Amulet Market: Bangkok


September 8, 2010

Next to the Wat Maha That, is one of many amulet markets in Bangkok.  The market lines the street with stalls of amulets and statues of Buddhas, powerful monks, and Hindu gods along with the occasional odd and somewhat scary voodu-esq objects; crocodile heads, cloth dolls, tree pods that look like people.

I love amulets, perhaps it comes from my Catholic upbringing with the use of rosaries, statues, and saints that helped us in our daily life. I love the fact that everywhere on this planet people use symbols to empower intentions. Most of all  I love the promise of them. I came to this market to stock up on luck for the trip and some of the less than perfect aspects of my life.

After looking around for a bit, I realized the extent of most of the sales peoples English was  “Helloo maaadammm” which translates as LOOK HERE!   Since no one could actually understand anything I was saying I decided to ask anyway and see what happens.

Loud and slowly I said to a woman behind the table. “I’m looking for LUCK in HEALTH, TRAVEL, MONEY and LOVE”She perked up when I said LOVE and handed me a brass penis pendant.

“Oh, this is for love?”  I said knowing I was asking a very stupid question.

She nodded and signaled that you wear it around your hip and then turned to her friends at the next stall and started to giggle. I was a bit embarrassed I hoped for something more benign, like a valentine heart. She then handed me several other lingams of different sizes and colors. I decided on the more refined one.  I paid 80 baht ($2.59) cheeked LOVE off my list and set out to find luck in health money and travel.

I walked the full length of the market, taking photos, and asking which were lucky.
“All lucky maaadammm” I wanted more information but wasn’t getting anywhere. Finally at the last stand a very friendly man started to speak English to me.

“ Do these work?” I asked, fully aware that I had asked another stupid question.
He pulled up shirt to reveal fifty or more amulets hanging from his neck.
“Yes, and I’m a very lucky man”

I felt very lucky as he patiently explained what temple each amulet came from and what purpose each one serves.  The expensive amulets were empowered by monks, the cheap ones you needed to find a monk to empower them for you.  Finally he handed me an empowered amulet specifically for a woman
“This one is for accidents and money.” He said.
I was thinking health not accidents, but then I remembered the email a friend sent to me about his experience on the Kailash Kora:

“The only really challenging moment for me was crossing a very deep crack in the ice. It was probably about 4 feet across, although in memory, it gets wider and wider. But looking down, one could see the icy river a hundred feet straight down. There was a Sherpa on each side, and they practically tossed me across, or so it felt at the time.”

I decided protection from accidents was necessary and I bought the amulet ($10).  He put it in an acrylic case so could wear it, then kindly lifted up his shirt and offered to let me photograph his personal amulets.   I then set off for the Uma Temple.

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