The “wai” is the gesture where one puts the hands together at the chest and bows the head. It is a gesture of respect or spiritual contrition. It is the Thai way. We are “wai’d” countless times.
I entered an office building and noted a women coming my direction. She was about 15 meters away. The reason I noticed her was because she “wai’d” clearly in the direction of the 7/11 which shares the building’s lobby.
Strange, I thought. There was no other person. No boss or monk. There was no spirit house or temple. I wondered about the quality of the slurpees in the 7/11.
I asked my staff about this incident. We came up with two possible reasons.
One was, that there is indeed a spirit house in the general direction of where she bowed, through the 7/11, through a brick wall, on the other side of a pond. It is a rather ornate little structure with a number of elephants trumpeting at its base.
The other reason was that maybe she saw ghosts or spirits.
“Spirits?” I enquired?
“Yes, many Thai people, they can see them.” This was Pookie. My authority on things cultural and food related.
She then proceeded to tell me of her friend, who owned a laundry business and was frequently being robbed.
Her friend had a favourite monk and she went to him to seek counsel. She prayed to him and asked for his advice and after making an offering, the monk provide her with two Spirit Babies. Now, I have no idea how or why Buddhist monks became keeper of the spirit babies, but apparently they are.
(Up close they look like this)
“Spirit babies? What?!” I asked.
“Yes, Doctor! Hmm. Maybe not spirit babies. What’s the word?” She asked another office mate, then she pulled out her phone and looked up the word.
I think the Thai word was Kuman or Kunam, but I like the term Spirit Babies better.
“Tell me more about Spirit babies?”
“Well, my friend, she got two spirit babies and since then, she don’t get robbed any more. She said, that now even though she not rich, she has everything she needs.
“Sometimes, she takes her spirit babies with her. She takes them to KFC and orders them a small meal, set’s it out on the table and offers it to them. Then she throws it out.
“Then, when we go out shopping and can’t find a parking spot, she calls out, ‘Spirit baby, Spirit baby, help mommy find a parking spot!’ and just like that, a parking space appears!”
So, there you have it, blessings, companionship, protection and easy parking for the price of a KFC happy meal. Sign me up!
Also, they may be shape shifters. Here is a spirit baby I saw at a local food stall. Note KFC t-shirt.