Even as Buddhism covers the religious landscape of Thailand, many folk beliefs hang on in the minds of the Thai people. Last year, I looked at numerous traditional practices of the Thai people that mixed in with the universal beliefs of Buddhism such as spirit houses, house blessing ceremonies, lucky numbers and days, beliefs about birth and death among various other practices.
Folk beliefs help people make sense of their world. They explain the happenings of everyday life like why a young man dies in a freak accident, or another person succeeds on an exam. They help people deal with the spiritual elements of their world, and that drives many people to construct ways of appeasing the spirits around them. For Thai people, they believe that when they build a house on a lot of land, they need to build a small structure for the displaced spirit to live. They put these houses on the corner of their property. Spirit houses are a part of the unique and colorful landscape of Thailand.
Not only do Thai people build a home for their displaced spirit who watches over them, but they provide food and drink for the spirits on a daily basis. The spirits feed off of the aroma and flavors of the offerings left for them. Thai people put a good deal of effort into what they give at their spirit house as they don’t want to offend or disrespect that spirit.
Now back to the point of Red Fanta. Why this special flavor of Fanta? When we walk by various spirit houses, we always notice the flavor of Red. Is it because the Thais think that the spirits love that flavor more than others? I know I am not a fan, but maybe it is an acquired taste.
I thought there must be a reason behind why Red is the flavor even if it is not easy to find the answer. As we are studying more of the folk beliefs in our Thai language and culture classes, the books tell how many people don’t know why they practice one custom or another, but just that their parents and grandparents did it. But in a recent lesson, we came across the answer to the Red Fanta mystery.
Red is the color of blood…not that the spirits are just out for blood, but blood is the source of life. When Thai people offer the Red Fanta, they believe they are giving a drink to the spirits that offers them life and vitality.
As we study folk beliefs in Thailand again, I am constantly thinking of the different legends and stories we have to explain circumstances in our life…what are some of the interesting beliefs you see around you…