What Is It About Thailand Amulets?
Thailand amulets are sought after by Buddhists and collectors worldwide. There are probably billions of amulets in this country, and many more made yearly. In Southern Thailand amulets are not that popular. I don’t see that many Thais wearing them these days (2017-2018) in the south. In the northeast, Buddhist amulets from Thailand are really popular. Some amulets sell for a million dollars USD. Most sell for 20 Thai Baht. How would you know the difference? You’d have to trust the amulet sellers to tell you. Some of the old Somdej Toh amulets are worth a lot of money. Everyone thinks they have an original. Probably the originals are indistinguishable from fakes (blawm) in some cases.
Where Do the Amulets Come from?
Sometimes amulets are commissioned from special amulet makers who may or may not be monks. Ideally, the amulets are made by monks, but there are artists who also design and make amulets for temples and for monks around the country when asked. The designs of amulets can be extremely detailed. Sometimes this is done to show respect for the figure on the amulet (monks or Buddha, usually). Sometimes the complexity of the design is related to the superstition behind it, or as an attempt to make the amulet difficult to reproduce.
There are massive amulet markets in Bangkok which churn out metal and plastic amulets at a furious pace. There are millions of amulets on display in Bangkok, and you can be sure that 99% of them are worth no more than the material they are made with. Unfortunately, this is where people tend to go to buy amulets.
If you want a better place to go – this store buys amulets direct from Buddhist temples in Thailand and re-sells them at reasonable rates. Buddhist temples don’t typically have amulets for sale online. They don’t have online stores. They rely on others to sell their amulets for them.
Who Is Featured on Thailand Amulets?
Usually, Buddha is the subject of the amulet design. Probably 90% of all Buddhist amulets made in Thailand feature Buddha. Buddha isn’t from Thailand, he was from the area in India around Nepal. Buddha never mentioned that people should make amulets, it was just a natural progression as people revered the Buddha so much, they wanted something tangible to hold onto to remind them of who he was and what he did. What did he do? He found release from the pain of this life through meditation and questioning.
The other 10% of Thai amulets feature one of the Buddhist monks from Thailand, or Hindu gods, which somehow made their way over here too. Ganesh (Ganesha) the elephant is a popular amulet. Ganesh is said to be the god of obstacles – both placing and removing them. Kwan Yin is the goddess of compassion. She’s usually the figure in a long dress. Nang Kwak is a woman kneeling or sitting – beckoning people into the business where she is usually placed on an altar in the front room.
Monks Phra Luang Phor Tuad, Luang Phor Klai, Luang Phor Jumnien, and others are also very popular and amulets are worn of them out of respect. Some monks are said to be able to do magical things. Lottery numbers from monks are very popular.
Why are Thailand Amulets SO Popular?
Thais and really most Asians are superstitious to some degree. They believe in magic, evil and good spirits. They believe in rituals and giving offerings to statues and amulets on altars. There is a history of thousands of years of this. It is not uncommon to see Thai amulets that are massive – around a person’s neck to protect from harm. Some people are sure that Thai black magic is very powerful and hard to fight against. Some people will pay thousands of dollars to remove a black magic curse. Is it ridiculous? Seems so to me and others who don’t believe it, but many do believe it – so you have to treat it as if it’s real. In their presence anyway.
Amulets are bought out of tradition, respect, fear, love, need, superstition, for luck, for protection. Thailand’s amulets are used across the world for various beliefs. There are probably a million different types of amulet – subjects of amulets. The variety is mind-numbing.
Amulets are worn by millionaires in Thailand, and by the poorest agricultural workers in the fields. They cut across all socio-economic strata. Thai amulets are not going away anytime soon, but there does seem to have been a decline over the 13 years I’ve been in the country. It seems as if Buddhism is losing its importance as time rolls on.