The Macabre Art of Guman Thong Part 1 – Ancient Origins and Modern Beliefs

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What is Guman Thong?

Guman Thong are the spirits of toddlers, that have been trapped, and pushed into the service of people, for specific purposes. They originated from the practice of sorcerers enlisting the aid of ghosts to do their bidding. Some Thais believe that the most powerful Guman Thong are created from the spirit of a child who died while inside the mother’s body, also known as “Dtai Tang Klom”. In Thai, this also describes an instance where the mother and her unborn child have perished together. As a result of this, the child holds no merits that he may use in his next life. This is unfortunate because it dooms the child to the life of a wandering spirit, an existence he will bear throughout the entire duration of the life he was supposed to have fulfilled. For example, if he were meant to live to the ripe old age of 70, he would then be cursed to wander the earth for the same length of time.

Guman Thong go by many monikers; some call them Tookkata Thong (golden doll), Rak-Yom or Look Krok, etc. They all, however, refer to the same thing; an effigy housing the spirit of a small child within.

Guman Thong may be recognised by their Jong-GraBen (loincloth) and Phom Jook (topknot) hairstyle. Anyone in possession of a Guman Thong must lavish them with the same attention as any regular child, giving him food, drinks, shelter and toys, and pampering him with attention by speaking to him and inviting him to eat as often as possible.

Guman Thong character

 

The Legend of Guman Thong

According to myths, ancient sorcery grimoires described a powerful spell that was used to enslave the spirit of a son who died in his mother’s womb (Dtai Tang Klom). Summoning Guman Thong involves seeking out women who perished in this manner, removing the unborn boy from the womb, and roasting it over a flame until all the moisture has seeped out. The dried foetus is then coated with the sap of a Rak Tree (Burmese Lacquer Tree), and leaves of gold foil. This gold foil also gave rise to the name; Guman, meaning boy ghost and Thong, meaning gold. The elaborate ritual must be followed carefully, to ensure that the resulting spirit remains totally under his master’s control, and will not turn against him.

Evidence of beliefs surrounding Guman Thong, can be found in the famous Thai story of Khun Chang Khun Phaen

(written some time between 1491 and 1529, refer to our articles “The Legend of Khun Paen” and “Weapons of Khun Paen”). A section of this text is titled ‘Kamneud Guman Thong
’ (The Birth of Guman Thong). The story tells of the warrior Khun Paen’s suspicions that his wife wished to poison him. He decided to kill her first, retrieving his unborn son from her womb, and creating a Guman Thong. He raised the Guman Thong using consecrated water, and his servants continued to light candles and incense for the Guman Thong every morning and evening. This was done to ensure that the Guman Thong would continue to protect him in battle. As the legend goes, Khun Paen never lost a battle after that.
Khun Phaen kills his wife, takes his son from her womb and transforms him into a Guman Thong

Legends about the Guman Thong have persisted for hundreds of years. However, many experts claim that beliefs surrounding Guman Thong were prevalent for many years prior to the era of Khun Chang Khun Paen, possibly as a subset of the animist and spiritual beliefs that were already widespread amongst the people of Southeast Asia. As such, it might be difficult to precisely ascertain who originated the beliefs and practices of Guman Thong.

In modern-day, the murderous, profane practices involved in the creation of Guman Thong are generally frowned-upon by law-abiding societies. The art has thus evolved to include many summoning rites for the creation of Guman Thong, for example, summoning someone else’s spirit to live in an expertly-crafted statuette, or creating a spirit using incantations and spiritual expertise.

 

Types of Guman Thong

Guman Thong falls into one of two broad categories:

1. Guman Thong Petchakhat

, also known as Phet Phut Ngan
or Phet Prab
are a kind of Guman Thong specifically made for malicious intent. 4 variants of these exist, and they are equally destructive, mischievous, and evil. According to legend, these Guman Thong are restless souls who have perished under violent or tragic circumstances.

 

The four types prescribed types of these troublemakers are the Guman Thong Phet Mun

, Guman Thong Phet Dub
, Guman Thong Phet Khong
, and Guman Thong Phet Soon
. Each one attacks its owners’ targets in different ways.

 

Guman Thong Phet Soon are known to possess supernatural powers that drive people insane. Guman Thong Phet Mun and Guman Thong Phet Khong protect their homes by violently harming would-be-intruders, good or bad. It is believed that Guman Thong Phet Khong possesses the most potent supernatural prowess, even allowing them to nullify the protection offered by Kwai Tanu made of bamboo or lac, failing only against Kwai Tanu made of copper. They are also known to be able to pursue and hunt down targets beyond the confines of their immediate area.

While Guman Thong Phet Mun only has enough power to operate in its general area, it is the potent Guman Thong Phet Khong that may operate anywhere, remaining completely invisible, and impervious to most magical artefacts and enchantments designed to rid a space of them.

