CityNews Article Archive:
10 Thai Superstitions and Taboos that you Should Know About

Cindy Ritpunja

CityNews – All Thais grow up hearing all sorts of taboos and superstitions. Some are still believed to be true, and some are now used to tease friends and family. Being Thai myself, I have grown up hearing a handful of superstitions and taboos worth sharing to the English speaking world:

1. If you dream of a snake, you will meet your soul mate. It was believed a long time ago that if you dreamt that you found a snake, you will meet your soul mate in the near future. Especially if you dreamt that the snake was wrapping itself around you, choking you then rest assured your soul mate is on his or her way! In the case that you already have a girlfriend, boyfriend, or are already married and you dreamt that you found a snake, someone is crushing on you!

It was also believed that the soul mate that you will soon meet will look like the snake that you saw in your dream – nasty!  But if the snake that you dreamt of was scary and black and was doing everything it could to get some of that poison into you, beware! Something bad is going to happen to you!

2. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! It is nighttime. You are about to leave your house for a night full of fun and you hear a tukkae! Stop right there! Do not leave your house! The tukkae is warning you that something bad will happen to you…or perhaps the lizard is suspicious about what you are up to!

3. Do not sweep your house at night! Back when there was no electricity, you never knew what you were sweeping out of your house. Who knows, you may be sweeping money and valuables out of your house! Besides, why would you sweep the house when you should actually be sleeping? You may also be sweeping up dust from the floor, and you may end up breathing in the dust while resting at night!

4. Do not make remarks that someone’s baby or toddler is cute. Lie, instead, that the child is ugly and unlovable. It was believed a long time ago that if you make a comment that your baby or someone’s baby is cute, evil spirits will snatch away the baby. This is why so many children have horrid nicknames like Moo (pig), Ouan (fat), Looknam (mosquito lavae)!

5. Do not give handkerchiefs as gifts to your friends or loved ones, because the relationship between you and your friends or loved ones will end in tears.

6. Do not wear black when visiting people in the hospital. Ancient Thai people consider black as the colour of pain and sadness used for mourning, and so must not be worn on festive occasions, especially when visiting friends or family in the hospital. The custom of not wearing black to visit sick people in the hospital is still considered hospital etiquette today.

7. Oooh! Look at that rainbow! HOLD IT! Do not point, or your finger will be amputated! The reason behind this taboo is still unknown, and talked about widely among Thais. Perhaps rainbows were believed to be holy and that it is impolite to point at what they thought was holy?

8. To single ladies: do not sing while cooking, or you will end up with an old husband! A long time ago, rice cookers didn’t exist, and people had to use coal as the only source of cooking heat. This taboo or superstition came from the fact that the rice will be burnt or you will accidently cut yourself with the kitchen knife if you don’t pay attention while cooking. This taboo was used to scare maids who work in the kitchen, as maids of those times commonly feared getting old husbands.

9. How to avoid catching pink eye: stick out your tongue at the person with pink eye… works like magic! The truth behind this is that pink eye is very contagious. Adults used joke to children to stick out their tongue at people with pink eye to signal to them that “I don’t want to get close to you,” so that the person will keep their distance and not spread pink eye…so the next time you see someone who has pink eye… or seemingly has pink eye, the magic trick is to stick out your tongue, as mockingly as you can!

10. To men: you will get an eye stye if you peep at ladies taking a bath. The truth is that a long time ago, houses were made entirely of wood planks, which may have had many holes in them. It all started from a man, whose eye got infected from the dust on the wood planks while peeping at a lady who was taking a bath. Ever since, this has become a famous taboo that is joked about all over Thailand.

Most of these Thai superstitions and taboos were used to prevent people from doing something society at that time considered to be immoral, or simply to prevent something bad from happening to someone (for example, the case of the pink eye). To people of this generation, they are superstitions that are considered ‘nonsense,’ but when discussed, each bring along with them warm memories of childhood, as many of these were taboos that adults try to trick children to believe. As we grow up, we eventually learn the truth behind them, similar to the way westerners trick children to believe in Santa Claus so that they behave and receive their gifts. The above are only some of the common superstitions discussed among Thais. If you are Thai and/or are familiar with Thai culture, what are some priceless superstitions or taboos that you can think of?