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Mai Phaya Thao Ail – Beneficial Gifts from a Benevolent Tree Spirit

Mai Phaya Thao Ail – Beneficial Gifts from a Benevolent Tree Spirit



Mai Phaya Thao Ail
Beneficial Gifts from A Benevolent Tree Spirit



Across the spectrum of the human experience, there exist many mysterious pockets of forest, where the trees are said to be much more than deadwood. The trees themselves are alive, imbued with spiritual energy, and sometimes, even play host to specters from worlds beyond our own. In places such as the Aokigahara Jukai forest in Japan, spirits both benign and malevolent are believed to make their homes in the shadows between the knurled growth, emerging to frighten, surprise, and sometimes even guide, any human interlopers who wander through their domain.

These tree spirits are known as Rukkhadevata

. Many reports tell stories of illness or even death, resulting from the felling of these enchanted trees.


In the past, we have discussed the Mae Takien

and Naree Pon
, two examples of powerful Rukkhadevata. In this article, we will introduce another variety, known as Mai Phaya Thao Ail

Early mentions of Rukkhadevata in Buddhist Scriptures

Rukkhadevata are widely mentioned in the Jataka

scriptures of Buddhism, where they are described as residing in hollow trees or perched atop canopies, sustaining themselves on offerings left at the foot of their trees. They are sometimes known to grant people wishes, and will assume various forms to appear before their fortuitous benefactors. Even the Buddha himself recognized their prevalence, and even expressly forbade the cutting down of trees that might be home to Rukkhadevata. The story of how this came about, is related in Verse 222 of the Dhammapada


During the time of the Buddha, a monk from the town of Alavi

wanted to build a monastery for himself, and so he began to cut down a tree for wood. The Rukkhadevata residing in the tree tried to dissuade him by telling him that she and her son lived inside, and cutting it down would render them homeless. Failing to dissuade the monk, she placed her son on a branch, hoping that this would convince the monk to stop.


It was, however, too late. The monk had already raised his axe in mid-swing, and accidentally lopped off her child’s arm.

Seeing her child harmed, the mother flew in a fit of livid rage, and lashed out at the monk, hell bent on killing him for his callousness. In a split second before dealing him a mortal blow however, she held herself back. As the monk was given to a life of observing morality, killing him, she realised, would take a lifetime to reverse her woe of karma, perhaps more. More so, her actions might spark a chained reaction of other Rukkhadevata killing monks in retaliation. Calming herself down, she instead opted to seek redress from the monk’s master, and sought out the Lord Buddha.

Finally locating the Buddha, she collapsed at his feet and wept for the grave injury suffered by her child.

The Buddha, sympathetic as he was, praised her for holding her anger in check, and provided the following advice (Verse 222 in Dhammapada):

“He who restrains his rising anger, is as a skillful charioteer checking a speeding chariot. This is a true charioteer; others merely grasp the reins.”

After her conversation with the Buddha, the tree spirit attained the first fruit of liberation (Sotapanna

), and she was offered a domicile within a tree near the Perfumed Chamber of the Buddha. As a result of this incident, the Buddha stipulated as one of his 227 rules, that monks would henceforth be forbidden to cut down any form of vegetation, be they grass, plants, shrubs or trees.


What is Mai Phaya Thao Ail

Mai Phaya Thao Ail are sacred amulets formed by nature. They are imbued with their own intrinsic magic and do not require the intervention of additional incantations. They were popular among the common folk of old, as they were believed to guard them against common dangers of the day such as fangs, tusks, and poison.

Its name is derived from its visual characteristics, that is to say, these peculiar pieces of wood are shaped like a person with their arms held akimbo. This pose is referred to in Thai as Thao Ail

. Many other Thai names are also commonly used, such as Khop Khiao
, Khat Khao Dong
, or Salak Khiao
. All of these refer to the same wood formations. These are most commonly obtained from the Oxyceros bispinosus (Griff.) Tirveng tree.
An example of Mai Phaya Thao Ail


The wood of this tree also has medicinal value, as it is known for its detoxifying effect. Such characteristics have added to its mystique through the ages, and it is believed to be imbued with strong spiritual power.


