The Ancestral Spirit Forest (Don Pu Ta) and the Role Behavior of Elders (Thao Cham) in Northeastern Thailand
Cr. Department of Cultural Promotion
Humans have long lived in and depended on nature. Even with modern advancements , mankind still relies on produces of the earth to sustain life. This dependency resulted in the mutual respect, whereby communities seek to also protect and provide for the natural landscape which they depended on, sometimes with a spiritual twist.
In Northeastern Thailand, this mutual depedency is reflected in the form of respect for spiritual forces of the natural world. When a village is established, the villagers built a shrine for the local benevolent spirits, known as Pu Ta (ปู่ตา). The shrine served as a home for the spirits, where community worship is conducted and emotional unity is fostered. Individuals selected to represent the community in communicating with or receiving the orders of the Pu Ta are known variously as Thao Cham (เฒ่าจ้ำ), among other names.
Today, we examine the relationship between man, nature, and spirits, through the story of Pu Ta and Thao Cham.
* This article was published in the Journal of Siam Society and is being shared on the Thailand Foundation Website with permission from The Siam Society.