Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Nation: Does the Current Jatukam Amulet Craze Reflect Insecurity?


Talisman fad reflects insecurity

The Nation

The Jatukam Ramathep amulet phenomenon is symptomatic of the confused state of Thai Buddhism

The runaway popularity of Jatukam Ramathep amulets cannot be attributed only to intense publicity in the mass media in recent years. The widespread worship of the talismans by people who call themselves Buddhists is symptomatic of a confused state of affairs regarding Buddhism as we know it in this country. The first batch of Jatukam amulets was introduced with little fanfare in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat 20 years ago. Now, the amulets bearing the image of this once-obscure deity have become very popular and their prices are skyrocketing. Jatukam amulets may already have surpassed other amulets bearing the images of the Buddha and venerable monks in popularity among the collecting community.

Jatukam amulets are gaining a huge following based on claims of magical powers and the good fortune they can bring to their owners. Indeed, the creator of the original Jatukam amulets was a highly respected and honest police officer in Nakhon Si Thammarat who was reputed to possess knowledge of the occult. After some editions of the Jatukam amulets gained currency, people in the amulet trade, who traditionally manufactured amulets bearing the Buddha's image, jumped in to capitalise on the newly lucrative business. Since then, Jatukam amulets - and tales of their magical powers - have been promoted in a big way by shrewd manufacturers. Hundreds of Buddhist temples throughout the country are now ordering Jatukam amulets to sell as part of their fund-raising campaigns.

Thais have always been crazy about amulets and black magic during good times and bad.

Maybe people are insecure because the military and the royalist elite keep depriving people of their political rights and freedom while at the same time hording all the power and money for themselves.

I seriously doubt any voodoo will change those political dynamics anytime in the future.


anon said...

Voodoo, on its own, might not change the political dynamics of Thailand, but you shouldn't discount the role that voodoo has on the Thai psyche.

During the times of the yellow shirt protestors, one of their most fierce charges against Thaksin was that he utilized Buriram/Khmer witch doctors (Mor Phee), that he worshipped stillborn fetuses (Kumarn Thong), that he consulted with Burmese fortune tellers, that he timed his daily routine around the stars, and that he ordered the destruction of the Erawan Shrine in order to build a shrine to unnamed "dark influences." Surely any means neccesary were called for to defeat an evil as dark as this.

All of these charges are patently absurd, but the fact that they stuck so easily in the minds of the yellow shirts shows how easily voodoo (or fear of voodoo) can be used to manipulate the ignorant but educated elite of Bangkok.

Fonzi said...


I was trying to be funny.

But all those things you mentioned are true and scary.