Pha Yant: Thai Spirit Cloths
Thailand is a country enriched with superstition and animistic beliefs with many Thais praying to higher beings for assistance in their everyday life. Whether it be to get more customers, to keep safe across a long journey or to get those winning lottery numbers these customs are ingrained in Thai culture and society even in the modern day.
You may have noticed when you enter a house or business in Thailand above the door or on the wall, images printed on cloth with monks or mythical creatures and sacred yants. These are known as Pha Yant and play an important role in the belief system of Thai people as well as their culture and tradition.
Traditionally many Thais keep a Pha Yant in their wallet or purse offering protection while they travel. They are also hung up in the house, often framed and usually above the main door or behind the Buddhist shrine.
The direct translation of Pha Yant is “Pha” meaning cloth and “Yant” for yantra which is derived from Sanskrit language and describes the sacred geometrical designs printed on the cloth. These yants are also used in sak yant tattoos, etched onto amulets and should be given by higher ranked monks.
The interpretation and belief system of Pha Yants tends to differ from person to person but a common phrase in Thailand is “Bong Gan Pay” meaning to protect from danger or harm. There is a strong belief in ghosts in Thailand so many believe the Pha Yant will keep them safe from evil spirits while others are under the opinion that it will boost their business, provide charm or even help them find love. A choice of Pha Yant is normally made around the lifestyle or career of the said person, for example if you work in a call centre you may want to increase your sales or if you are struggling to find a partner you may go for one offering attraction with the monks and temples providing choices to cater to one's needs.
The designs featured on Pha Yant vary with common images being of those from the Ramakien such as Rahu, Vishnu and other mythical creatures. Some feature humanoids or exalted people such as high-level monks surrounded by geometric designs. Thao Wessuwan is one of the most common images as the leader of all ghosts and is normally placed above the main door of the house to ward off evil spirits.
Pha Yant in shops are typically used to increase sales such as the Garuda (the bird- like mythical creature) while attraction Pha Yants often feature depictions of a women having sex with a beast or animal such as the Maha Saney.
The origin of the Pha Yant is much the same as the origin of amulets in that they first came into use to protect soldiers who would travel onto the battlefield. The Pha Yant would either be kept in the pocket or the design would be written on the undershirt to protect the soldier and also cast spells on the enemy.
There are various ceremonies in practice surrounding Pha Yant with some people believing that rubbing the cloth on their body or head will help to protect them as the magic will be emitted onto then. They are also often soaked in holy water and then dripped onto the head and some people believe that if you mediate long enough on the geometric pattern then a keyhole to another realm will be opened. Other extreme practices include wrapping a Pha Yant around a candle and burning it to release the power and also stuffing one inside a dead fishes mouths whilst chanting mantras.
The designs on Pha Yant are normally printed from hand carved blocks which are then doused in ink and pressed onto sections of cloth but are also drawn free-hand by some high level monks. Yants are usually written down the side from which only Masters and Ajarns will fully understand and are written in various languages such as Sanskrit, Pali and Khmer. Pha Yant are usually produced at temples with each being renowned for their own designs and powers with some coming from really famous and revered monks.
Pha Yant play a popular role in Thai culture within societies complex belief system infusing Buddhist and animistic rituals with each Pha Yant meaning something different to each person. This beautiful form of belief through art and symbolism is one that stands out in Thailand and is both charming and alluring.
Check out our range of Pha Yant here.