god of the Ahom king and though there is a concept of heaven or a heavenly kingdom), there is no concept of hell. It was the state religion of the Ahom kingdom in the initial period.

The Ahom kingdom expanded suddenly in the 16th-century and the Ahom peoples became a small minority in their own kingdom—though they continued to wield control. Subsequently, they slowly converted and by the early 19th-century, Ahom religion declined to be replaced by Hinduism. In the 1931 survey, all Ahoms returned Hinduism as their religion. Nevertheless, since the 1960s and 1970s due to an Ahom revivalism movement, as well as efforts from scholars, many of the older practices of the Ahom religion are being resurrected.

The three priestly clans (Mo'sam, Mo'hung, Mo'Plong) of the Ahom people are the current custodians of the Ahom religion.

Chinese folk religion in Southeast Asia

Chinese folk religion plays a dynamic role in the lives of the overseas Chinese who have settled in the countries of this geographic region, particularly Burmese Chinese, Singaporean Chinese, Malaysian Chinese, Thai Chinese and Hoa. The Indonesian Chinese, by contrast, were forced to adopt en masse either Buddhism or Christianity in the 1950s and 1960s, abandoning traditional worship, due to Indonesia's religious policies which forbade Chinese traditional religion. Chinese folk religion, the ethnic religion of Han Chinese, "Shenism" was especially coined referring to its Southeast Asian expression; another Southeast Asian name for the religion is the Sanskrit expression Satya Dharma (literally "Truth Law").

The Chinese folk religion of Southeast Asia is markedly typified by the interaction with Malay indigenous religions (Malaysian and Indonesian folk religion) and the adoption of gods of Hindu derivation, such as Brahma, Ganesha and Hanuman. The philosophical forms of Confucianism and Taoism are followed, and organised forms of the Chinese folk faith, such as the Church of Virtue, Yiguandao and Zhenkongism, have taken significant foothold among Southeast Asian Chinese.

In Singapore about 11% of the total population is Taoist, composed by a 14.4% of the Chinese Singaporeans identifying as Taoists. In Malaysia, around 10% of Chinese Malaysians practice Chinese folk religions, corresponding to around 1% of the whole country population. However, numbers may be significantly larger since many folk religious Chinese register as "Buddhists" for census purposes. In Indonesia, Taosu Agung Kusumo, leader of the Majelis Agama Tao Indonesia, claims there are 5 million Taoist followers in the country as of 2009.

Index of Thailand-related articles T to Z

This is a list of articles related to Thailand, sorted by alphabetical order. It represents the majority of articles contained within the Thailand category. For a list of key articles arranged by topic, see Outline of Thailand.

Those interested in the subject can monitor changes to the pages listed here by clicking on the related changes link in the sidebar.

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Institute of Tai Studies and Research

The Institute of Tai Studies and Research (ITSAR), is a Tai-Ahom language teaching institute in Moran, Sivasagar, Assam, India. It is an affiliate autonomous institute under Dibrugarh University and offers a one-year Tai-Ahom language diploma course and a three-month certificate course in spoken Tai-Ahom language affiliated to Dibrugarh University. ITSAR was established in 2001.

In every year many foreign scholars from the Tai populated countries like Australia, Germany, Japan, Thailand, China, and Myanmar (Kachin and Shan state) come to the Tai inhabited areas of Assam, Northeast India in search of primary research materials i.e. Scripts on various aspects of the Tai people in North-East India. In the event of this, the establishment of Institute of Tai Studies and Research (ITSAR) is an academic venture which has the potentiality of attracting the scholars, students, and tourists, especially from the Southeast Asian Tai populated countries to Assam.


Laos ( (listen), ; Lao: ລາວ, Lāo [láːw]), officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, romanized: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao; French: République démocratique populaire lao), commonly referred to by its colloquial name of Muang Lao (Lao: ເມືອງລາວ, Muang Lao), is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Located at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southwest, and Thailand to the west and southwest.Present-day Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to the kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao (Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol), which existed for four centuries as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Due to Lan Xang's central geographical location in Southeast Asia, the kingdom became a popular hub for overland trade, becoming wealthy economically as well as culturally. After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke off into three separate kingdoms—Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three territories uniting to form what is now known as the country of Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but was recolonised by France until it won autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war began, which saw the communist resistance, supported by the Soviet Union, fight against, first, the monarchy and then a number of military dictatorships, supported by the United States. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power, seeing the end to the civil war. During the first years of Communist rule, Laos was dependent on military and economic aid supported by the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991.

In 2018, the country had the fourth highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Southeast Asia, after Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. In the same year, the country ranked 139th on the Human Development Index (HDI), indicating medium development. Laos is a member of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit and La Francophonie. Laos applied for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1997; on 2 February 2013, it was granted full membership. It is a one-party socialist republic espousing Marxism–Leninism governed by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

The capital and largest city is Vientiane. Other major cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country, with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up about 55 percent of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 45 percent of the population, live in the foothills and mountains. Laos's strategies for development are based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbours, namely Thailand, China and Vietnam, as well as its initiative to become a "land-linked" nation, shown by the construction of four new railways connecting Laos to its neighbours. Laos has been referred to as one of East Asia and Pacific's Fastest Growing Economies by the World Bank, with annual GDP growth averaging 7.8% for the past decade.

Laotian Canadians

Laotian Canadians are Canadian citizens of Laotian origin or descent. In the 2016 Census, 24,580 people indicated Laotian ancestry. Most Lao people are Billingual because they were once under the protectorat of France (See French protectorate of Laos.)

Religion in Thailand

There is no official state religion in the Thai constitution, which guarantees religious freedom for all Thai citizens, though the king is required by law to be a Theravada Buddhist. The main religion practised in Thailand is Buddhism, but there is a strong undercurrent of Hinduism with a class of brahmins having sacerdotal functions. The large Thai Chinese population also practises Chinese folk religions, including Taoism. The Chinese religious movement Yiguandao (Thai: Anuttharatham) spread to Thailand in the 1970s and it has grown so much in recent decades to come into conflict with Buddhism; in 2009, it was reported that each year 200,000 Thais convert to the religion. Many other people, especially among the Isan ethnic group, practise Tai folk religions. A significant Muslim population, mostly constituted by Thai Malays, is present especially in the southern regions.

Tai peoples

Tai peoples refers to the population of descendants of speakers of a common Tai language, including sub-populations that no longer speak a Tai language. There is a total of about 93 million people of Tai ancestry worldwide, with largest ethnic groups being Thais, Isan, Shan, Lao, Ahom and Northern Thai peoples.

The Tai are scattered through much of South China and Mainland Southeast Asia, with some (e.g. Khamti, Ahom) inhabiting parts of Northeast India. Tai peoples are both culturally and genetically very similar and therefore primarily identified through their language.

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