THE HEX THE MONK AND THE EXORCIST
“Harn’s best selling potion was yar sanae, an oil extracted from the flesh of a still born baby which could make women irresistible to men.”
It makes you wonder, when you catch sight of the surly, bare chested, off-duty police type geezer surrounded by beautiful women at his beck and call, just how he has accumulated such obedient affection. As he orders one girl to pour his drink, slaps the other with the back of his gold spangled hand, you notice his key ring has etched to the surface the words BMW, still you think, it’s just a car, there’s more to it, it’s as if these girls were under some kind of wicked spell. And it was after watching the Thai horror flick, Pee Sarm Bhot (literally, Ghost Three Chapters), that I learnt about a fantastic potion purportedly flogged on the streets of Thailand — Hang Dong, says a girl in the office — that once taken, will make any woman fall madly and unconditionally in love with you until the day she dies – and this is not the egalitarian, modern sort of love now fashionable in the west, this is more the medieval, sex slave and master strain of amorous appointments. The potion is called namman prai which, in a round about way, means love potion. It’s made from burning a dead pregnant woman’s chin and extracting the oil. It’s not sold in Watsons.
Pee Sarm Bhot is now six years old and available for nineteen baht on VCD . . . since the film came out I’ve often asked where I might procure some of the potion but for all my appeals I’ve ended up empty handed and concubine-less. It seems everyone -Thai – knows about, and many do believe in, the chimerical namman prai, but no one knows exactly where it is sold. Many superstitious hardliners will give you a stern warning that messing with this kind of black magic will always end up in tears … or blood. The problem, said a lecturer of religious studies at Chiang Mai University, is that black magic is not as popular as it used to be, and finding a witch, wizard or even a neo-occultist is not easy. Even though sex hexes, voodoo type dolls, money charms and all sorts of other magical toys have been available in Thailand for centuries, lately the practice seems to have suffered a popularity set back.
Once upon a time there was a monk, his name was Ham Raksajit, people knew him as Nain Ae, or Ae, as his friends liked to call him. Known throughout the land as a magic monk with super powers who could cure personal poverty, heart break and inveterate ugliness, his powers were a somewhat vital commodity.
Harn Raksajit was arrested for numerous crimes in the mid-nineties which included: roasting a (already dead) baby to create a ghost, the rape of twenty three women (very much alive), asking for sexual favours and taking cash from unwitting women during, after and before ritualistic charades, money laundering, possession of goods afforded to him as a result of his nefarious services which included a Mercedes Benz, skulls, Buddhist statues, Viagra, women’s underwear and a locked safe. In 2005 he was sentenced to 100 years in jail.
Harn’s best selling potion was yar sanae, an oil extracted from the flesh of a still born baby which could make women irresistible to men. Quite extraordinary is the fact that most of Harn’s customers were not forlorn women languishing on the lonely shelf but prostitutes who’d had a bad run without decent work. In return for Harn’s hex the women had to pay a large amount of cash and have sex with him, the monk told all his subjects that the potion’s efficacy depended on them fornicating with its creator. Either for laughs or verisimilitude during the rituals he would perform esoteric chants and appeal to the spirits, singing in tongues while performing a spasmodic dance. He told all his subjects that he learnt black magic in Cambodia.
Harn was first arrested in 1995 when he was a novice monk, for roasting a still-born baby. He said in a published interview that he roasted the corpse to bring forth a much feared ghost known as Kumarn Tong, believed to have hypnotic powers. The roasting was actually televised by journalists but never broadcast. Harn was defrocked and charged with failure to report death, corruption, and indecent acts with dead bodies. He spent a short time in jail, defied rehabilitation, and once back on the streets started up his black magic gig immediately. It took another ten years and countless rituals later until the cops had enough evidence to send Harn down for a long time. His wife, Chamaiphorn, later divorced Harn citing that her venereal disease was contracted from her husband.
Due to the disappointing absence of black magicians in Chiang Mai. I realised that I needed to expand my orbit of -e-arch, which, after many months of wild goose chases brought me to a pastor in Lamphun who apparently was savvy to the ways of evil and did the odd exorcism.
Ajarn Somchid, or Pastor Somchid, claims to have no special powers, no hex, no tricks up his sleeve or rabbits in his hat: he’s fast a man of God protecting his herd from the wickedness of the devil, and by using God’s word, by letting God speak through mm he often goes toe to toe with the man from the red corner. He told me that love potions, black magic, and all kinds of levilment exist in and around Chiang Mai where there’s a thriving underworld full of darkside partisans. Having seen namman prai for himself and having come into contact with the possessed, Somchid assured me that black magic is very real and whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Satan’s Slave or an agnostic alcoholic, there’s only one devil and he’s an equal opportunist when it comes to possessing souls.
