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Mae Takien – Spirit Residing in the Hopea odorata Tree

Mae Takien – Spirit Residing in the Hopea odorata Tree

Thais believe that there are certain spirits that choose to reside within specific objects. Some of the most famous of these, are those that choose to live in Hopea odorata trees. To identify examples of these trees, check the cleanliness of the area surrounding it. A clear, tidy patch with a conspicuous absence of fallen leaves and debris, indicates that a spirit is in residence. Like proud homeowners sweeping clutter away from the facades of their homes, it is believed that the spirits living in these trees take great pains to keep their places of residence neat and presentable.

Hopea Odorata tree (The Takien tree)
(Picture References: Watercolorful/

If a shrine is built for these spirits, the spirits are called “Mae Takien”. Spirits that choose to make their homes in the tree trunk instead (Ton Takien), are referred to as “Nang Takien”. These trunks (Ton) are sometimes cut down to make boats. The spirits residing in these boats are called “Mae Ya Nang Ruea”.

Mae Takien often manifest as beautiful female spirits with long, flowing hair that is never pinned. Oddly enough, they are known to wear make-up and often appear garbed in pretty Choodthai Sabai Chiang (Thai traditional dresses). Mae Takien are known to be very protective of the sanctity of their living quarters. They do not appreciate the company of disrespectful guests, such as people who prod their trees in jest, litter in the area around it, or refuse to lower their volume. Mae Takien are known to be exceedingly vengeful whenever the sanctity of their home is violated by inconsiderate interlopers.

Thais believe that before these trees can be felled for use, special rites need to be performed to appease the spirits, even if the tree is visibly dead. BuangSuang ceremonies are conducted first, to seek Mae Takien’s permission and blessings to use the tree, usually as a material for a house or boat. After the task has been completed, another ceremony is performed to give thanks and show appreciation to the spirit.

Choodthai Sabai Chiang (Thai traditional dress)
(Picture References: kikujungboy/


Control over Paranormal Phenomenon

Mae Takien are known to possess immense spiritual power and can cause paranormal phenomena to occur in our physical world. They can corporeally affect circumstances to a certain degree, and Thais have been known to visit shrines of Mae Takien to ask for their wishes to be granted. These two stories about this ability, have their origins in Thai Folklore:

1st Story

There exists a boat at Changwat Saraburi

, crafted from a Ton Takien, that was reserved solely for the King’s use. It was made in ages long past but has remained remarkably preserved and well-maintained to this day.


Many years ago, villagers in the area reported hearing the mysterious, disembodied cries of a woman. The cries would go on and on for days on end, but their source was never found. They consulted a wise man in the village, who, after some divination, determined that the cries were coming from a sunken tree, deep under the river. They were from a Mae Takien. Apparently, a branch from her Takien tree had earlier been cut down to build Sao Ching Cha (a city gate). After cutting down the tree, they realized that the top part of the tree would not fit certain superstitious requirements. Perhaps it was blemished or bent in an inauspicious manner, and it was summarily discarded into the river. The tree eventually floated downriver to Changwat Saraburi.

Sao Ching Cha
(Picture References: Soontorrapoj Tipprasert/

The villagers conducted an elaborate ceremony to appease the Mae Takien, selecting an auspicious date and hour to fish the log out of the river. They then sought the permission of the spirit to carve the log into a boat. From then on, the cries were never heard again.

2nd Story

This story involved a lady who worked as a make-up artist on movie sets. One day she was involved in a production that took place in the forests of Southern Thailand. Before commencing, the crew conducted a simple ritual ceremony to seek permission to carry out filming there, in order not to offend the sanctity of the spirits dwelling in the forest.

While filming at a waterfall in the area, it began to rain heavily. The equipment was showing signs of malfunction, disrupting the entire shoot. The director decided to call it a day. At this point, the storm began to blow through again.

The make-up artist was trying to pack her equipment into the production van. Opening the back doors, she was surprised to see a lady with long black hair, with her back facing her. She was curious as to who this lady might be, as she did not recall anyone on the set who looked like that. The lady was tall, with her head touching the roof of the van. She sat silent and still, despite the make-up artist’s repeated requests for her to identify herself.

Suddenly, the lady turned her head sideways and vomited out a gooey black liquid containing leaves and wood chips. Shocked, the make-up artist ran for her life, eventually reaching the rest of her team, whom she frantically related what she had just seen. However, no one believed her. The team hurriedly packed up their remaining equipment and prepared to return to town.

On the journey back, the make-up artist was sitting on the seat where the apparition had earlier sat. Passing an area down the road, her colleagues caught a glimpse of a tall lady with black long hair on the side of the road, glaring angrily at the occupants in the car. They asked her if she saw the lady too, but she was too frightened to admit it. Upon reaching the hotel, she fell terribly ill. Two more passengers in convoy inexplicably fell ill too.

Another van had not left the forest, and while they were preparing to do so, one of the team members was possessed. The director, who was with the group, attempted to communicate with the spirit possessing girl, who angrily retorted that they had not requested permission from her to carry out filming. They had littered and disrupted the peace with their incessant chatter. After completing their filming, they did not conduct a ceremony to offer thanks. In retaliation, she threatened to take the lives of the 3 crew members who had fallen ill, if a proper ceremony was not conducted as soon as possible. The director and crew hurried back to prepare for the ceremony. As they left, they noticed a huge Takien tree and were surprised that they had not noticed it earlier.

A proper ritual was performed to seek forgiveness for angering the Mae Takien spirit. After the ceremony, the 3 people who had fallen ill, miraculously recovered.

Mae Takien Shrine – How to pray

There is a shrine dedicated to Zhao Mae Soi Sangwan

(the name of the resident Mae Takien there) at Wat Huay Mongkhon
, Changwat Prachuab Khiri khan. The story goes that in November 2549, a policeman named Sip Tam Ruad Eak Manoch GlinUbon
found a Ton Takien underwater in the river adjacent to his plots of land near Pan Buri
. While he was wading in the river, his brushed against a small mound hidden underwater. Curious, he dives into the river to have a look and realized that the “mound” was actually a log. He told his father, TongSup GlinUbon
, about it. They felt that they could probably use the log to build something, so father and son tried to fish the log out. The log, however, refused to budge.


Soon words of this incident reached the ears of Luang Phor Pairoj Pa Pad Saloh

, Zhao Awat of Wat Huay Mongkhon. He instructed his students to bring bulldozers there, and tie ropes around the log, before attempting to lift it up. To their astonishment, however, the ropes broke. When Luang Phor heard about this, he knew exactly what was going on. He held a ritual (Phithi BuangSuang Unchern) to ask for permission for the log to be bought out of the river. Sip Tam Ruad Eak Manoch GlinUbon also had to conduct Khor Kha-ma (a ritual for apology) as he had not asked for permission to bring the log out before his earlier attempt. When the ceremonies were done, they effortlessly retrieved the Ton Takien, which turned out to be nearly 30metres long.


They then used this log to build a shrine for the spirit residing within. It was named San Zhao Mae Soi Sangwan

. Many visitors come to the shrine to pray, hoping to have their wishes granted. Once their greatest hopes are fulfilled, they offered Choodthai Sabai Cheang and make-up tables to the spirit in gratitude for turning their fortunes.


Offerings for Mae Takien in another location of Thailand
(Picture References: Prakhob Khonchen/
Offerings of Choodthai Sabai Chiang to Mae Takien in another location of Thailand
(Picture References: sideroad/

This is also one of the reasons why certain amulets are made of Mai Takien. It is believed that the wood is charged with spiritual essence, and will enhance the efficacy of an amulet.

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