The Top 10 Bia Gae of Thailand
The practice of carrying cowrie shells as amulets have existed across Thailand since time immemorial. It is believed that Bia Gae possesses magical powers, helping their owners to fix their problems and overcome adversity, by single-handedly reversing ill-fortune. This uncanny ability is believed to have given rise to the name Bia Gae: ‘Bia
In this article, we explore a selection of Bia Gae amulets widely regarded as the top 10 Bia Gae in Thailand. The top 5 in this ranking enjoy the further distinction of being referred to as “Benja Phakhee Bia Gae
A choice selection of holy materials was incorporated into these amulets, including cowrie shells, mercury, Channarong
Luang Pu Rod only chose the finest cowrie shells to craft these amulets, specifically selecting shells displaying 32 grooves resembling human teeth. Each element of the amulet was inscribed with ancient Khmer characters, before being cast while the Katha Phrajao Sib-hok Phra Ong
While crafting his Bia Gae, Luang Pu Boon opted to consecrate the mercury with incantations, before pouring it into the cowrie shell through the opening, careful to only select shells with 32 teeth. His disciples then coated the Bia Gae amulets with lead, before he completed the incantations. The shells were then brought to skilled knitters, who installed copper loops in the shells and covered them with red lacquer. There is some variation in the outward appearance of this knit, as individual craftsmen opted to apply their own style of knitting to some of these amulets.
Somewhat more common than the previous 2 examples, but no less coveted, these Bia Gae are known to be a cure-all for every problem in their owners’ lives, instead of bringing them health, wealth, and good fortune.
Luang Phor Phak sealed the blessed mercury into these Bia Gae using Channarong, into which he set a rolled Takrut scroll. Knitted rope covers the shell, only leaving the top open, displaying the natural pattern and beauty of the shells. Hoops may be installed on either side of the aperture, or one on the long topside of the cowrie shell. Some of these amulets can be strung through the hole of the Takrut which allows owners to wear them around their waist. Some examples are lacquered, others are not.
When Luang Pu Pherm was alive, he stipulated that anyone seeking a Bia Gae would have to provide a cowrie shell, 15.16 grams of mercury, Channarong (a sticky paste made from the nests of the Stingless Bee), and a lead sheet measuring 4 x 5 inches. All the ingredients had to be placed on a tray and offered to him.
Luang Phu Pherm would often begin to craft the Bia Gae on the spot, beginning with reciting incantations over the mercury while pouring it onto his palm, before gently pouring it into the shell, covering the aperture with Channarong. The shell would then be placed back on the tray and passed to Luang Pu Juae
Luang Phor Kham began crafting Bia Gae around B.E.2493. Luang Phor Kham’s Bia Gae is unusual in that the shell is left exposed. After mercury is poured into the shell, the aperture is sealed with Channarong and a copper Takrut. These Bia Gae emit a “zack zack” sound similar to moving sand when shook, which is remarkably distinct from the “slish slosh” sound emitted by Bia Gae from other schools.
The mercury is filled into the shell through sheer force of will alone, with a single blade of grass providing a bridge for the mercury to flow as he chanted the prescribed incantations. As the mercury flowed into the shell, it often emitted a bright light. The shells were then sealed with Channarong and a copper sheet inscribed with sacred characters. The owners of his Bia Gae were free to seek out their own knitted covers should they see fit to do so.
Though skilled in numerous esoteric art forms, he was known for his Bia Gae and was the mentor of Luang Pu Rod, Wat Nai Rong, one of the most highly-regarded Bia Gae masters. Though scarce records exist of his methods Bia Gae, they were likely a close reflection of the well-documented methods used by his disciple, Luang Pu Rod. Luang Phu Kaek’s Bia Gae is extremely rare, and even pictorial records of his creations are nearly impossible to find.
Little recorded information exists regarding Luang Pu Thong’s Bia Gae. Perhaps it was the secretive manner in which the knowledge was passed from teacher to student, or perhaps it was the dearth of written records of the time. However, his sacred knowledge was passed down to Luang Pu Boon whose Bia Gae become one of the three most sought-after Bia Gae masters in history.
Luang Pu Thong’s methods are likely reflected in the protocols followed by the masters who came after him. Like examples crafted by the expert hands of masters from Wat Klang Bang Kaew, Luang Pu Thong’s Bia Gae have a distinct UFO shape, and he is often considered the progenitor of the knowledge of Bia Gae, as well as a host of other amulets that the temple is famous for. According to our research, one of the defining characteristics of his Bia Gae amulets is the deep red color of their lacquer coat, which is much more intense than the other Bia Gae from the temple, which is usually coated black.
A disciple of Luang Pu Rod, Wat Nai Rong, his methods closely mirrored those of his master. His amulets, however, may be identified by the unique knitting style used to cover them. Some are covered by a dense, tight-knit, and others, with more bits of the shell visible, while still retaining his signature knitting style. His Bia Gae may also be identified by their coat of very dry, almost snakeskin-like lacquer, which is the result of his unique blend of plant saps. LP Rod’s Bia Gae is rare, owing to the fact that each one was individually hand-made by the master.
Luang Pu Juae
The Bia Gae crafted by Luang Pu Thong, Luang Pu Boon, Luang Pu Pherm, and Luang Pu Juae, all possess a distinct, UFO-like shape. This peculiar outline is a distinguishing feature of Bia Gae from the masters of Wat Klang Blang Kaew.
Because of the growing popularity of Bia Gae among serious aficionados of Thai amulets, fakes abound. The Thai amulet market has a voracious appetite for these amulets, and the examples listed above represent but a small sample of some of these prized possessions. Buyer beware, always exercise good sense, and educate yourself about the nature and history of your purchase before dropping cash.