Guman Thong Phet Dub, are almost assassin-like in their application, able to take out targets with surgical precision.

These 4 types under Guman Thong Petchakhat are an accursed black magic artefact that is known in some sectors of Khmer and Islamic belief. These amulets harbour an evil so potent, that they are classed as a totally forbidden art. They are therefore much less popular and rare than Guman Thong.

2. Blessed Guman Thong. These are created to assist their owners with various aspects of their health and wealth. For example, they may be assigned to guard his owner’s business or house, attract customers into the shop, help pay back debts by seeking and retrieving wealth, or fulfilling wishes on their owners’ behalf, in order to accumulate merit.

This type of Guman Thong comes without a specific name, and his owner can assign a name for him, and the Guman Thong will only respond to this secret name. The spiritual adepts who create these will not impose their will onto the spirits. The creator will seek the spirit’s permission, and will only channel the spirit into the amulet if it agrees to accumulate merits by assisting the owner.

There are many methods for creating Guman Thong, and each school and expert has different rites for doing so. Monks also play an important role in the creation of Guman Thong. They may help oversee the rites or act as spiritual beacons for the unborn, unloved, or tragically-departed children, who may have been rendered lost or disoriented by their sudden, frightening circumstances.

Generally, monks either select the unborn child to live within the effigy at the centre of the Guman Thong, or coax them to enter the Guman Thong through other means. The monks begin by sitting and meditating, asking for permission from the Guardian of Spirits to draw the unborn child’s spirit into the Guman Thong, and help bless it by granting them protection and powers to assist humanity before their rebirth.

By performing virtuous deeds in service of the owner of the sculpture, the spirit is able to earn enough merits to overcome his tragedy and suffering and be reborn. Individual types of Guman Thong are assigned a different name and incantation, making each of their powers unique.

 

The Ancient, Macabre Ritual To Summon Guman Thong

In the past, Guman Thong were crafted from male “Dtai Tang Klom” foetuses. Boys who perished on Saturdays and Tuesdays were highly-prized, as they were believed to result in the most potent Guman Thong.

People seeking a Guman Thong, would have to perform the ceremony at night, and completely alone. Using a ritual knife, which should have already been consecrated through pluksek

, the body of the pregnant woman is dissected, and the foetus is retrieved. This must be accompanied by reciting the spell:

sitthidecho sitthijittung mahaphuto masanthanung

 

After the child’s body is retrieved, it must be addressed with the following words:

Look ery, phor nee rak look mak, phor yak dai jao pai pen look, pai yu kub phor therd na, phor ja lieng doo jao hai sook sabai, jao tem jai pai kub phor na look na

 

Which may be translated as, “Son, I love you so much, I want you to be my son, please go with me, I will take care of you very well, please follow me willingly.”

According to the texts, in order to ensure that the Guman Thong only abides by its master’s bidding, the sorcerer must personally seek permission from the unborn fetus. Should the spirit agree, he will appear as a child standing upright and grant permission to be bound.

The sorcerer then cuts off the placenta. The foetus is roasted over an open flame to thoroughly dry it out. This process must only be carried out on temple grounds to ensure that the mother’s spirit is unable to follow her child, and must be completed before daybreak of the same day.

Khun Paen with his Guman Thong from the Thai movie “Khun Paen”

The following elements are incorporated into the ceremony:

  1. Pha Khao
    (White cloth) to form a ceiling over the ceremonial area
  2. Mai Rak (wood from the Burmese Lacquer Tree) to be used as the 4 pillars holding up the tarp
  3. Sai Sin
    (holy thread), looped 7 times around the perimeter of the consecration ground
  4. Yant Mongkut Phra Phuttha Jao
    (talismans), plastered to the roof
  5. Yant Trinisinghae
    (talismans), which are placed at all 8 directions around the ceremonial ground.

The Guman Thong is grilled on a trestle made from ChaiyaPleuk wood (Java Cassia). A selection of Marid

wood (wood from the Butter fruit tree), Kankrao
wood (Fagraea fragrans), or Thao Kanphai
(Afgekia) is used, either in the form of twine or as planks, to secure the foetus over the pit. The foetus must be thoroughly dried before daybreak, without burning the flesh. While grilling, the following spell is recited constantly:
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suwanno piyagumaro mahaphuto mahitthigo sapphathiset wattigo sapphadamesu khowaro sappha chananung haheryya mahatecho pawattigo ratanataya nuphawena ratanataya tetsa thewanung itthiphalena gumaro jamahitthigo

(In English: this Guman Thong holds great power, can go anywhere, into every house, and enter other people’s minds, you travel with the power of the Triple Gems and the power of the gods, you are a Guman Thong with great power.)

