of an exorcism where two women were gathered before villagers to be
exorcised of 100 'phop' ghosts. The exorcism is expected to be hard,
but with the combined efforts of an entire village, it is expected to
collect over 100 spirits into 100 sticks of bamboo.
Daeng Somwai and Kancahan Wangchalee began to be examined by holy men
when they exhibited symptoms typical of a phop ghost possession. As
they spoke, suddenly their speech would ramble off into an
incomprehensible feverish dialect that seems like nonsense to those
listening, but is believed to be a form of tongues, the "language of
the gods." Their bodies also showed a severe increase in tremors mixed
with hysterical laughter and/or crying which would alternate wildly as
they had sudden attacks. Fearing for the two women, locals took them
to the Abbot in Wot Donyanang, who specializes in possession cases and
the exorcism of spirits.
Surrounded by 300 villagers, the abbot oversaw the exorcism as the
assembly was surrounded by hundreds of feet of blessed ritual thread.
The exorcism went on for several minutes, with the abbot sprinkling
holy water on the women as hundreds of monks prayed over the group, and
the three hundred spectators watched, protected from the phop ghosts as
long as they remained behind the thread.
As the ritual went on, the voices of those involved became more
intense, and the spirits apparently began resisting the ritual,
according to witnesses. In time the one hundred phop ghosts were
gathered and collected into the bamboo, which was then taken away to be
properly disposed of. The women are currently recovering from their
Not all, however, are supportive of this method of treatment. Thavee
Tangseri of Jitavev Khon Kaen Hospital suggests the treatment creates a
belief that harm can come to a patient from ghosts, and therefore
promotes that patient to exhibit symptoms of it. When the ghost is exorcised, the patient may be cured, but this doesn't necessarily help
with mental health in cases where illness was brought on by this belief
in the first place. Of course some other psychologists disagree,
saying the ritual is merely a symbolic transformation like any number
of other psychiatric treatments that, if given mystical background,
could look very similar to a traditional exorcism practiced in several
of these villages.
He suggests the treatment of patients who are exhibiting possession
symptoms are largely psychosomatic and the treatment should either be
replaced by or supplemented with educated psychiatric health
practitioners or strong minded individuals who can help a hysterical
person through the event that brought on the illness in the first
place. Events can be anything from the passing of someone close in
their sleep to the sudden loss of or change to life. The debate, of
course, rages on with some saying it's a matter of spiritual concern
and others declaring the problem a purely psychological one. Perhaps
as with many things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.