Sitting in his Church’s office I felt a tinge of awkwardness as a pale-faced blue-eyed Jesus, who looked as if he’d just come out of a beauty salon, stared righteously down at me. The pastor took a seat, opened his bible — that was riddled with highlights and notations – laid his glasses on the pages and smiled gravely as if he was about to explain a Matrix-esque parallel world where people were burned all day long at the request of a man who had horns and carried a pitch folk. “Look, I’m not into magic, I don’t claim to have any special power, I am just a pastor who believes in God and that’s it. . .
I can tell you stories of the devil, how I have driven the devil out of people, how I have seen the devil in many shapes and forms.” Certainly better than your average pastor. Maybe the drive was worth it. “If you want to know about black magic then you have to start with the devil, because all black magic is the devil’s work.” His sincerity was frightening.
The pastor gave a few examples of exorcisms he had performed, the narrative each time similar: drinker, smoker, wife beater, body defiler, world hater, fast driver, tattooed foul mouthed wrongdoer comes to the pastor, or is forced to him. The devil – who has manipulated this person to be the errant ass he/she is — is cast out by the pastor, sometimes with the help of the flock. “I can sense it when there’s an evil spirit in someone,” said Somchid confidently, making me feel uneasy again as I reflected on my myriad vices which were surely spilling over into his range of vision. He told me of a man in Lamphun who was a recalcitrant boozer, a violent nut who beat anyone in his vicinity, including his many consorts. He was brought to the pastor one day by his wife. “He had whisky in one hand and a cigarette in the other and he kept saying really rude words to me, I knew it was the devil.” Many of the pastor’s flock were at hand, they surrounded the guy and the pastor sprinkled holy water on him while they all read prayers. “The man shook terribly, started to speak in tongues, he then fainted, just collapsed. We spent the whole night reading payers while he slept.” What’s more impressive, if you believe it, and mark my words the pastor tells a good tale, is the man woke up blind. “So we sang to him, we made the sign of the cross on him. He begged for water but we didn’t give him any, it was the devil’s thirst. He wasn’t completely gone.” They sprinkled holy water on the man, sang to him, beseeched the devil to leave the body, and finally after a few days the man woke up and said, “I can see.” He didn’t eat for a while and was violently sick, but he stopped drinking and smoking and never hit anyone again, according to the pastor. A successful exorcism all round, not without some classical biblical references.
“I’ve performed more than 100 exorcisms. I am the mediator between God, the spirit and the person, that is why I am here. I’ve seen houses shaking, things falling and moving by themselves, possessed people speaking in unknown languages, their bodies being manipulated by Him.” I scribbled this down contemplating the verity of my interviewee’s convictions not to mention their universal implications. He explained
“It was then that he decided to call the flock in for some back up”
that people sometimes conjure up the devil with the aid of witch doctors and that if I were ever to use a love potion — I told him that I was in the market for namman prai – I might fall victim to the devil’s diabolical caprices.
The climax to the pastor’s horrific tales of devil bashing crusades was a story about a pretty young girl who came to him one night at his house and tried to strangle him. “‘I will kill you’, the girl said, I then started praying to her and she collapsed.” When she awoke she had metamorphosed and was a tomboy, “the spirit made her a tomboy, she started acting tough and swore at me,” said Somchid. She then hugged him and attempted to kiss him. It was then that he decided to call the flock in for some back up. “She tried to strangle me again and then kiss me, I repelled her advances and then she fainted again. The third time she came back as a kratoey.” The kratoey character said she wanted to have sex with the pastor and talked dirty to him; the pastor and the flock prayed all night long, the girl changed characters many times. At five in the morning the girl was, not surprisingly, exhausted; she crawled around on the floor knackered and crestfallen after a night’s vigorous transmuting and getting knocked back, though the devil was feisty this time and fought courageously to hold sway on her soul. Finally, “after a long battle with Satan” the spirit was exorcised. “It was the worst case I’ve had,” said the pastor earnestly, looking quite pleased with himself.
Pastor Somchid, seeing I was exhausted after scribbling down pages of his miraculous fables, didn’t bother to illustrate the remaining ninety odd other exorcisms. He thoughtfully reminded me, as I had one foot out of the door, that the devil is omnipresent and not to get involved with black magic. As for namman prai — the potion that induces women to fall for you – it is unfortunately getting harder and harder to find. “It exists,” said the pastor, “I’ve seen it and it stinks. These days they cremate all the bodies so it’s hard for people to get their hands on a dead pregnant woman . . . but it’s still out there . . . somewhere.”