Medicinal Properties

In folk remedies, bark from the trunk is boiled into a drink for pain relief. This may also be diluted with lime juice to cure flatulence. Mixed with liquor, it is also used as a cure-all for mouth ulcers, shingles, and erysipelas.

Many folk medicine texts in southern Thailand describe hanging pieces of this special wood around the waist as an effective pain-relief remedy. This practice is also believed to protect a wearer from poisonous and dangerous animals.

If bitten by a snake, centipede, scorpion, or stung by a catfish, the pulverized wood powder may be mixed with lime juice or water obtained from soaking rice, and taken orally or applied to the wound to neutralize the toxins.

This is but a small sampling of the wood’s purported medicinal benefits, and it is commonly touted as a cure-all for a wide variety of ailments.


The legend of Mai Phaya Thao Ail

According to local folk tales, this species of tree is inhabited by angels. It grew alongside the dwellings of the hermit Lersi Ta Fai

, known for the fire emitted from his third eye. One day, the hermit wished to test the power and magnitude of his fire and warned that any creature standing in his way would perish, burnt to a crisp.
Lersi Ta Fai


The angel within the Phaya Thao Ail

tree appeared before Lersi Ta Fa, challenging him to test his powers. The angel stood arms akimbo, waiting to be burnt by the intense blaze from the hermit’s third eye.


Shockingly, despite bearing the full-frontal brunt of the fire, the angel stood totally unscathed. The hermit, now thoroughly impressed, paid tribute to the angel, later opting to bestow upon him his own powers and knowledge. On that day, the angel was elevated on the status by the sudden wellspring of power, and his spiritual prowess began a long journey of echoing through the ages.

Some stories about the Phaya Thao Ail describe it as an entity of great, burning power, appearing in the forest as an angel, arms akimbo, and radiating light all around it. These great trees mimic this pose.


The power of Mai Phaya Thao Ail

It is said that anyone who possesses an example of these sacred objects, exudes prestige. They will appear formidable and be respected by others. Anyone who is often bullied, downtrodden, or wants to possess power and title should seek one out and see their dreams come to fruition.

Even formed into ornamental beads and hung from a necklace or sash, they are said to heal a variety of debilitating pains, including numerous first-hand accounts of mysteriously disappearing back pain. These may also be steeped in water to dilute the beneficial energy and used as a temporary salve for chronic pains. It may also be used to reverse poisoning. An owner who holds themselves to particularly high moral and spiritual standards in deeds and thoughts will find these amulets particularly potent. They are known to imbue wearers with outstanding Metta Mahaniyom

, Maha Amnaj
, and Klaew Klad


These sacred objects are forged by the hand of nature herself, and cannot be replicated by the hands of men. As such, they are exceedingly rare and sought-after.


Other amulets that are made from Mai Phaya Thao Ail

Owing to the rarity of this sacred wood, whole pieces depicting the figure standing with arms akimbo are in short supply, and the wood is often formed into smaller beads that are arranged in a similar fashion to replicate the effect. These might be as large as a necklace, or even as short as a bracelet. These are all, however, formed from the powerful heartwood harvested from small examples. In the more modern context, people who are uncomfortable with hanging these effigies around their neck or waist are even known to carry them on keychains.


They may also be carved in subtle variations, but always in the form of human figures or with accompanying Paladkhik



There also exist amulets made with incomplete parts of the heartwood, that are still believed to be sacred. These are often incorporated into other amulets to enhance potency.



Due to the enduring legacy of the legends, however, the most popular variant is still hung from the waist. Though information about its benefits is concise and seemingly straightforward, this is by no means an indication of lower potency. These amulets are exceedingly powerful and provide a potent defense against a wide variety of life’s misfortunes. Fakes abound, however, so be very careful of the provenance of your example.





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