After the spell is complete, the fire is extinguished.

The process of creating a Guman Thong from Thai movies “Khun Paen”

After the Guman Thong has been carefully prepared, the following spell is invoked:

khutchahi mahaphuto samanutso sahewago garohi pitwajamena sampunnaena pasitthiya

while longrak pidthong

(coating with lacquer and gold foil), is conducted.

 

Afterwards, the sorcerer invokes the following spell:

Guman Thong ery, jao khue Guman Thong laew, na bud nee jong yu teenee gub phor therd na, phor ja lieng doo jao hai mee khaum suk, mee khong len, mee khong kin, mee khanom, mai od mai yak, mee tee lub tee non yanh suk gai sabai jai tee diew,tha phor ja hai look chauy tham aria hai bang gor jong tham hai phor therd na

(In English: “Guman Thong, you are Guman Thong, now, please stay with me, your new father, I will take care of you very well, I will shower you with toys, food, and desserts, and make sure you will never suffer. I will give you a place to sleep and enjoy yourself, but in return, please help me get what I want.”)

After finishing this speech, the ritual is complete.

 

Moving With The Times

The ancient method of creating Guman Thong has largely disappeared in modern times, owing largely due to the macabre, shocking practices it involves. These have slowly given way to advances in technology and thinking, where such practices are frowned upon as barbaric. In place of desiccated flesh, modern Guman Thong are crafted from suitable substitutes, such as metal, wood, or plaster. Some even incorporate more esoteric material, such as Din Jed Pah Char, Mai Rak (wood from Burmese Lacquer tree), or Phong Kee Tao Kong Fon from a dead body that passed on a Saturday and was cremated on a Tuesday. The child spirit is then invited to inhabit the effigy via Pluksek, which sorcerors use to bind the Guman Thong to it.

 

Modern Methods

  1. Din Jed Pah Char is mixed with Phong Prai Guman and Phong Pattamung (Phong Ittijay, Phong Pattamung). This type of Guman Thong is considered the most magically potent, but the intense spiritual strength is not without its own disadvantages. Spirits summoned via this method are usually vagrant wanderers or retrieved from cemeteries, and they are often bound in torment, forced to do their owner’s bidding, moral or immoral. To maintain dominion over these Guman Thong, owners are required to make regular offerings. These Guman Thong are able to grow in stature along with their owners.
  2. An effigy is crafted using soil or wood, then a deity’s soul is invited to inhabit the Guman Thong. Although these deities reside in heaven, they often divvy up portions of their spirit and assign them to make merits in the mortal realm. Guman Thong crafted in this manner will only engage in morally upright pursuits. These Guman Thong are usually Pluksek with Phra Kreung. In order to maintain or increase the power of the Guman Thong, its owner is required to closely adhere to the Buddhist precepts, and follow the path of the Dhamma. These Guman Thong are able to grow both through their own merits, as well as the accumulated merit of their owners. Offerings are not required for these Guman Thong, as they are borne of the souls of the deities themselves, and have thus transcended the need for food.
  3. Guman Thong may also be crafted from Mai DtaiPrai (a tree that has perished before bearing fruit). It is believed that these trees are inhabited by the spirits of deities. The most commonly sought-after species of tree are Mai Rak (Burmese Lacquer Tree wood) and Mai Mayom (Gooseberry Tree wood). The creation of this Guman Thong is different from the other two methods, in that a spirit is not channelled and bound to the effigy, it is instead created from strong spiritual energies. The resulting spirits, because of their artificial nature, are thus unable to grow. Offerings are not required to sustain them, however, poor care will diminish their powers and may eventually even cause them to disappear. Taking good care of the Guman Thong, however, will help it to become more potent.

As we have learned so far, the spirits inhabiting Guman Thong may be drawn from a variety of different sources, and each has its own unique temperament and care requirements. The process of creating each varies according to the samnak (school) as well, and the powers of each may vary greatly. 

 

The purpose of creating the Guman Thong

In the past, Guman Thong were crafted to support Klaew Klad, which helped stave off the dangers of daily life from enemies, natural disasters, criminals, and war. These Guman Thong served a rudimentary purpose, ensuring the long-term survival of their owners.

In today’s wealth-obsessed, capitalist world however, Guman Thong serve a vastly different purpose. In a world where status determines value, and money is considered a greater asset than personal safety, Guman Thong are often sought out by people seeking to live a more comfortable life. The creation and application of Guman Thong, therefore, has evolved to focus on Choke Larp, Business, Metta Mahaniyom, and Metta Mahasaneh.

In Part 2, we will reveal the secrets for how to use and take care of Guman Thong effectively.

Picture credit: Valenty/ shutterstock.com
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