Thousands Gather for Pue Sae Ya Sae Festival in Mae Hia

 | Thu 2 Jul 2015 07:13 ICT

CityNews — Early morning in the forest of Doi Suthep in Mae Hia, a buffalo waits. Chosen carefully by the villagers of the area, its horns show no sign of fighting, its hide is a dark black and it has never had a mate. Then, in the first rays of the morning sun, its throat is cut, its blood is drained, its belly split open, and its body splayed out on a concrete slab. It is an offering; an upholding of a deal that was struck between the Lord Buddha and two giant spirits, known as the Saes, and a tradition that has been followed by animists of the region for over 200 years.

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The Saes are believed to be two married giant spirits that haunted the area while the Buddha was alive. When the Lord Buddha came to the area of Mae Hia, led to the village by a vision in a dream, he found it to be very quiet. Locals reported that the silence was due to a giant couple that had been eating the villagers, and there were not many people left.

As the Buddha remained in the area, spreading his teaching and intending to gain many monk followers, he knew that something had to be done, and thus had a meeting with the two hungry Saes. Eventually, the Saes agreed that an offering of two buffaloes per year, as long as they met special requirements, would be enough for them, and they would stop eating the villagers.

Over 3,000 locals and travellers gathered in the early morning to witness the offering of the buffalo sacrifice at this year’s Pue Sae Ya Sae festival on June 29th, led by Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation and Mayor Thanawat Yordjai of the Mae Hia Municipality. Hundreds arrived early, placing bamboo mats along the wooden fence that sectioned off the area where a medium will call upon the Saes to possess him in order to partake in the meat of the slain animal.

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After a long procession of dancing, music, prayers and the unveiling of a 100 year old Buddha image which is hung in the highest and oldest tree in the area, the Saes arrived, and the medium emerged from the temple and knelt at the sacrifice.

Terdsak Moonkiao from Sanpatong served as medium at this year’s ritual. It is his second year as medium at Pue Sae Ya Sae. At first, he seemed lethargic and trance like, and draped his body over the broad back of the dead animal. Then, he let out a shrill shriek into the air, the crowd reacting in excitement, and began dowsing himself in the buffalo’s blood while taking bites out of its heart and other organs. The medium washed down the buffalo meat with eager gulps of clear liquid from bamboo flasks and then began to wander the forest grounds, blessing all that came to attend the ceremony and thanking them for the offering.

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The medium’s procession around the forest grounds was swamped with attendees and press, crowding him with video cameras and mobile devices. Even a small drone roamed the area taking aerial video from above.

It is believed that the Saes ceremony brings peace, abundance to the forest, and plentiful rain for the season. By performing the ritual, residents will also protect themselves from illness and their crops will give plentiful harvests throughout the year. In return for the offering, the Saes also protect the area from trespassers, giving bad luck to any un-welcomed visitors.

“People rely on the forests,” said Mayor Thanawat, and believed that it is important to uphold the tradition every year.